Book Post 19: Coal by Mark C. Thurber
Book Post 19: Coal by Mark C. Thurber

Book Post 19: Coal by Mark C. Thurber

 Book Name : Coal 

Author : Mark C. Thurber

Genre : Non-Fiction


What is it about? : As the title of the book makes it amply clear this book is about Coal. Whether we like it or not the fact remains that over 1/3rd of electricity generation in the world is still generated from Coal. This book tries to answer some of the questions related to coal. Almost 200 years after we started using Coal on a mass scale why are we still dependent on it? What are the political conflicts and dynamics on the national and International level that influence the policies affecting coal. And most importantly for us what would it take for other energy sources to push out coal from the market.  

How I came to read it :
This has an interesting background. During my Masters in UBC last year, one of the Departments invited this author Mark C. Thurber for a talk about his then latest book ‘Coal’. I attended the talk and at the end the organizers were giving away Author signed copies. I got one from Mark himself. I had a little chat with him then took a selfie with him as well. This was my second author signed copy and the first time I met the author themselves. 
Did I like it?
Yes I did. Coal is a concise and to the point book. It does not deviate from the topic at hand. 

In the first chapter itself the author reveals some startling facts. For example, sample this. From 2000 to 2013 China made massive strides in manufacturing sector and boosted its per capita sevenfold. This was made possible in part by threefold increase in coal production and consumption. At present China consumes more coal than the rest of the world combined. This shows coals popularity. It is cheap and has wide geographical distribution. The competition between fuels is shaped by three main factors: resource depletion, technological change and policy. And coal still edges out other fuels in these three factors in many regions around the world. But things are changing albeit slowly. The author then reviews the PET factors: Political, Economic and Technological that have shaped coal’s past and will shape its future. 

The author then outlines the History of coal usage and how it came to be so heavily used and brought us to where we are today. It was the vehicle to our prosperity at present. The book offers many thought provoking insights too many to list here. The rest of the book talks about the coal supply chain and the dynamics associated with it, the environmental groups fighting the use of coal and the strategies and tactics they use to put pressure on coal users, the alternatives associated with coal, their strengths and weaknesses and finally the last chapter details the Policies, Technology and the future of coal. 
The author provides a neutral narrative to the whole topic. Not swaying to any one viewpoint he provides a nuanced and insightful account of why coal was popular, why it is still in use and what is its future. To me it seemed like the kind of book to read if you are to follow the adage ‘Know your Enemy’. Know Coal with this book and find out everything about it. Learn what makes coal what it is and try to know how the insights can be used to help other fuels to grow. Overall an excellent book. Totally worth rereading again and again.  

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