“Behold, they are like stubble; the fire consumes them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame. No coal for warming oneself is this, no fire to sit before!” Is 47:14 (ESV)
Coal and oil are commonly called fossil fuels. Coal, like limestone, contains a great number of fossils, although plant fossils tend to dominate coal deposits. Coal is the product of a great mass of organic material being crushed until most of the hydrogen and oxygen (free or combined as liquid water) is pressed out. After the hydrogen and oxygen are gone organic material is almost entirely carbon, the principle element found in coal. Oil is chemically similar to coal, but in liquid form.
When organic material dies, it generally decays or is consumed by living things. It is extremely unusual for animals or plants to be buried in nature. The only time we observe any substantial natural burial of organic material is as a result of flood deposits or volcanic eruption.
The explosive eruption of Mount St. Helen provides an excellent example of ash burial of a large area. Near the eruption trees were blown over and a layer of ash and debris many inches thick covered the ground. A few miles away the ash coating was severe, but trees remained standing far above the surface. Farther out most plants survived. Two decades later trees and all of the normal flora are growing again above the ash. In the course of time it is possible that organic material buried by Mt. St. Helen will decay and under compression form a small amount of oil or coal. This was one of the most powerful volcanic explosions with one of the largest organic burials in recorded history. To create the vast oil and coal deposits on the planet it would take tens or hundreds of millions of such explosions. Even given 250 million years of lush plant life – a generous span of time even by evolutionary count – there is simply no way volcanism can account for the world’s supply of oil and coal. The only known alternative to burial by volcanism is burial by flood deposits.
Local flooding occurs periodically throughout the temperate and tropical zones of Earth. Even relatively minor floods display nature’s awesome power to rip soil, organic material, and anything else from one place and deposit those things elsewhere. Local floods are still limited in size and scope to specific regions. Flood prone regions like the Ohio River and Mississippi River valleys typically experience great floods once or twice per century. In 1937 a great flood submerged downtown Louisville, Kentucky. Even at its worst, with its many tributaries pouring out of their banks, the hills of New Albany, Indiana (which overlook Louisville) remained far above the flood waters. Tens of millions of years do not begin to offer enough time or the right type of sediment to cover the entire floor of the Ohio River valley with a thick layer of hard, fossil rich limestone. It seems extremely unlikely that a span of 250,000,000 years (since the start of the Cambrian period) would be enough time for the correct type of sediment to collect with intact submerged marine creatures becoming fossilized.
The combination of fossils within the cement-like limestone creates the most challenging puzzle for Evolutionists. Most of North America would have had to be under the sea. Almost the entire continent would have had experience sudden tumultuous deposition of sediment. The biblical flood model predicts exactly what we observe – fossil rich sedimentary deposits covering vast regions in great sheets. The biblical flood predicts variability in thickness and fossil content from place to place due to the violent nature of water movement. The rapid runoff of water as the flood subsided would likewise have created gulches where water running off would cut through thinner sediments. Thicker sediment would be left behind to dry and harden.
In time plant life would return. Some seeds, spores, bulbs, and so forth would be at or near the surface after the waters receded. From the soggy organic debris the plants sprang up, soon covering the ground. Over centuries compost resulting from the cycle of plant life along with periodic local floods created rich topsoil. The distribution and thickness of the topsoil over the thick limestone bedrock is much more consistent with a sudden, violent, flood large enough to cover the continent a few thousand years ago.
If great sheets of limestone, sandstone, and similar sedimentary rock deposits suggest one relatively recent great flood, the coal and oil deposits in North America and the world in general demand it. Unlike limestone, which contains a great deal of silicon, coal is mostly carbon. Like limestone, coal is often rich with fossils. In limestone the fossils we find tend to be from animals. In coal, the majority of fossils are from plants. Organic material is mostly carbon combined with water. It is generally believed that coal is created in nature when organic material is buried and crushed until most of the water and other elements leak out. The nearly pure organic compost eventually hardens into rock form. Oil is produced in essentially the same way, but remains liquid because less of the hydrogen and oxygen are able to escape.
As described earlier, plant life tends to remain on the surface of the ground when it dies. Some of it becomes compost, some is eaten, and some provide habitats for other new life. Without sudden and substantial burial, there is no known way for organic material to find its way far enough into the ground to become even fine coal particulate, let alone the great deposits mined today to create electricity for much of the United States. The only reasonable explanation for Earth’s great coal and oil supplies is the sudden burial of lush jungles with immense sediments under the force of a great, violent, crushing flood as is described in Genesis.
The Genesis flood would have provided an ample mechanism to create the coal beds and oil deposits found all around the world. It should also be noted that no process is being observed in nature today to create new coal or oil, even in the rare but active peat bogs of Scotland or tar pits in California. Genesis provides a much better explanation for coal and oil than any version of Uniformitarian or Evolutionary theory.