ABSTRACT

This chapter explores the characteristics of coal are of utmost importance in shaping social, political, and economic outcomes at various locations in the world-system. It demonstrates how changes in technology and transport intersect with the geological characteristics of coal in different historical periods. The chapter expresses that from a world-systems perspective coal is not in demise—at least not yet. The future of China will be vital to the future trajectory of coal in the world-system. New historical materialism or, more bluntly, "raw materialism" as developed by Bunker and Ciccantell is vital to understanding the longue durée of coal. Four key material characteristics have shaped coal's past and continue to shape its present and future uses: the naturally produced qualities of coal that shape human use, the socio-naturally produced locations and volumes of coal reserves, evolving patterns of human use of coal, and prices and costs of coal.