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A fascinating subject, and while not as captivating as "Salt" or "Cod" by Mark Kurlansky, the author still holds your interest while describing the history of coal.
Unfortunately, her bias is clear - coal is and was a force of evil. The book dwells on the negatives from coal. While clearly the fuel has major environmental implications in the present world, even the historical discussion focuses almost solely on pollution, mining danger, etc. References to the historical positives are turned negative (i.e., coal permitted the rise of cities, but the book focuses on slums. Coal permitted improved production, the book talks about it's use in making weapons of war...)
When the author turns to modern times, that bias makes it a little hard to fully trust her claims. Discouraging, because there's a lot of intriguing information here on global warming and particulates.
It's still worth a listen, but I'd have preferred the work of a balanced scientist instead of a lawyer that reached a conclusion before starting her research.
The narration is excellent - clear and well paced.
13 of 16 people found this review helpful
There are some great parts, such as the history of coal in the UK, US, and China and its role in social history. However, I found it lacking in other areas of coal history I've read about in other books. Notably, Daniel Yergin's _The Prize_ discusses how WW1 was shaped by oil and coal use and how Nazi Germany used coal-to-liquids fuels produced in slave factories attached to concentration camps to compensate for oil shortages. These facts and South Africa's history of subsidizing coal fuels seem critical to understanding modern coal economics and lobbying. However, the book instead presents a litany of air pollution and climate problems with coal, which applies to pretty much all fossil fuels -- I've heard similar material before in now-countless newspapers and books. As a result, this large part of the book seems to me more like polemic than erudition. Overall, I'd say I learned something new from about 45-50% of the book, with not much new in the rest of it. Really, the book's more a persuasion piece, and I was looking for a lot more new information when I invested the listening time.
8 of 10 people found this review helpful