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Energy resources: Coal

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During the Industrial Revolution half of the world's coal came from Britain. We still rely heavily on it today to meet our energy needs, but now we import more than we produce. Burning it introduces large amounts of gases into the atmosphere that harm the environment in a variety of ways. In this free course, Energy resources: Coal, it will become apparent that the most appealing quality of coal is that there is plenty of it.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • explain how coal is formed
  • explain how coal is found and extracted by either surface or underground mines
  • discuss how geological problems and environmental issues surrounding extraction affect mining
  • explain the reasons for the decline in the UK’s coal industry.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 17 hours
  • Updated Tuesday 22nd March 2016
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Environmental Science
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Energy resources: Coal

Introduction

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There are many environmental reasons why coal is a rather undesirable source of energy. Burning it introduces large amounts of gases into the atmosphere that harm the enviironment in a variety of ways, as well as other, sollid waste products. Coal extraction leads to spoil heaps and mines that scar the landscape, land subsidence that affects roads and buildings, and in some cases water pollution.

With apparently so little going for it, why do we rely so much on coal to meet our energy needs? In this course, it will become apparent that the most appealing quality of coal is that there is plenty of it. Coal is twice as important globally as any other fuel in generating electricity, and could remain so for the next 200 years. That is reassuring for a future where energy demands continue to increasde and when the alternatives to coal are currently looking less dependable. The downside is that continued burning of coal could have dire consequences for the environment inthe coming centuries, unless 'cleaner' ways can be found to harness energy from it.

This course explores the basics: what coal is, how and where found, and how it is extracted at a variety of depths below the surface. Another important theme concerns the distribution of coal reserves and resources, and the control exerted on them by both economics and politics.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 2 study in Science [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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