Coal and Petroleum (April 14 & 16)

We’ll finish phosphates on Tuesday (review last week’s links) and then on to King Coal and Big Oil. 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 for obvious reasons.

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. [Sorry. An old joke too good to delete.]

No geologist is surprised by this: There are fossil remains of a Cretaceous rainforest underneath the ice of Antarctica.

I am very impressed with this compendium of animals in amber from the Triassic through Paleogene of the southern hemisphere. Many new taxa discovered recently.

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