Author Archives: Sean Adams

About Sean Adams

I'm the Hyatt and Cici Brown Professor of History at the University of Florida. At UF, I teach courses on the Early American Republic and the History of American Capitalism. I've published books and articles on the history of the coal trade, and recently completed a book that examines the origins of America's fossil fuel dependency in the 19th century.

The New Oil

A recent article in 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Got Coal? Now Would Be the Time To Buy

One of the many luxuries of contemporary life is the ability to heat homes at the flip of a switch or the turn of a dial.  Modern utilities allow us to draw instantly on gas, electricity, and in increasingly rare … Continue reading

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Gainesville Comes Clean on Mountaintop Removal?

The City Commission of my hometown of Gainesville, Florida recently voted against using coal from mountaintop removal sites.  The controversy over mountaintop removal is well known in states like Kentucky and West Virginia.  On the one hand, it’s difficult to … Continue reading

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