Killing for Coal: The Shift in Economies

Topics: Coal, Industrial Revolution, Fossil fuel Pages: 2 (631 words) Published: July 27, 2011
Up until the 1800s, America was almost exclusively an organic economy, one in which people met their needs of food, fuel, shelter, and clothing by harvesting energy and materials from the plants, animals, rivers, and wind. The growth potential of organic economies remained constrained by the limited ability of people to tap into the sun's energy through farms, windmills, waterwheels, etc. Carbon-based fuel use began in the late eighteenth century. The Industrial Revolution was ushered in by the use of coal. The invention of the steam engine and its subsequent use in mechanizing the British textile was the catalyst to this “revolution”. American industrialization began with New England's water-powered textile mills. By the 1830s, large-scale coal extraction had begun in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and beyond. Enter William Jackson Palmer… WILLIAM JACKSON PALMER (GEOLOGICAL ENGINEER AND INDUSTRIALIST) On a tour in Great Britain and France in the mid-1850s, “Palmer realized that the rapid growth of British industry depended on the momentous transition from an economy in which most energy and materials derived from organic sources to a mineral-intensive economy in which fossil fuels and metals played a much more important role. If coal could revolutionize the British economy, why couldn’t it transform the sleepy Colorado frontier” (32) By 1870, enormous quantities of power suddenly moved through Colorado igniting an economic boom to a once isolated economy. Andrews eloquently expressed a full picture of the labor, environmental, social and economic history of how coal transformed not only the landscape of the West but also transformed the American psyche. Coal provided an immediate solution to meeting the human demands of heat, light, food, transportation, and entertainment. Coal-powered technologies magnified the strength of American workers, making the U.S. labor force the most productive in the world. Coal gave people...
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