Edwin Black has produced an explosive, eye-opening exposé of the corporate forces that have for more than a century sabotaged the creation of alternative energies and vehicles in order to keep us dependent on oil.
“Since the beginning of history, there has never been a time when fuel and transportation has not been controlled by monopolists…“
“Since the first fuel was wood and since depleted trees took years to replace, the control of wood is the first cause of the conquering of new territory…”
“Edwin Black takes off the gloves and reveals the people whose invisible hands have been shaping and controlling energy markets. Internal Combustion describes forces that have brought us to the brink of disaster, and raises a call for a green revolution to restore sanity and regain control over our destiny.”
Here’s snippets about the first uses of coal and the continuing aggressive efforts to control our fuel.
Coal use began not with the well-known ore extracted from subterranean seams, but with a similar substance called “sea coal” that washed up along the coast near Durham in England’s northeast. Later, the more familiar rock was also discovered inland, exposed in the hillsides and the banks of the nearby River Tyne. The Romans certainly employed it in the early centuries of the Common Era. The combustible nuggets produced the fuel to forge Roman military metal and operate Caesar’s war fortifications. By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the peasant class, especially those without access to peat, was compelled to rediscover coal as a substitute for wood.
The royal wood monopolies and hoarding regimens had made the repugnant sea coal a necessity for the average man’s survival, as well as for industrial and commercial growth. In the last four decades of the thirteenth century, the cost of wood increased about 70 percent, while sea coal only increased only 23 percent. Coal became affordable.
The glissando of coal cartels began in the Church, which owned the original northeastern coastal lands that contained the ore deposits, especially around Durham. In the late eleven hundreds and throughout the twelve hundreds, the Prince Bishops of Durham controlled much of northeast England’s best coal. The holy men of the Durham diocese were called “Prince Bishops” because they enjoyed the independent power to convene their own parliament, raise armies, levy taxes, and control the woods and mines of Durham County. A steward to Anthony Bek, a Prince Bishop from 1284 to 1311, openly declared: “There are two kings in England, namely the Lord King of England, wearing a crown in sign of his regality and the Lord Bishop of Durham wearing a miter in place of a crown, in sign of his regality in the diocese of Durham.”
For many years, the ecclesiastic monopoly was able to manipulate coal prices by restricting its supply. After a bitter feud with the Prince Bishops, the merchants of Newcastle wrested the monopoly from the church, and built their own powerful coal cartel.
The successor cartel, not controlled by any church or crown, was a combine of private merchants known as the “Hostmen of Newcastle””