EUROPE is experiencing the worst fuel crisis in its history -- a catastrophe made doubly grave by the extreme shortage of food. The fuel crisis ranks in importance with the food shortage, for food and fuel together are the essential sources of energy, human and mechanical.
It is frequently said that we live in the age of electricity, and that now we are entering the age of atomic power. But coal remains the chief source of energy in all continents. In prewar years, Europe (excluding Russia) used the following amounts of solid and liquid fuels; 280,000,000 to 300,000,000 tons of hard (black) coal; 220,000,000 metric tons of brown coal or lignite; 40,000,000 to 50,000,000 tons of fuel wood; 8,000,000 tons of natural petroleum (including about 7,000,000 tons of Rumanian oil); 9,000,000 tons of oil imported from overseas; 1,800,000 tons of natural gasoline from European oil wells; 2,400,000 tons of gasoline from overseas; 600,000 tons of benzol for coke ovens. In addition, the Continent used in the neighborhood of 3,000,000 tons of synthetic gasoline. Since this synthetic motor fuel was processed from coal, the energy which it represents is included in the aforementioned volume. The same is true of the large amount of lighting gas, chiefly for kitchen use, which is processed from coal by dry distillation and thus is chiefly coal energy in a more convenient form. The Continent used some 125 billion kw-hrs of electric energy, but two-thirds were derived from coal.
These figures reveal the overwhelming importance of coal as the source of heat and mechanical energy on the Continent. Industries, workshops, offices, homes and kitchens all need coal, and since the brown coal goes chiefly to the electric power plants located on top of the mines, this means, essentially, that they need bituminous coal. Most railroad engines run on coal; inland ships use it; and many tractors and trucks operate on generator gas made from coal.
The Continent has two main hard-coal deposits of the first rank: the Silesian basin (the smaller of the two), and the large and fabulously rich
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