Piece Comment

Wow! 20 pounds of coal per person, per day

Within the first few minutes of this one-hour documentary on coal, the producers had me reaching for the light switch. According to this report, Americans burn 20 pounds of coal every day. We use it to charge our iPhones, log into Facebook or keep that light on when we don’t really need it.

Other fun facts I gleaned from this documentary: Only 40 percent of the energy in coal is turned into electricity. Coal is cheap. One-quarter of the world’s coal is right here in the USA. Coal miners are paid well, but machines have replaced many of their jobs. And of course, coal pollutes. It’s the number cause of global warming. Plus, it’s kicking out some pretty nasty chemicals that are making some of us sicker.

Like most documentaries, this one is at its best when it’s letting people tell their stories. I liked the interviews with the West Virginia miners at the local Pizza Hut. One of their quotes went something like this: “We don’t want these mountain tops tore down. We want them back also. We like to get out on our four-wheelers and ride around.”

Another favorite quote from the one of the miners: “People make us out to be thus, outlaws. We’re not.”

No matter which side of the energy debate listeners are on, they’ll learn something valuable from this documentary. Including that Thomas Edison was contemplating alternative energy in the months before his death in 1931. Edison, this documentary tells us, believed solar and wind energy needed to be harnessed. How prescient.