Coal is a natural resource used for many purposes such as power generation, steel manufacturing, and Methanol for plastics, plywood, and binding resin. The carbon based energy in coal is used to fuel power plants in many areas of the world.
As the world's population increases with each year, the demand for natural resources explodes. People are enjoying a higher standard of living. This generally includes using more water, energy and food. The world is expected to hold 9.2 billion people by the year 2050.
As more of the people in the world require electricity, they will consume increasing amounts of uranium, gas, oil and coal. Some energy experts and environmentalists predict reserves of these resources will not be able to keep up with demand. Others suggest they will start to run dry.
The ancient and fossilised remains of plants and animals were converted to coal over many years. Coal supplies are more sufficient than other resources. It makes sense that it is the most popular of the fossil energy sources. However, there are suggestions the demand for thermal coal may spike to 800 million thermal tonnes.
Estimates suggest there are between 909 and 990 billion tonnes of coal reserves. About a quarter of the word's coal reserves are in Asia and North America. About a third of global coal reserves are in Europe. Some of the countries that hold the highest amount of coal stores include China, Australia, Russia, India, and Ukraine. China imports growing amounts of coal.
Coal serves up to a third of the worlds primary energy needs. Coal is also cheaper. Unfortunately coal burning power plants are spewing too much pollution into the air. The shift toward green energy may start to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Many countries are encouraging the development of wind, solar, and nuclear power.
Coal is mined in two ways which are known as surface mining, and underground mining. Underground mining is a more complicated process requiring more manpower. However, this process can extract some of the best product. Surface mining is the most modern method of coal mining used where seams of coal in the earth lie close to the surface. A ranking system rates coal depending on how much heat and pressure were used during its creation. The stages include peat, brown coal, sub-bituminous coal, bituminous coal, and anthracite.
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