Friday, June 22, 2007

Big Coal Q & A

Are you infuriated by mountaintop coal mining? Do you need some literary ammunition against proponents of coal-to-liquid as a gasoline alternative? Do you just wonder where your electricity comes from? Jeff Goodell offers authoritative answers to these burning questions in Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future. In a surprisingly engaging book about a global resource extraction industry, Goodell analyzes how our reliance on coal has led to nationwide inertia against alternative energy research. In the 21st century, he argues, few of us realize our dependence on a 19th century energy source. He says, “We may not like to admit it, but our shiny white iPod economy is propped up by dirty black rocks.”

This is an especially important book at this moment of energy legislation debate on Capital Hill. If you don’t have time to read the book, please use that shiny iPod to hear a podcast of Goodell’s June 21 interview, ironically on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. And if you’ve taken your high blood pressure medication, get a podcast from Diane Rehm’s WAMU radio archives of her June 20th discussion of the energy legislation debate. Guests include a well-spoken representative from the Natural Resources Defense Council, but you’ll also hear an employee of the Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers extolling the virtues of coal-to-liquid as the key to defeating the terrorist menace.

If the discussion gets you steamed up as it did me, stay tuned to hear Diane’s radio book club discussion of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette. Thinking about Bronte’s insights into human nature and perhaps her line, “Better to be without logic than without feeling,” seems especially appropriate after just listening to a coal advocate using data and reason to convince us to accept more global warming to improve his profit margins.

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