National Geographic : 1979 Sep
One shrinks at bad memories of coal. The other thinks of energy. Both real considerations. Those who remember coal think of soot, clinkers, smoke, smell and inconvenience. All unacceptable to our modern way. And mining coal can deface the land. Ruin streams. Shipping coal to popula tion centers takes rail cars we don't have, rail beds that don't exist. Unbuilt slurry pipelines. No won der people say, "There must be a better answer than coal." But others point to cold reality: 75% of our energy comes from natural gas and oil. We import nearly half our oil. Soon perhaps two thirds. Creating a worrisome trade imbalance. As it runs low, petroleum will go to critical non fuel uses. Fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, plastics, medicine, lubricants. National defense. With so much at stake and the future so obvious it makes sense to divert as many energy uses as possible to non-petroleum sources. One reason for coal fired electric generators. A dilemma. To use coal or not. Happily a coal furnace downstairs isn't the only way to use coal. Elec tricity, generated from coal burned under conditions that con trol smoke, pollution, environmen tal impact, is extremely versatile. It can power everything from mass transit to home heating. We'll need even more coal-generated power tomorrow. But developing power plants, mines, transporta tion, assuring a reliable continu ing supply won't just happen. It will take understanding, accept ance, effort, money, and personal commitment. Lots of it. Caterpillar machines help build and operate mines and power plants. We urge support for our na tion's efforts to develop tomorrow's energy. There are no simple solutions. Only intelligent choices. W CATERPILLAR Caterpillar, Cat and B are Trademarks of Caterpilar Tractor Co.