The UK government have just unleashed their barrage of annual energy statistics. If I was not very busy I would write something lengthy on the many interesting trends. But here is one that is worth observing.
Reasonably reliable statistics exist for UK coal production going back a couple of centuries. Last year the UK produced only 12.84 million tonnes of coal. This is actually less than was produced at any point in the last two centuries. According to E.A. Wrigley’s excellent recent book British coal production was 15 million tonnes at the start of the nineteenth century, 17% higher than today.
However the population of the UK has increased from about 10 million to just over 60 million in this period. So per capita coal production is now more than five times lower than it was two centuries.
In fact using Wrigley’s statistics it appears that per capita coal production is now lower than at any time in over 300 years. In 2013 it was 0.2 tonnes, while in 1700 it was 0.37 tonnes. The 1700 figure is a somewhat uncertain estimate. However even after factoring in this uncertainty we can be fairly confident that per capita coal production is lower than it was three centuries ago.
UK statistics for last year are below, and I highly recommend people read Wrigley’s book, which is a very informative look at the Industrial Revolution, in particular why it was based on burning coal and not burning wood.