Energy demand in the pre – industrial world was provided mostly by man and animal power
and to a limited extent from the burning of wood for heating, cooking and smelting of metals.
The discovery of abundant coal, and the concurrent technological advances in its use, propelled
the industrial revolution. Steam engines, mechanized production and improved transportation,
all fuelled directly by coal, rapidly followed. The inter – war years saw the rise of
oil exploration and use. Access to this critical fuel became a key issue during the Second
World War. Post – war industrial expansion and prosperity was increasingly driven by oil, as
was the massive growth in private car use. More recently a new phase of economic growth
has been underpinned to a great extent by natural gas.
A substantial proportion of coal and gas production is used to generate electricity, which
has been widely available now for over a century. Electricity is a premium form of energy
due to its fl exibility and ease of distribution. Demand worldwide is growing, driven by the
explosion in consumer electronics, the associated industrial activity and the widening of
access to consumers in the developing world.