A Simple Calculation (arithmetic)

to Convert

World COAL 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 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 billion humans on Earth (100 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 horse --- all day, every day --- without the horse-poop.)

Here is a link to a page on this site which provides a calculation of the approximately 6 BILLION 'hot-horse-equivalents' generated by the burning of Natural GAS, all over planet Earth.

Fossil fuels can be categorized into THREE major types:

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

  • Natural GAS

  • SOLID coal

The intent of this page is 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 --- which is defined as the ability to lift 550 pounds (250 kilograms) one foot in one second.

    We can provide a more precise definition of 'hot horse equivalent' than the rather-vague 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.

    In slang-like 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.

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.


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 horses to the planet --- about 167 times more than the 60 million actual horses in the world.

This 10 billion 'coal-horses' is in addition to the 7 billion-plus humans --- with their NATURAL-GAS-burning furnaces-ovens-kilns-etc which add another 6 BILLION 'hot-horse-equivalents' to planet Earth.

That means that there are approximately

16 billion 'hot-horse-equivalents' of heat generation on planet Earth each day

due to the burning of COAL and NATURAL GAS

--- about 267 times more than the 60 million actual horses in the world.

Here is an augmentation of what was mentioned at the bottom of the home page of this site --- using our world natural-gas-and-coal consumption figures:

In the 1600's, the "Father of Microbiology" Antonie van Leeuwenhoek predicted that the Earth could support no more than 13.4 billion people, due to the land-area limitation.

BUT ... Leeuwenhoek had not counted on the gasoline-and-diesel-burning 'internal combustion engine' and 'oil-and-gas fossil fuels' and 'faster transportation' and 'labor saving machines' --- nor did he take into account the proliferation of natural-gas-burning furnaces and ovens and kilns and gas-turbines etc. --- nor did he take into account the proliferation in the burning of coal, especially by huge electricity generation plants, which did not exist in his time.

In other words, humans are facing not only a land-limitation threat to a high-quality existence, but also a heat-generation threat to a high-quality existence.

At this time (around the year 2020):

About 7.5 billion humans are responsible for more than 16 BILLION horse-equivalents of heat generation every day on planet Earth --- due to burning of COAL and NATURAL-GAS.

    Yet to be calculated:
    The number of 'hot-horse-equivalents' in the LIQUID petroleum products (such as gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel) being burned world-wide.

    At the top of this page, we noted that the heat-generating 'POTENTIAL' of the 2-billion-plus gasoline-and-diesel-burning internal combustion engines (ICE's) on planet Earth is (very roughly) the equivalent of about 600 BILLION horses (in action or on stand-by).

    But those internal combustion engines are not running 24/7. And we do not have very good data on the numbers and the horsepower ratings of all the different kinds of internal combustion engines (ICE's) that exists 'out in the wild'.

    However, we can get an alternative estimate of the amount of 'hot-horse-equivalents' in the LIQUID petroleum fuels being burned in ICE's by calculating the 'hot-horse-equivalents' in the world's OIL consumption.

    Here is a link to a page that provides a better calculation of the billions of 'hot-horse-equivalents' in the LIQUID petroleum products (OIL distillates) being burned world-wide --- rather than using a very rough estimate of 'hot-horse-equivalents', based on numbers of internal combustion engines and their horsepower ratings and their hours of usage.

    That 'Petroleum Liquids' page shows that there are about 8 billion 'hot-untiring-horse-equivalents' in the OIL-distillates being burned world-wide.

    So about 7.5 billion humans are responsible for about 6 + 10 + 8 = 24 BILLION hot-horse-equivalents of heat generation every day on planet Earth --- due to burning natural-gas AND coal AND oil distillates --- about 400 times more horse-equivalents than the 60 million actual horses in the world.

    Another way of looking at this:
    Each human has, on average, about 24 / 7.5 = 3.2 horse-equivalents working for them --- 24 hours a day --- every day.


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.

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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.)

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.