Coal is a rich source of energy formed from plants that grew in swamps tens to hundreds of millions of years ago. The plants were buried deeply under younger and younger layers of dirt and rock, heated, and compressed into a carbon-rich rock. Burning coal releases more carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than any other fossil fuel.
Why does coal matter?
The United States has more estimated recoverable coal reserves than any other nation except China and is a net exporter of coal. In 2017, coal provided 30% of the electricity consumed across the country, and 93% of coal consumed in the United States was used to generate electricity.
How does geoscience inform decisions about coal?
Geoscientists locate coal resources, assess coal deposit volume and extent, and determine coal quality and composition for use in different industrial processes. Geoscientists also study the impacts of coal production and consumption on air and water quality, and work on the remediation of land and water that have been affected by coal production.