THE GUARDIAN | Britain achieved an unlikely status as a power provider last year. Its annual consumption of coal plunged to the lowest level in 250 years. According to figures released last week, a mere 8 million tonnes were incinerated in UK factories and power plants. That is roughly the same amount that was burned nationally in 1769, when James Watt was patenting his modified steam engine.
That invention helped to spark the Industrial Revolution and triggered a massive rise in annual coal use in Britain, which soared to well over 200 million tonnes by the mid-20th century. Now levels have plummeted back to their original pre-revolution state. King coal – once the undisputed ruler of British industry – has finally been dethroned.
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