Section 5

Coal

Coal has the longest history of use among the fossil fuels, with use as a fuel dating to 3000 BC in China and Wales. Marco Polo’s “Description of the World” (1298) comments on many novel customs and practices of China, including the use of “stones that burn like logs” (coal). By the thirteenth century the mining of coal was widespread in England in regions such as Durham, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, and North and South Wales. By the early seventeenth century nearly half of England’s maritime trade consisted of coal exports.

Coal was the fuel that launched the Industrial Revolution in Europe and then the United States. By the late 1890s, the U.S. assumed the lead in world coal production. Britain now ranked second, ...

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