According to the World Coal Association, the primary uses of coal are in electricity generation, the creation of liquid fuel, the production of steel and cement manufacturing. There are two primary types of coal, thermal coal and metallurgical coal. Thermal coal goes into fuel and electricity applications, while metallurgical coal is better suited to manufacturing and chemical applications.
As of 2014, 42 percent of the world's electricity comes from coal, making the electric industry the largest consumer of coal worldwide. Coal-fired furnaces heat water into steam, which turns electric turbines to create electrical current. In some cases, processors can also convert thermal coal into a liquid fuel as an alternative to natural gas or other petroleum products. Metallurgical coal is most widely used by the steel industry, with 70 percent of the world's steel output dependent on coal. In addition, coal finds its way into many different products, such as the carbon fiber that strengthens everything from auto bodies to building materials. Another use of coal is in the creation of activated carbon, an important component of air and water filtration systems. Refined coal tar and other coal by-products are also found in a wide variety of chemical and pharmaceutical products.