Just a Lump of Coal
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 by Frank Shortt
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I probably began existence as some rotted ferns or maybe evergreen needles. After lying in the earth for eons, I slowly turned to different species of fossil fuel. Oil, coal, natural gas, and even diamonds are a result of my decomposition! I could have begun as dinosaur bones, a prehistoric fish, or some other beast of Jurassic proportions!

I am a lump of anthracite known as 'hard coal' with the highest carbon content of all coals. I was gleaned from the deep, dark bowels of the earth by men who ate coal dust, sweated coal dust, and had to wash it off at night never getting the cleanliness they desired. I am sometimes used in sculptures, sometimes I am crushed, sometimes molded as coke for melting steel.

I have been used to heat many types of buildings, to melt steel, to help produce electricity, as an energy source in the cement industry. The old "Warm Morning Heater" glowed red as I expended my energy in the cold Appalachian winters. I have also been used in making other chemicals and products, such as nylon, and other synthetic fabrics. Alumina refining uses me as does paper manufacturing.

Although I have been ultra-friendly to mankind for centuries, lately, I have been given a bad rap! I have been accused of producing carbon dioxide leading to global warming and climate change. I have been told that I am not environmental friendly because I produce harmful byproducts and gas emissions such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. I have been told that I am outdated, outmoded, and thereby rendered useless as far as aiding the manufacture of goods needed by mankind! I am even told that I am a nonrenewable energy source. Can you fathom that? I suppose my cousins oil, diamonds, and other nonrenewable items are also on their way out as mankind becomes more environmental conscious.

I have traveled to many ports to be used for man's greed for money. I have even been used for money! Plants in China, India, Korea, and almost any other place one can mention would be nothing without me. They use me for plastics, linoleum, roofing, synthetic rubber, insecticides, paint products, medicines, solvents, and synthetic fibers all include some derivation of coal! Shucks, I can even be converted into liquid and gaseous fuels but as of now only used on a small scale! Man has become the downfall of his own kind!

What is my future? Will mankind find a way to keep me purposeful? Will he suddenly find that I can be used in an environmental friendly way? With all the scientific research done these days, surely, there is hope for my survival among the civilizations of the future!

Or, will I end up as a pile of ashes, sometimes used in the soap making industry? Maybe I will end up as the gases from which I was formed! As a lump of Virginia anthracite, will I suddenly be lumped in with all the other bad anthracite lumps and thrown into the cull pile?

The human body contains all the minerals that a lump of coal contains! This is why we sometimes crave for one mineral or another! Food for thought!