Sunday, February 18, 2007

A coal statistic

According to the cutline beneath this front-page photo in the Cumberland Times-News, a single high school in Cumberland, Md., burns about 700 tons of coal a year.

According to the "Coal Train" chapter of John McPhee's latest book, Uncommon Carriers, a typical rail car holds 115 tons of coal.

That means Allegany High School requires a bit more than six rail cars full of coal per year to keep the pipes (and kids) from freezing. Let's pull a seventh car onto that (imaginary) siding behind the boiler room, in case of a hard winter.

Keep that once-a-year seven-car coal train for a single building in mind, the next time you hear coal touted as America's energy salvation.

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