Sample Geography Essay Paper on Origin of Coal

Origin of Coal

Coal is a fossil fuel that occurs naturally deep below the earth’s surface. The formation of coal occurs in two places; the swamp forests and marine deposition. During the late Carboniferous period, much of the earth’s tropical regions were covered in swamps. Most of these wetlands had forests of different types of vegetation (Austin & Sanders, 2018). When the plants in these forests decayed, they accumulated and formed peat. The forests eventually dried and coal was formed from the layers of peat that had accumulated over time. On the other hand, the marine deposition occurs when rivers deposit layers of sediments into larger water bodies, such as seas and oceans. These deposits also burry dead plants and animals in the seas (Ward, 2016). The depositing of sediments and minerals continues over a long period burying the dead plants deeper in the seabed. The plants later decompose to form coal that can be found in the seas and oceans. There have been different views regarding the origin and formation of coal, brought about by the how people gauge the age of earth.

Old-Earth Secular View

The old earth secular view indicates that the earth was formed 4.5 billions of years ago (Ross, Whitmore, Gollmer & Faulkner, 2015). Life then formed from single cell organisms and later evolved to complex organisms, plants and animals. Evolution is considered as a continuous process. According to this view, coal requires a long time to form from the moment the plants die, usually millions of years (Ward, 2016). Therefore, coal is believed to have formed from millions of years of decomposition and sedimentation of the layers of the earth (Austin & Sanders, 2018). The assumption in this view is that coal takes millions of years to form. Another supposition is that evolution does not take a specific path as it happens without order. This view also holds that everything on earth follows the laws of nature. For example, species survive through natural selection (Ross, Whitmore, Gollmer & Faulkner, 2015).

Young-Earth View

The young earth view indicates that the earth is probably less than 10,000 years old. The people who subscribe to this point of view are mostly Christians. They base the argument on the creation story in the book of Genesis in the Bible (Hodge, 2007). According to the story of Noah in the Bible (Genesis 7:4-24), a great flood once covered the earth for several days. During the flood, the sediments of dead plants and animals accumulated below the waters. They would later form coal due to pressure exerted to them over time. This perspective holds several suppositions. One is that the universe, including the earth and all life forms, originated from creation. Another assumption is that there is a supernatural being (God) that is responsible for creation and all the happenings on earth (Hodge, 2007). As such, even the formation of coal is as a result of God’s intervention. Additionally, He created the plants and other natural features that work together to form coal.

Comparison of viewpoints

The old-earth and young-earth views have some similarities. In the former, the formation of the earth takes some time and the sedimentation of fossil layers occurs over time. The continuous deposition of these layers form strata on the earth’s crust (Ward, 2016). In the young-earth view also suggests that the formation of coal deposits takes a long time. The two views also agree that the plants are what formed coal. In the old-earth view point, the plants in swampy forests decayed and were compacted to forms coal (Ward 2016). As mentioned, according to the the young-earth view, the great flood destroyed many plants and compacted them in the earth’s crust to form coal. The other concept states that coal is a product of the decomposition of plants in the earth’s crust. Both perspectives also agree that water also plays a role in formation of coal by exerting pressure on the dead plants.

Contrasts of the Viewpoints

One of the disparities in the two approaches is the time factor. The old-earth view points out that the earth was formed billions of years ago. It further claims that formation of coal requires millions of years (Ward, 2016). Specifically, according to this theory, most of the coal started to form 350 million years ago in the Carboniferous period (Ross, Whitmore, Gollmer & Faulkner, 2015). Continuous sedimentation over the period saw the formation of coal that is found in the earth. Conversely, the young earth view illustrate that the earth was formed less than 10,000 years ago. The great flood then occurred later and led to the formation of coal (Genesis 7:4-24). The old-earth view claims that the coal requires much time usually millions of years to form while the young-earth states that coal took much less time to form.

The points of view also show a difference in the formation of the earth. The old-earth view asserts that all life forms come about as a result in evolution. On the other hand, the young-earth view states that the earth and all life forms it came as a result of creation by a supernatural being (Hodge, 2007). According to the Old-Earth theory, the formation of coal happen over a long period of time, therefore, it is hard to note. However, the young-earth view indicates that the processes happen much faster, like the story of creation and the great flood.


Coal is a fossil fuel that is an important source of energy around the world despite the damage to the environment that it has been said to cause. Different points of views regarding the formation of coal exist. Two of them are the old-earth and young-earth views. While the two approaches have similarities, they also have some characteristics that set them apart from each other. For example, one of the theories, the old-earth, credits the phenomenon of evolution for the formation of this form of energy. On the other hand, the young-earth concept asserts that the formation is a result of processes that are made possible by a supreme being and items created by Him.  However, essentially, the vegetation that covers the earth during a particular period is what later forms coal through their continuous deposition (Austin & Sanders, 2018). Coal is found in areas that are initially covered in wetlands, which supporting the evidence that coal formed from swamps of the Carboniferous period, and sedimentation from the great flood (Ross, Whitmore, Gollmer & Faulkner, 2015). Though there is difference in time taken for the coal to form, it some time required for it to form. Both beliefs mentioned in the essay try to justify the origin of coal from their view.


Austin, S. A., & Sanders, R. W. (2018). Historical survey of the floating mat model for the origin of Carboniferous coal beds. In The Proceedings of the International Conference on Creationism (Vol. 8, No. 1, p. 17).

COLLINS, L. G. (2018). Biological Reasons Young-Earth Creationists’ Worldwide Flood Never Happened. Skeptical Inquirer, 53.

Hodge, B. (2007, May 30). Answers in Genesis. Retrieved from

Ross, M., Whitmore, J., Gollmer, S. M., & Faulkner, D. (2015). The Heavens and The Earth: Excursions in Earth and Space Science. Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

Ward, C. R. (2016). Analysis, origin and significance of mineral matter in coal: An updated review. International Journal of Coal Geology, 165, 1-27.