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Coal : a human history
Barbara Freese
Adult Nonfiction TN800 .F74 2003

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Coal has been both lauded for its efficiency as a heating fuel and maligned for the lung-wrenching black smoke it gives off. In her first book, Freese, an assistant attorney general of Minnesota (where she helps enforce environmental laws), offers an exquisite chronicle of the rise and fall of this bituminous black mineral. Both the Romans and the Chinese used coal ornamentally long before they discovered its flammable properties. Once its use as a heating source was discovered in early Roman Britain, coal replaced wood as Britain's primary energy source. The jet-black mineral spurred the Industrial Revolution and inspired the invention of the steam engine and the railway. Freese narrates the discovery of coal in the colonies, the development of the first U.S. coal town, Pittsburgh, and the history of coal in China. Despite its allure as a cheap and warm energy source, coal carries a high environmental cost. Burning it produces sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide in such quantities that, during the Clinton administration, the EPA targeted coal-burning power plants as the single worst air polluters. Using EPA studies, Freese shows that coal emissions kill about 30,000 people a year, causing nearly as many deaths as traffic accidents and more than homicides and AIDS. The author contends that alternate energy sources must be found to ensure a healthier environment for future generations. Part history and part environmental argument, Freese's elegant book teaches an important lesson about the interdependence of humans and their natural environment both for good and ill throughout history. (Feb.) Forecast: General science readers as well as those interested in the environment will seek this out, informed about it by a four-city author tour and a 20-market radio satellite tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Coal was used by the ancient Chinese and Romans as a fuel and was also carved into jewelry before it became the impetus behind the forward leap of the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom, and then in the United States, by providing fuel for industrial plants, transportation, power plants, and lighting. As its use dramatically increased in the 20th century, the less than beneficial side of this wonderful fuel became apparent. Freese, an assistant attorney general of Minnesota, documents in clear, eloquent writing the consequences of coal use on industrial growth and the environment. Her balancing of ecological concerns with realistic analyses of resource use is impressive. Although the ecological implications of coal use are great, Freese effectively demonstrates the dependence on coal of countries around the world for sustaining economic growth. Most important, she offers clearheaded opinions on what we need to do to make our use of coal as clean as possible and what we must eventually do to replace it. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Michael D. Cramer, Schwarz BioSciences, RTP, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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