As can be expected, Freese sees coal as the single most important substance humans have ever used. While she does make a cogent argument, she overdoes it at times.
I was a little bored with the description of the formation of coal in human prehistory, but the rest of the book really cooked, at least in my opinion. Some of the hightlights include: a discussion of the UMW (a once mighty union that has lost most of its members) and its history including the Molly McGuires, a discussion of why coal in this country is now increasingly mined in the West rather than in Appalachia, a description of the role of coal in helping the British Empire become supreme, descriptions of the giant Chinese coal industry, the revelation that the United States continues to be one of the heaviest coal using countries on the planet -- far more than other industrialized countries, a description of how British homes were changed as they moved from wood-burning stoves to coal-burning furnaces.
While most would, at first sight, consider petroleum to be a more important fossil fuel, Freese shows that coal has been and continues to be a significant sourese of fuel as we become increasingly dependent on cheap electricity in the United States.
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