Something history something doomed.
ETA: You know I should have expected this. Obviously, power generating plants that burned coal wanted to take delivery via water if at all possible (cheapest), but the places that burn coal for heat also have waterways that freeze, which means they had to do icebreaking, particularly if the canal operator didn't otherwise bother. Sometimes they were stuck shipping the coal by rail, which cost a bit more but was more resilient in the face of bad weather, but still subject to floods, wrecks, congestion. All well and good. Here's the bit I should have seen coming:
According to one Dixon, writing in a 1906 Engineering Magazine article (one in series), when a coal miners' strike made it difficult to get coal "it is the practice of the railroads to seize all the coal they dare, which is on their tracks, for their own use; and while such coal is ultimately paid for, coal at such a time is the most precious jewel of the power plant."
It's little details like these that get passed over in too-short summaries of commodity price theory.
ETAYA: Fascinated by cap and trade?
One C.H. Benjamin writing in Cassier's Magazine (R. recognized Cassier because he was an electrical engineer) in 1907 on the subject of the aesthetics and pragmatics of smoke in the industrial zone:
"Plumes of black smoke wreathing the tops of the stacks were badges of industry, and more smoke meant more work" : so in the beginning, pollution = prosperity, more is better. Then reformers got pissy about the smoke as bituminous coal was more commonly used. The reformers didn't make much headway at first, until the engineers figured out that, "It may as well be understood first as last that smoke abatement becomes a commercial reality when it saves fuel, and not till then."
Climate legislation should, like cap and trade for acid rain, provide the incentive for smart people to go out and figure out ways to make more money by polluting less. They always complain at the beginning, so they will again this time. But when they tell you they'll go broke? Yeah, laugh.