LOWER SIXTH - KGP SCHEDULE, WEEKS 2-9 - ENERGY
MODULE 1 THE DYNAMICS OF CHANGE
10.2 PEOPLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT -POPULATION AND RESOURCES
RENEWABLE ENERGY - HEP
NON-RENEWABLE ENERGY -OIL
   
COAL
Coal may look like a useless black rock but in fact it is far from useless and is one of the world's most important resources. It is made from vegetation from 345 to 280 million years ago, which died and decomposed. Over the ensuing millions of years, lots of layers of sand and mud built up, applying mass amounts of pressure on the slowly decomposing plants. Due to this pressure and the movement of the Earth's plates, the decomposing vegetation was crushed and hardened into what we call coal. This process took place over millions of years, which means coal is non-renewable resource, as it cannot be replaced anytime soon.
Coal has been widely used throughout history, but in particular it was used on a global scale during the 18th century, by Britain in particular, due to its wide availability and superb properties as a fuel. It was used as a fuel in almost all aspects of industrial life, from the heavy industries producing steel to being burned in fires around the country. Without coal the industrialisation of Britain and the world would have been not only a lot harder but also it would have taken a lot longer, with many of the new inventions of the time such as trains needing coal to be able to run.
There are many good points and bad points about using coal as a fuel. The good points are that it is really easy to obtain, as it can be found in almost every region of the world and can easily extracted from the ground by digging it up. Also it burns easily meaning industrialists have an abundant and efficient source of energy available to them, no matter where they are in the world. However these advantages are dwarfed by the huge problems that the use of coal brings about. Firstly it is a non-renewable resource, which means that sometime in the future it will run out and we will be unable to use it again. There have been many attempts to try and estimate the amount of coal reserves that we have left but this is very hard to do, as the coal is underground. The best estimate is that there are about 1.2 trillion tonnes left in the world with most of this in China, USA and Russia, having 70% of the 1.2 trillion tonnes between them. The biggest drawback to using coal are the huge amounts of pollution that burning the coal in large quantities causes. When it was the main fuel of UK industry the cities where industries were set up were heavily polluted, covered by clouds of smog caused by the burning of coal. Nowadays one of the most pressing environmental worries is the greenhouse effect. Coal helps to aggravate this as a bi-product of burning coal is carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas and helps to amplify the greenhouse effect. This helps to speed up global warming. Another really bad bi-product is sulphur dioxide, which if in large enough quantities in the atmosphere will cause acid rain, which is not all that healthy for the environment.
Due to these problems many countries have been forced to control the amount of coal being burned in their countries as it has become too much of a problem to be ignored. Other problems include the mining and extraction of coal from the ground and the transport of the coal in large quantities to where it is needed. Because of all the pollution that is being caused by coal, in some new places new "clean coal" technologies are being attempted. There are liquids taken from coal and used to burn instead of raw natural coal.
By making from coal the emissions of impurities, such as sulphur dioxide, are reduced and it becomes a cleaner source of power to use. However these are expensive to develop and use, therefore making only a selected group of people that are interested in using them. Coal is being used less and less these days because of the cleaner, renewable resources available, such as hydroelectricity, which provide the same results but can be used repeatedly and have no noxious bi-products like coal has. Coal, despite being the first real industrial resource to be widely used, is becoming less economically and environmentally viable for people to use and the alternatives are much better in many ways.
RENEWABLE ENERGY - HEP
NON-RENEWABLE ENERGY -OIL