Let's Explore Coal

Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel resource in the United States. Almost half of our electricity comes from coal-fired plants, meeting nearly a quarter of America's energy needs. Coal is also the least expensive fossil fuel to use. Today, coal is cleaner burning than ever before, as sulfur dioxide emissions (air pollution) have been reduced by 71 percent since 1999.

Before the first European settlers arrived, the North American Indians used coal to bake their clay pottery. By the 1800s coal was used for manufacturing goods, to make iron and steel, and later to power steam engines for ships and trains. By the end of the 1800s coal was used to produce electricity.

Today coal is used to make electricity and for smelting metals in the iron and steel industry (metallurgical coal is used for steel making). The paper, brick, cement and limestone industries also use coal to make products.

In the United States, almost four tons of coal is used each year for each person. The state of Texas consumes the most coal, using about 100 million tons each year. The United States produces about 35 percent of the world's coal supply and exports a considerable amount. It is estimated that there is enough coal in the U.S. to last 180 years.