Coal and Petroleum (April 16 & 18)

King Coal and Big Oil this week. Let’s start with the Wikipedia page on coal, which is very good. A visit to the World Coal Association page will give you a sense of the magnitude of coal production. Here are some evocative pictures from the coal industry. The coal industry in the USA is in serious decline.

Petroleum is remarkable stuff — so much energy packed into such a convenient fluid. You may want to visit the websites of the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Energy Information Agency to see just how dependent we are on the black gold. There are few topics in geology so politically volatile as petroleum. Of course petroleum is from life sources, but a debate continues among a very few.

Methane hydrates (also known as “methane clathrates”) are fascinating hydrocarbon deposits. The USGS reminds us that the methane contained in these ices is a greenhouse gas with considerable potential to warm the Earth’s atmosphere significantly and quickly. This certainly has happened in the past, possibly during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. There is now even an experimental methane hydrate production well in the permafrost of the Far North. Here’s a video of the Alvin mucking about with a methane hydrate deposit.

Cannel coal from the Upper Carboniferous of northeastern Ohio.

Geology in the News –

Here’s the best account I’ve found describing the marvelous image of a black hole revealed last week. An historical moment. If you’re not impressed it is because you don’t understand the gravity of the situation.

And then there’s a new extinct hominin in the Philippines! Homo luzonensis lived between 50,000 and 67,000 years ago on a Philippine island. Let”s watch how this story develops.

Finally, and it sounds now so prosaic, there are some newly discovered dinosaur skin impressions. Early Cretaceous of South Korea.

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