Black coal (2020)

Fossil fuel from Värtaverket.

On display here we have the mother of all fossil fuels: coal! This was the fossil fuel responsible for most emissions and pollution during the fossil era.

The worst type of coal was brown coal or lignite. It contained less energy and thus required bigger open-pit mines, which increased its impact on the environment. This piece of coal is black coal and was primarily used for electricity and steel production.

This particular piece was collected from the last Swedish coal plant to close, Värtaverket close to Stockholm. In its final year of operations, it emitted as much carbon dioxide as all the cars in Stockholm combined.

It closed in 2020 following many long debates. Local protesters — inspired by Greta Thunberg’s school strikes — even convinced local politicians to close it earlier than previously announced. A big win for the climate movement.

The closure inspired others and spurred the coal protests in Poland during the 2020s and ultimately led to the big festival in the Hambach forest, celebrating the closure of RWE’s last coal mine.

Open-pit mine: A way of extracting minerals from the surface by digging a pit that grows larger and larger. Other minerals are extracted by digging tunnels deep underground.

Lignite: Fossil fuel used for energy production with very high greenhouse gas emissions.

RWE: A German multinational energy company.

This text is part of the future scenario and study material Beyond the Fossil Era.

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