Fuel - Use Over Time

Use Over Time

The first use of fuel was the combustion of wood or sticks by Homo erectus near 2 million years ago. Throughout the majority of human history fuels derived from plants or animal fat were the only ones available for human use. Charcoal, a wood derivative, has been used since at least 6,000 BCE for melting metals. It was only supplanted by coke, derived from coal, as the forests started to become depleted around the 18th century. Charcoal briquettes are now commonly used as a fuel for barbecue cooking.

Coal was first used as a fuel around 1000 BCE in China. With the development of the steam engine in 1769, coal came into more common use as a power source. Coal was later used to drive ships and locomotives. By the 19 th century, gas extracted from coal was being used for street lighting in London. In the 20th century, the primary use of coal is for the generation of electricity, providing 40% of the world's electrical power supply in 2005.

Fossil fuels were rapidly adopted during the industrial revolution, because they were more flexible than traditional energy sources, such as water power.

Currently the trend has been towards renewable fuels, such as biofuels like alcohols.

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