Burning the Future: Coal in America


Your inconvenient truth du jour is that the filthy-lunged coal industry—which still provides over half of this country’s electricity—is responsible for detonating five million pounds of explosives daily to remove the Appalachian mountaintops, an ecological Hiroshima that turns West Virginia’s much-needed groundwater into a tumor-causing slurry. David Novack’s dry-as-coal-dust feature debut follows a de facto community of resident activists from blustery town meetings to a U.N. conference of the Commission on Sustainable Development—and even on an ill-advised stop to billionaire CEO Wilbur Ross’s luxury-hotel residence. Their efforts to get Somebody Important’s attention are heartbreakingly desperate, and their lack of savvy means the fight is futile—as is Novack’s, whose inability to tell a compelling story makes it difficult for us to summon outrage. Was it necessary to outsource to an animated sequence depicting how dependent we are on energy for every light, appliance, and iPod in our lives? In comparison, the “Bush Coal” sticker in a Coal Association spokesman’s office speaks volumes about why the little man will continue to be shafted in the name of money and power—but when a doc neglects to provide any practical solutions, there isn’t much more to say except “Yep, coal is bad.”