Coal has long been a reliable source of American energy, but it comes with tremendous costs because it is incredibly dirty.
According to the Environmental Protection Agencyusing liquefied coal as a fuel source would produce percent greater greenhouse gas emissions than using petroleum-based fuel.
Energy Information Agency estimated that coal plants produced 2. Congress that climate change was underway inhas been particularly critical of the coal industry, stating that coal contributes the largest percentage of anthropogenic carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
He says that most oil comes from Russia and Saudi Arabia, and that no matter how fuel-efficient automobiles become, the oil will eventually be burned and the carbon dioxide emitted, but that a phase-out of coal is entirely possible.
In a testimony before the Iowa Utilities Board, he stated that the United States has a large reservoir of coal, which makes it a resource that can be controlled through action by U. The amount of carbon remaining in the ground in oil and gas reserves is much smaller than the amount of carbon contained in coal reserves.
Producing a kilowatt-hour of electricity from coal produces about 2. While coal produces half of the electricity used in the United States, it is responsible for 80 percent of the carbon dioxide released by electric utilities.
A mere six hundred large coal-burning power plants account for nearly all coal usage, in contrast to the tens of millions of cars, trucks, planes, homes, businesses, and factories that burn oil and gas. Thus, reducing emissions from coal is a far simpler task.
Any reduction in use by the United States might well be consumed by other countries. In contrast, our ability to control the consumption of coal is substantial, since the United States leads the rest of the world in the size of its coal reserves.
CO2 pollution is the principal human cause of global warming and climate change. NOx leads to formation of smog, which inflames lung tissue and increases susceptibility to respiratory illness.
Mercury also causes learning disabilities, brain damage, and neurological disorders.
These toxic metals can accumulate in human and animal tissue and cause serious health problems, including mental retardation, developmental disorders, and damage to the nervous system.
When coal is burnt, the fly ash contains uranium and thorium "at up to 10 times their original levels. Toxic substances in ash and sludge include arsenicmercurychromiumand cadmium.
A EPA report cited 67 cases in the United States of damage to ground or surface water from coal-combustion products. Photo courtesy of ilovemountains. Acid mine drainage AMD refers to the outflow of acidic water from coal or metal mines, often abandoned ones where ore- or coal mining activities have exposed rocks containing the sulphur-bearing mineral pyrite.
Pyrite reacts with air and water to form sulphuric acid and dissolved iron, and as water washes through mines, this compound forms a dilute acid, which can wash into nearby rivers and streams.
Streams and rivers with low buffer capacity are not able to neutralize the acid load and consequently become acidic. An estimated 2, miles of streams in the Allegheny and Monongahela River Basins have been degraded by AMD to the point of not being able to support fish communities.
Some regulators have used the Clean Water Act to try and limit pollution, but the law does not mandate limits on many dangerous chemicals in power plant waste, like arsenic and lead.
State officials sometimes place no limits on water discharges of arsenic, aluminum, boron, chromium, manganese, nickel or other chemicals that have been linked to health risks. Only one in 43 U.
EPA records indicate power plant landfills and other disposal practices have polluted groundwater in more than a dozen states, while a EPA report suggested that people living near some power plant landfills faced a cancer risk 2, times higher than federal health standards.
And fines are often modest: The River provides drinking water topeople and flows into Pittsburgh. Once through this cycle, the steam is cooled and condensed back into water, with some technologies using water to cool the steam, increasing a plant's water usage.
In coal plants, water is also used to clean and process the fuel itself.
Geological Survey estimates that thermoelectric plants withdrew billion gallons of water per day inof which billion gallons was fresh water. A common cause of thermal pollution is the use of water as a coolant by power plants and industrial manufacturers.
When water used as a coolant is returned to the natural environment at a higher temperature, the change in temperature impacts organisms by a decreasing oxygen supply, and b affecting ecosystem composition. The clearing of trees, plants, and topsoil from mining areas destroys forests and natural wildlife habitats.
It also promotes soil erosion and flooding, and stirs up dust pollution that can lead to respiratory problems in nearby communities. In mountaintop removal mining, most common in the Appalachian region of the U.Coal has a very negative impact on the environment, one of the main impacts on the environment is the actual process of extracting the coal from the ground.
The two ways that coal is mined, underground and surface, both have different effects on the environment.
However, producing and using coal affects the environment. Effects of coal mining Surface mines (sometimes called strip mines) were the source of about 65% of the coal mined in the United States in There is much debate whether the environmental effects of coal mining justify its continued use.
Coal is either extracted from deep inside the earth or removed from its surface. The former is known as underground mining, the latter as strip mining or mountaintop removal. Effects of Coal Mining on Environment What are the effects of coal mining on the environment?
The coal industry has given rise to many environmental issues such as adverse effects on the air, land and water quality of the surrounding areas of the mines and continues to . Of coal’s many environmental impacts, none are as harmful, long term, and irreversible as global warming.
Global warming is driven by emissions of heat-trapping gases, primarily from human activities, that rise into the atmosphere and act like a blanket, warming the earth’s surface. Apr. 18, — Coal mining, under current US regulations, has significantly reduced the abundance and variety of fish, invertebrates, salamanders, and other aquatic life in streams, according.