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Open-cut brown coal mine at Yallourn, Victoria

Coal is a combustible material which was formed by decomposing plant and animal material placed under intense pressure. China is the largest producer and consumer of coal in the world.

Coal mining is the extraction of coal for use as a fuel. It became important after 1800 as coal fueled railroads of the Industrial Revolution, and (where cheap water power was not available), the factories. Coal is now the chief method of generating electricity, along with burning natural gas, using water power in dams, and using nuclear energy.

Laboratory experiments show that coal can be formed in a matter of months, and with temperatures in the range of 100 to 150 degrees Celsius (210-300 degrees Fahrenheit) for brown coal and 400 degrees Celsius (750 degrees Fahrenheit) for black coal.[1]

Types of coal

Four types of coal are:

  • Subbituminous coal - of a lower grade than bituminous and a higher grade than lignite, and is widely mined in the Powder River Basin region of Wyoming.
  • Lignite - also known as "brown coal", is the dirtiest burning, and is mainly used in power generation. The top two locations for lignite mining are Germany and Russia.

Graphite, used in pencils and as an electrical conductor, is technically a type of coal of an even higher grade than anthracite, but is not used as a fuel as it is hard to ignite.


coal sitting on clay, with no evidence of soil

Young earth creationists believe that most coal was formed during the Great Flood.[2] In support of this, they point out:[3]

  • The time required to turn plant material into coal is small enough that the biblical timescale is quite sufficient. The vast amounts of time suggested by uniformitarian geologists is not actually required.
  • Polystrate fossils indicate that successive layers have formed quickly.
  • There is often no evidence of the soil that the plant material grew in, suggesting that the plant material was washed into place.
  • Trees found in coal beds often turn out to be types that do not grow in swamps, as proposed by uniformitarian explanations.

Secular scientists propose that coal formation took long periods of time, with the most recently formed coal being formed a million years ago.[4] They generally propose that the plant material accumulated in swamps[4]

Environmental and societal impact

The burning of coal has lead to certain environmental consequences, such as the increase of coal-originating mercury in ocean fish such as tuna, or the release of chemicals that lead to acid rain. Acid rain is caused by the release of sulfur dioxide from fossil fuels, which dissolves to form sulfuric acid in rain clouds.[5] Acid rain can have serious impacts on local ecosystems, agriculture, and many structures, as the acid can eat away at building materials sensitive to acid, such as limestone.

Despite this, coal also has had a positive influence on human development. Technology has been invented to make coal clean, heavily reducing any possible impact on the environment.[6] Contrary to the claims of liberals, coal and other fossil fuels do little-to-nothing to contribute to "global warming."[7]