A Simple Calculation

to Convert

World COAL Energy Usage
(per year) to Horsepower

--- alias 'hot-horse-equivalents'

(to express huge numbers
in a more meaningful way)

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This COAL-to-Horsepower Conversion Page

! Note !
Some text and links and images on this page
may be changed (or augmented) --- if/when
I re-visit this page.


Near the bottom of the home page of this site, there is a simple calculation that shows that the heat-generating 'potential' of the 2-Billion-plus gasoline-and-diesel-burning internal combustion engines on planet Earth is likely to be the equivalent of heat from about 2 Billion times 300 horses = 600 BILLION horses.

So, in the past 120 years or so (about 1900 to 2020), humans have effectively added about HALF A TRILLION potentially-heat-generating horses to planet Earth

--- almost 100 times more 'horse-equivalents' than the 7-plus billion humans on Earth (100 horses for every human)

--- and about 10,000 times more than the 60 million actual horses in the world.

    (Luckily, nowhere near all of those 'horse-equivalents' are working 24 hours a day, every day.)

That bottom section of the home page also points out that --- in addition to internal combustion engines --- which burn LIQUID petroleum fuels --- generating enormous amounts of heat into the atmosphere . . .

there are millions of industrial and residential NATURAL-GAS ovens, kilns, furnaces, heaters, smelters, foundries, gas turbines for electricity generation, etc. --- running 24/7 --- or 3/7 --- or 16/5 --- or thereabout.

Those millions of furnaces-ovens-kilns-etc are generating (every day) billions of 'hot horse equivalents' of heat by the consumption of the world's NATURAL GAS.

    (By 'hot-horse-equivalent' is meant the heat generated by a hard-working, untiring 'super horse' --- working all day, every day --- without the horse-poop.)

Besides LIQUID-petroleum fuels and Natural GAS, there is a THIRD major category of HEAT-GENERATION --- from SOLID fossil fuel (coal).

Fossil fuels can be categorized into THREE major types:

  • LIQUID petroleum
    (including gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel --- distilled from oil)

  • Natural GAS

  • SOLID coal

This page will concentrate on COAL.

The intent of this page is to provide a simple arithmetic calculation (using only multiplication and division of a few quantities) to convert the world consumption of COAL (in tons per year, say) to horsepower --- or what could be called 'hot super-horse equivalents'.

    We can provide a more precise definition of 'hot horse equivalent' than the rather-vague 'hard working horse --- all day' description above.

    A 'hot horse equivalent' is the heat energy being generated constantly at the same energy generation rate as a horse lifting 550 pounds one foot in each second, every second of every day.

    This is based on the definition of a unit of 'horsepower'.

    In other words, a 'hot horse equivalent' is the constant heat generation from a hard-working 'super horse' that never gets tired and works 24 hours a day, day after day --- lifting a 550 pound weight at a rate of one foot each second.

Note that power is a measure of the amount of energy created or expended per unit of time.

Also note that a 'foot-pound' is a unit-of-measure of energy --- a pound of force acting through a distance of one foot.

Then one unit of horsepower is 550 of those 'foot-pounds' of energy being expended (or used) in one second.

    Note that an adult horse weighs about 380 to 550 kilograms (840 to 1,210 pounds) --- roughly as much as 6 humans. You can expect a horse to be as powerful as about 6 athletic humans.

    Then, to equal the power-output of a horse, each of those humans could be expected to lift about 550 / 6 = 91.6 pounds per second.

    That is a heavy load to lift that fast --- especially if you were expected to do that all day, every day, day after day.

    This may give you an idea of the energy expenditure of one 'hot super horse'. It is roughly the equivalent of 6 humans, each of which is continuously raising 91.6 pounds (almost 100 pounds) every second of every minute of every day.

    That is an impossible task --- so we are talking about 6 'super-humans'.

Note that mechanical energy of moving objects is eventually converted into heat energy (vibration of molecules --- in various objects, such as air-water-earth) as the moving objects (cars, turbines, tools, etc) finally return to rest.

    For example:
    A car gives off heat energy from the engine and exhaust system when it comes to rest. And the car was transferring heat energy into the air passing through its radiator when the car was running. And the car was 'bashing into' air molecules when it was running, transferring much of its mechanical energy into heat energy in the air (increased velocity of N2 and O2 molecules). Also much of its mechanical energy was transferred into friction (heat energy) as gears and shafts and tires and brake-pads rotated against adjacent surfaces.


There are several ways that the annual world-wide consumption of COAL could be converted to 'horse-equivalents' (horsepower) --- using various units of measure and various conversion factors.

Here is an outline of one such method:

  1. Find the annual consumption of coal --- in tons, say.

    For example, at worldometers.info one can find that in 2016, global consumption of coal was 8.561 BILLION tons.

    (A graph there shows that world coal consumption has approximately doubled in the 36 years between 1980 and 2016.)

  2. Find a conversion factor for the energy in a TON of COAL to energy units of HORSEPOWER-HOURS.

    For example, kylesconverter.com shows that 1 ton of COAL is equal to 10,917 horsepower-hours.

  3. There are about 365 x 24 = 8,760 hours in a year.

  4. We can divide the annual consumption of coal --- 8,561 million tons --- by 8,760 hours to get a consumption rate of 0.977 million tons per hour (almost a million tons per hour).

  5. We can multiply

    0.977 MILLION tons per hour

    by the conversion factor

    10,917 horsepower-hours per ton

    to give

    10,665 MILLION = 10.665 BILLION horsepower
    (or 'horse-equivalents' --- of heat energy generation per unit of time)

A units-of-measure check:

tons / hour   times   horsepower-hours / ton



because the hour and tons units cancel leaving horsepower.

The bottom-line :

Due to annual world-wide consumption of COAL, humans have added the equivalent of about 10 BILLION heat-generating, 24-hours-a-day, non-tiring, hard-working super-horses to the planet

--- about 167 times more than the 60 million actual horses in the world (which are NOT 'super-horses' working 24/7).

This 10 billion 'coal-horses' of power is being used/generated by about 7.5 billion-plus humans ---

in addition to their 2-billion-plus internal combustion engines (ICE's) (and other oil burning devices) that burn LIQUID petroleum fuels ---

and in addition to all their NATURAL-GAS-burning furnaces-ovens-kilns-etc in the world, which are generating huge volumes of heat every day.

Here is a link to a page showing that there are about 6 BILLION 'hot-untiring-horse-equivalents' in the NATURAL GAS being burned world-wide.

In addition, here is a link to a page showing that there are about 8 BILLION 'hot-untiring-horse-equivalents' in the OIL-distillates being burned world-wide.

So --- adding up the 'horse-equivalents' from Natural-Gas and Coal and Oil-Distillates --- about 7.5 billion humans are responsible for at least 6 + 10 + 8 = 24 BILLION hot-super-horse-equivalents of heat generation every day on planet Earth.

This is about 400 times more horse-equivalents than the 60 million actual horses in the world (which are not 'super-horses' working all day, every day).

Another way of looking at this:

Each human has, on average, about 24-billion-super-horses / 7.5-billion-humans = 3.2 super-horse-equivalents working for them --- 24 hours a day --- every day.

This has implications to the issue of over-population of the Earth --- not just land-limits, but also heat-limits.

See the discussion of the "Father of Microbiology" Antonie van Leeuwenhoek at the bottom of the home page of this site.


Humans have some work to do, if they want to stop over-heating their world and avoid wiping themselves out.

Note that the neutralizing effect of glaciers-and-snow-and-ice is fast disappearing. When they are gone, the Earth temperatures will REALLY start rising fast.

For further facts on COAL heat-generation and atmospheric heating, here are some web searches to try (and to modify).

You could try changing some of these 'keywords' to look for information of interest to you.

Signs of the future replacing the past.

Bottom of this
COAL-to-Horsepower Conversion page.

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Page history:

Page was posted 2020 Aug 23.

Page was changed 2020 Aug 24.
(Added a link to the Petroleum-LIQUDS-to-HorseEquivalents page and revised an 'internal combustion engine' discussion.)

Page was changed 2020 Dec 01.
(Revised several sections of text on this page --- and moved a discussion of 'number of internal combustion engines' to a separate page. Also replaced a discussion of population-land-heat limits with a link to the bottom of the home page of this site.)

Note that the energy generation (esp. heat generation)
on planet Earth comes roughly equally from
Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas

Note that countries such as China, India, Turkey,
and the Philippines continue to build many
coal-fired power stations.

The main heat-generator in this diagram is the furnace
--- but there is consumption and generation of energy
throughout the process of generating electricity from coal
--- including coal mining-transport-pulverizing,
water-and-steam pumping through coolers, and power-line losses.

China needs to stop building so many coal-consumption plants.

We need to break a bad habit --- actually, an addiction.

Nuclear power is NOT 'clean energy' --- nowhere close.