Author Archives: Sean Adams
Tired of that Tired Old Furnace?
As Americans in northern states prepare for another frosty winter, the issue of home heating–usually resigned to “I never think of it” status–is once again in the news. The New York Times published this article chronicling the struggle of NYC … Continue reading
Old King Coal Getting a Makeover?
In his recent article in the Rachel Carson Center’s new open-access publication Springs, Franz-Josef Brüggemeier opens with the great line: “Oil is sexy. Coal, on the other hand, is boring.” As a historian of energy I can vouch for coal’s … Continue reading
The New Oil
A recent article in Slate.com discusses the advent of a new “Critical Mineral Age,” in which materials like niobium and rare-earths reorient the geopolitical landscape, with new buyers like China and suppliers like Brazil taking the place of the now … Continue reading
A Brief Visit to the Mines, Once Again
The strong link between coal and economic development is a well-worn theme in history, as the presence of mineral fuel facilitated industrial revolutions in Europe, great divergences between China and the West, and might have been responsible for representative democracy … Continue reading
Feeling Cold in 1917? Don’t Blame Harry Garfield, Blame the Railroads
I had the honor of contributing to the US World War I Centennial Commission’s Weekly Podcast today, where I tried to get folks up to speed on the state of the American coal industry in December 1917. Whether or not … Continue reading
No Longer America’s Ace in the Hole?
During the energy crisis of the 1970s, American policymakers considered the nation’s massive coal reserves to be an important strategic card, or as President Gerald Ford announced, coal was “America’s ace in the hole.” Those coal reserves haven’t dwindled by … Continue reading
Dropping Energy Costs in Historical Perspective
There is a fascinating article by W. Rocky Newman and John R. Bowblis that shows up in The Conversation; I hope that it gets picked up for wider distribution. The piece, entitled, “Crash in oil prices will hurt the U.S. economy … Continue reading
Somewhere Franklin Gowen is Smiling
At any point in its history, you’d never really describe the American coal industry as stable. Cutthroat competition, evasion of safety regulations, union-busting campaigns, and byzantine ownership structures have all made the business of extracting mineral coal from the ground … Continue reading
Underwriting the Wind
The notion that wind or solar power are doomed to fail in the American economy has become a common point of discussion. I’m not one to jump on the alternative energy bandwagon with both feet just yet–there’s quite a bit … Continue reading
Using Energy’s Past to Predict the Future
One of the many reasons that historians reconstruct the past is so that we can understand our present, and perhaps even make some predictions about the future. When I was writing my recent book, Home Fires: How Americans Kept Warm … Continue reading