Coal

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Coal is a carbon-rich rock formed from plants that grew millions of years ago. Coal is a major source of electricity in the United States and the largest source of energy for electricity generation worldwide.

Basics

A coal-fired power plant in Westport, Kentucky on the Ohio River. Image Copyright © Michael Collier. http://www.earthscienceworld.org/images

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.[1] Burning coal releases more carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than any other fossil fuel.[2]   Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

Latest News

Nuclear power plant, Czech Republic
(2018-07-09)
June 12, 2018 The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a formal oversight hearing for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on June 12, 2018, with all five commissioners present for the first time in a decade. FERC is responsible for regulating the interstate transmission...
Power lines. Image Credit: U.S. Department of Energy
(2018-02-06)
January 23, 2018 The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on January 23 that underscored concerns surrounding the reliability and resiliency of the electrical power system, particularly under certain weather conditions, such as the deep freeze or bomb cyclone that the U.S....
Nuclear power plant, Czech Republic
(2018-02-06)
January 8, 2018 On January 8, the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) rejected a proposal that was submitted by Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in September 2017 to subsidize the operating costs of coal and nuclear power plants, since the rule did not satisfy certain statutory standards....
Excavator mining
(2017-06-09)
May 25, 2017 The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a legislative hearing on a discussion draft of the Community Reclamation Partnerships Act (H.R.__) to be introduced by Representative Darin LaHood (R-IL-18). This legislation would streamline efforts to clean...
Nuclear power plant, Czech Republic
(2017-03-06)
February 16, 2017 Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12) introduced legislation (H.R.1119) to modify existing regulations applying to coal-refuse-to-energy power plants on February 16. The bill acts to exempt these specific power plants from emission standards required under the Environmental Protection...
#MapOfTheDay! Check out this interactive map of Iowa coal mines from @iowadnr  http://bit.ly/23DKXga
(2016-11-07)
#MapOfTheDay! Today the Critical Issues Program (@AGI_GeoIssues) shared an interactive map of coal mines in Iowa from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (@IowaDNR), which you can find at http://bit.ly/23DKXga. For information about coal mining, check out our Coal Basics.
Excavator mining
(2016-08-25)
August 9, 2016 The Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has issued guidance suggesting that states move away from accepting self-bonding, where companies use their current financial health as collateral to guarantee reclamation of lands...
Earth
(2016-06-27)
June 22, 2016 The White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a report entitled, “The Economics of Coal Leasing on Federal Lands: Ensuring a Fair Return to Taxpayers”. This report is part of a larger ongoing review of the federal coal leasing program – the first such review since the...
Earth
(2016-04-13)
April 5, 2016 The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a webinar entitled, “Can Coal Country Thrive in a Clean Energy Economy?” The speakers were Tara Ritter of the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, Julie Lawhorn of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Brett...
Earth
(2016-04-11)
March 25, 2016 The Department of the Interior (DOI) released a notice of intent (NOI) that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to evaluate potential reforms to the federal coal program. The NOI comes after a DOI announcement in...

Case Studies & Factsheets

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Boone, Logan and Mingo counties case study highlighted
U.S. Department of the Interior

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil. The case study on coal mining in West...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Campbell County case study highlighted
U.S. Department of the Interior

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil. The case study on coal mining in...

Fig. 1. Exposure of sandstone capping an economic coal bed. Credit: J. Shaulis, Pennsylvania Geological Survey

Defining the Problem Despite Pennsylvania’s long history as a major coal producer, information on the coal geology (Fig. 1), remaining resources, and extent of past mining is not available for many areas of the state. Such information is critical for present and future coal exploration and...

Geological Surveys Database Publications

[20??], West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey
Fully revised, highly illustrated, user-friendly overview of West Virginia geology specific to the parks. 51/2" x 81/2" booklet with 2 maps on one double-sided 11" x 17" folded insert.
[19??], West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey

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2018, Illinois State Geological Survey

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2018, United States Geological Survey
Using a geology-based assessment methodology, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated mean undiscovered, technically recoverable continuous resources of 2.0 billion barrels of oil and 20.3 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Bohaiwan Basin Province, Chin
2018, United States Geological Survey
Using a geology-based assessment methodology, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated mean undiscovered, technically recoverable continuous resources of 52 million barrels of oil and 591 billion cubic feet of gas in the Hanoi Trough of Vietnam.
2018, United States Geological Survey
Rare earth elements (REE), with their unique physical and chemical properties, are an essential part of modern living. REE have enabled development and manufacture of high-performance materials, processes, and electronic technologies commonly used today in computing and communications, clean energy...
2018, United States Geological Survey
Using a geology-based assessment methodology, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated mean undiscovered, technically recoverable resources of 55 million barrels of oil and 846 billion cubic feet of gas in the North-Central Montana Province.
2018, United States Geological Survey
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently completed an assessment of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in the Susitna Basin of southern Alaska. Using a geology-based methodology, the USGS estimates that mean undiscovered volumes of about 2 million barrels of oil and...
2017, United States Geological Survey

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2017, United States Geological Survey

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