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The economics of wind. The role of coal in the energy economies of the U.S. and Illinois. Whether and how to support emerging technologies to burn coal more cleanly. The environmental costs of mining and consuming coal for power generation. Whether and how to effect a transition to renewables and away from fossil fuels. How to make public transit a viable alternative to the automobile and make conservation through efficiency a widespread private habit.


Today's readers will recognize these as very current issues, but they also were in the 1970s and early 1980s, when I started writing about energy. The nation was then in hock, in effect, to the oil sheiks, and when OPEC shut off imports in 1973 it caused a shock that the U.S. would not feel again until 9-11, when Saudis again led an attack on America, albeit of a different kind.


The panic in the 1970s was how to achieve energy independence. The panic today is about how to avoid rendering the planet inhospitable to humans because of the heedless combustion of fossil fuels. But while the ends of policy have shifted, the means are mind-numbingly familiar. Everything that had to be explained, over and over, in the 1970s has to be explained again 30 years later. No one learned. Not much changed, and even what did change didn't change for the right reasons. 


Which means, perhaps, that these pieces will strike younger readers today as fresh and relevant. I hope so. 

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The Battles Over the Ground and Behind the Doors

Healing damaged farmland in Illinois

Illinois Issues  January 1985

The (Energetic) Ambition of Frank Beal

The thinking bureaucrat's sort of bureaucrat

Illinois Issues April 1980

Harvesting Electricity
The newest energy crop from Illinois fields
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  January.  21, 2010

The UMW Battlefield Moves Beyond  the Coal Field

A feature article about one of Illinois labor's lost causes

Illinois Issues April 1980

Manna from Decatur

On the fraud of corn-based motor fuels

Illinois Issues  October 2007

Mined Land Reclamation: Ends and Means

Healing damaged farmland in Illinois

Illinois Issues  December 1984

Corn, Coal, Corn 

Can a corn field have a life after strip mining?

Illinois Issues  July 1980

Springfield City Water, Light & Power

The City of Springfield owns its own power generation facility, a legacy of public power socialists of the 1920s. That makes energy policy a matter of local politics in Springfield, which is unfortunate for customers of City Water, Light and Power, but it also made energy policy an appropriate subject for Illinois Times columns, which for me was very fortunate. 

It’s Not the Heat But the Stupidity

Summer cooling technologies remain unevolved

“Dyspepsiana”  Illinois Times  July 29, 2010   

Greener than Thou

Springfield as the No. 1 green city

“Dyspepsiana”  Illinois Times  September 16, 2010

Lousy Socialists

Can CWLP be managed for the people’s benefit?

“Dyspepsiana”  Illinois Times December 20, 2012 


What Would Willis Do?

Will CWLP not have to clean up its act?

“Dyspepsiana”  Illinois Times October 5, 2017

‘Great Refrigerator Roundup’ Is a Bad Bargain

CWLP’s efficiency rebates are inefficient    

“Dyspepsiana”  Illinois Times  October 8, 2009

Agency Problems

The dilemmas of public power on a warming planet

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times July 27, 2017

$164 a Ton

Not all gas emitted by CWLP comes out its chimneys

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 20, 1983

In the early 1980s, Illinois Issues magazine undertook a multi-author series on Illinois energy issues, supported in part by the Office of Consumer Affairs of the U.S. Department of Energy. I was  to write five of them altogether—on energy-efficient buildings, on ethanol, on government's role in transportation, on synfuels, and a big-picture introduction.

Transportation and the Government's Uneven Hand

State intervention in the transportation marketplace

Illinois Issues  October 1981

Illinois: The Land of Ethanol

On converting Illinois corn to motor fuel

Illinois Issues January 1981

Energy for Illinois

A big-picture summary

Illinois Issues  August 1980

Energy-efficient Buildings

Should intelligent selfishness be mandatory?

Illinois Issues  June 1981

Synfuels from Coal
What went wrong?
Illinois Issues  April 1982

Illinois Issues energy series

Lo-cal Castles

The case for energy-efficient houses

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  April 4, 1980

Let the Sun Shine In

I actively embrace passive solar

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  April 8, 1982

Deja Vu

Thirty years of energy policy in Illinois

Illinois Issues  October 2006

Illinois Issues series on coal


The year 1979 found me trying to learn enough about the coal industry in Illinois to write an ambitious series of articles for Illinois Issues magazine. Illinois coal was then being touted as the solution to the nation's energy problem, not the cause of the planet's climate problem, and giving what is today a dying industry this much attention seemed obligatory. No one cares today, but future historians of the Illinois coal industry might take note.

Illinois Coal v. Western Coal: Who's Getting Burned?

Illinois Issues  July 1979

Illinois Coal: Who Runs the Industry

Illinois Issues  August 1979

Illinois Coal: Can We Scrub It Clean?

 Illinois Issues  September 1979

Who Makes Coal Policy in Illinois?

Illinois Issues  November 1979

Who Makes Coal Policy in Illinois? Chapter II

Illinois Issues  December 1979

Homegrown Energy

The gasohol debate with an Illinois accent

Reader  May 4, 1984

Reinventing Housing

In which the author’s energy dreams do not come true

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  May 30, 1980

Illinois Crude

What are those things in the cornfields?

See Illinois (unpublished)  2006


Springfield loses its cool

“Prejudices"  Illinois Times  April 14, 1983

Rush to Judgment

Does Illinois export acid rain?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 22, 1984

Closing Doors

Illinois institutions try to keep the heat in

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 12, 1984

“A Little More Dirt in Your Lungs”

An Illinois governor preaches pollution

Illinois Times  August 3, 1979

Victims and Perpetrators

Just the facts, ma’am: Illinois and acid rain

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  December 3, 1987

Damning the Coal Company

Trading coal today for corn forever

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 18, 1980


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John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago


The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois


Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Illinois Digital Archives


Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

The Illinois State Museum


The people's museum is a treasure house of science and the arts. A research institution of national reputation, the museum maintains four facilities across the state. Their collections in anthropology, fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology, and  history are described here. A few museum publications can be obtained here.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.


I will leave it to the authors of this interesting site to describe it. "Chicagology is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War. The purpose of the site is to document common and not so common stories about the City of Chicago as they are discovered." 

Illinois Labor History Society

The Illinois Labor History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present. Offers books reviews, podcasts, research guides, and the like. 

Illinois Migration History 1850-2017

The University of Washington’s America’s Great Migrations Project has compiled migration histories  (mostly from the published and unpublished work by UW Professor of History James Gregory) for several states, including Illinois. The site also includes maps and charts and essays about the Great Migration of African Americans to the north, in which Illinois figured importantly. 

History on the Fox

An interesting resource about the history of one of Illinois’s more interesting places, the Fox Valley of Kendall County. History on the Fox is the work of Roger Matile, an amateur historian of the best sort. Matile’s site is a couple of cuts above the typical buff’s blog. (An entry on the French attempt to cash in on the trade in bison pelts runs more than

2,000 words.)




Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study . . .  an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy the book 


Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

University of

Illinois Press

The U of I Press was founded in 1918. A search of the online catalog  (Books/Browse by subject/Illinois) will reveal more than 150 Illinois titles, books on history mostly but also butteflies, nature , painting, poetry and fiction, and more.  Of particular note are its Prairie State Books,  quality new paperback editions of worthy titles about all parts of Illinois, augmented with scholarly introductions.

University of

Chicago Press

The U of C publishing operation is the oldest (1891) and largest university press in Illinois. Its reach is international, but it has not neglected its own neighborhood. Any good Illinois library will include dozens of titles about Chicago and Illinois from Fort Dearborn to

Vivian Maier.

Northern Illinois University Press

The newest (1965) and the smallest of the university presses with an interest in Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press gave us important titles such as the standard one-volume history of the state (Biles' Illinois:
A History of the Land and Its People) and contributions to the history of Chicago, Illinois transportation, and the Civil War. Now an imprint of Cornell University Press.


Reviews and significant mentions by James Krohe Jr. of more than 50 Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order

by book title. 


Illinois Center for the Book

Run by the Illinois State Library, The Center promotes reading, writing and author programs meant to honor the state's rich literary heritage. An affiliate of the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, the site offers award competitions, a directory of Illinois authors, literary landmarks, and reading programs.

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