Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Big Coal

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Big Coal

The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future

by Jeff Goodell

Big Coal by Jeff Goodell
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2006, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2007, 352 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

Print Review

Facts & Stats according to Big Coal

  • More than 1/2 of the USA's electricity comes from coal.
  • The USA burns more than a billion tons a year - an average of 20 lbs per person per day.
  • Coal plants account for 40% of carbon dioxide emissions in the USA.
  • According to alternate energy guru Amory Lovins of The Rocky Mountain Institute, by the time you mine the coal, haul it to the power plant, burn it, and then send electricity over the wires to a light bulb, only about 3% of the energy in a ton of coal is transformed into light. Just the energy wasted by coal plants in the USA would be enough to power the entire Japanese economy!
  • In the 1920s there were more than 700,000 USA coal miners, today there are more florists than there are miners.
  • Waste from mountain-top removal mining (removing the mountain to reveal the coal) in Appalachia alone has turned about 400,000 acres of once biologically rich temperate forest into flat, barren wasteland.
  • About 25% of the world's recoverable coal reserves are in the USA (270 billion tons), versus Europe (36 billion tons), China (126 billion tons) and Russia (176 billion tons).

How reliant is the world on fossil fuels?

  • Between 1950 and 2000 the world's population grew by about 140% but consumption of fossil fuels grew by 400%.
  • In 1999, 80% of the energy the world consumed was in the form of fossil fuels (coal: 24%, oil: 37%, gas: 21%); 7% was nuclear (led by France which gets about 50% of its energy requirements from nuclear); The remaining 13% was from renewable sources, of which 11% was from solid biomass including wood*, 2% hydro and less than 1% from other renewables such as geothermal, solar, wind etc.
    Source: EarthTrends 2003.

Interesting to note: The British Empire was built in part on its large deposits of coal. Ironically, through much of the nineteenth century, few people considered coal smoke to be pollution. In fact they considered it a valuable disinfectant because its carbon and sulfur were thought capable of rendering miasma** harmless.

*Technically speaking, wood is a renewable resource, so long as it's harvested in a sustainable fashion - which it often is not.

**Up until the middle of the 18th century it was believed that an invisible, foul smelling gas caused by decomposing matter, known as miasma (from the Greek for pollution) was the cause of diseases such as cholera.

This article was originally published in August 2006, and has been updated for the April 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Goodbye Days
    Goodbye Days
    by Jeff Zentner
    Guilt can be a heavy burden for anyone to manage, but it's especially difficult for teenagers. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    by Hannah Tinti
    Hannah Tinti follows her spectacular 2008 debut, The Good Thief, with a novel of uncommon ...
  • Book Jacket: Music of the Ghosts
    Music of the Ghosts
    by Vaddey Ratner
    Music of the Ghosts is about healing and forgiveness, but it is also about identity and the revival ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Manderley Forever
    by Tatiana de Rosnay

    Bestselling author Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -