Coal's dark future

IT IS called the black gold, and gold remains valuable for ever. Coal will always retain its value as a source of energy. Yet, the industry has been under pressure from various alternative sources of energy such as oil, nuclear, gas, and so on. Cost of availability has also been one of the major factors in its setback.

But concerns over the envirnomental impact of coal as an energy source has been rising over the years. Definitely, life is more important than energy required to run it. Without life, and life of quality at that, abundance of energy makes no sense. The future of the coal industry has thus been swinging like a pendulum. As if the technical, economic, and environmental factors are not enough, now the political factor stands in between its growth or decline.

This book has a wide scope. It deals with Western Europe's problems of high-cost production, the future of protection in Europe, the environment and the politics of coal, and policy synthesis. Suitable data presentation sheds a clear light on the total decline in the realm of coal.

But what is most interesting is Mike Parker's own rare degree of knowledge and personal experience concerning the economic and political issues involved. He states that the market for coal will depend upon the commercial availability of new, advanced 'clean-coal' electricity generating plants to replace the ageing stock of conventional plants.

No organisation can protect coal from its environmental disadvantages. The coal policies of countries, discussed in detail by Parker, have led to widely differing results and will continue to do so. It would thus be advisable to have a collective policy framed, looking at the environmental issues and protection, and taking the whole community into consideration.

An obviously valuable study, the book, however, leaves a sad gap, having left out a subject index and a comprehensible glossary of technical terms.

V K Sharma is the additional general manager with the Ordnance Factory, Khamaria, Jabalpur