offers short-term wealth and long-term consequences. This sort of curse initially seems a blessing. It’s the largest “monkey trap” of all time, set long before mammals were a gleam in evolution’s eye and patiently waiting across the eons for a race of pyromaniacs with opposable thumbs. Its dimensions will become clearer as we proceed...
The Bottom Line: Fossil carbon and hydrocarbons are, in effect, solar energy, stored by plants and animals which lived long ago.
Summary: Coal is a flammable rock, the most abundant form of “fossil carbon” usable as fuel. Indeed, it’s composed principally of carbon, with various amounts of other elements present (particularly in the lower-grade coals). Coal was originally plant matter created by pulling CO 2 from the air via photosynthesis, which through time, heat, and increasing depth- compression became successively converted to peat, lignite, bituminous coal, and anthracite. Coal’s purity and desirability as flammable fuel increases in that same sequence. The fossilized plant matter in coal is immensely old, from far back in the story of life when Earth was a vastly different world, under a dimmer sun. There were extensive wetland forests with no bacteria or termites yet evolved to degrade them, so they formed “peat bogs.” Over time, after the plants died, they were buried and compressed underground, in layers. As they sank deeper, they were also cooked into higher heat-content forms by Earth’s internal furnace. (The hardest and purest, anthracite, is a shiny
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