It’s hard to imagine how a dirty, toxic, environmentally unfriendly source of energy like coal is still so heavily used. Nevertheless, the truth is that coal is still one of the most prominent forms of energy used in industrialized countries. In the United States alone, 40% of energy comes from coal. This is because coal is cheap. But it could be argued that the consequences of using coal far outweigh its low price. Check out these 25 reasons why coal energy needs to be replaced.
Coal mining adversely affects nature’s aesthetics
Surface mining and deep underground mining are the two basic methods of mining for coal. Mountaintop coal mining is a surface mining practice involving the removal of mountaintops to expose coal seams, and disposing of associated mining overburden in adjacent “valley fills.”
Habitats are completely destroyed
It should go without saying that if you level all the trees in a large area and proceed to take away the top layer of earth, that this would have an adverse impact on the natural ecosystem. Meaning, animals that are vital to our existence are now in danger. Even worse, trees responsible for adding stability to the earth on top of a mountain are no longer there, so avalanches become more frequent and more dangerous.
The mining process pollutes our drinking water
Because of the nature of coal mining, the waste associated with the practice is dumped into our streams, which eventually makes their way into our drinking water. This is especially true of mountain top mining.
Burning coal causes smog
Smog is one of the initiators of asthma attacks, chest pains and other breathing problems. In fact, 1 out of 10 children in the US alone suffer from asthma caused by smog.
Coal causes unnecessary medical expenses
Due to the adverse chemicals released from burning coal, around 12,000 emergency room visits can be directly linked as a consequence to smog.
Coal negatively affects young children
Coal pollution contains toxic mercury which damages the nervous system. This is particularly troublesome for babies and children since it can cause developmental problems such as brain damage, mental retardation, and blindness. Coal-fired power plants are the largest single man-made source of mercury pollution in the U.S.
Coal takes food poisoning to a another level
You may not realize this but coal actually poisons the food we eat. Coal’s mercury is mixed into the rain which then comes down into our oceans. The fishes we eat are then exposed to mercury. In fact about 40% of the mercury in a fishes’ body originated from coal.
Coal’s waste still affects our health
After coal is burned, it leaves behind waste called “coal ash”. Each year, coal plants generate over 140 million tons of coal ash which is then stored in thousands of pits across the country. According to health practitioners, to live near one of these pits is worse than smoking a pack of cigarette a day.
Coal ultimately kills
As stated above, coal is responsible for a host of health problems. Therefore is no surprise that pollution from coal-burning power plants causes an estimated 30,000 deaths a year in the United States – that’s more than drunk driving, AIDS, or homicides.
Coal is a finite resource of energy
Because coal takes millions of years to form and humans take only minutes to break it down, it is a non-renewable energy source meaning eventually we will run out of coal. Some scientists and researchers believe this will happen within the next 20-30 years. Other say we will run out in the next 40-50 years. No matter what way you look at the scenario, the millennial generation will see the eventual depletion of coal and if nothing is done, the results could be catastrophic.
Coal has been directly associated with climate change
Regardless of how you see climate change, coal-fired power plants are responsible for over 83% of the CO2 pollution since 1990, and have the highest ratio of CO2 output per unit of electricity out of all the fossil fuels.
Coal adversely changes the natural CO2 Cycle
It is a lot easier to burn coal then to make coal. When coal is burned, CO2 (which has taken millions of years to store) is released. This helps to upset the natural carbon cycle by dramatically flooding the atmosphere with CO2.
Coal emissions could be taxed, thus increasing its expense
As stated earlier, one of the major attractions of coal is its deceptively low price. However, as politicians fight to propose and pass an emission tax or better known as carbon tax, the possibility exists for coal’s expense to drastically increase.
No real mitigation strategies are available
It has been argued that Carbon sequestration; which is a technologically based attempt to prevent CO2 from entering the atmosphere when coal is burned, could be performed in order to mitigate the adverse effects of coal pollution. However, this approach only deals with the emission side of coal pollution and still leaves bi product waste, land contamination, and water contamination issues unresolved.
Coal plants encourage the use of CO2.
In order to store or deposit carbon waste, the use of trucks and or ships may be necessary depending on the distance of the storage facility. These of course use fuel which produces even more CO2.
Coal is old
For a society that prides itself in innovation, it’s surprising that it still uses coal as its main source of energy. There are so many cutting edge alternatives to coal that have a stronger overall yield to society in comparison to its impact and yet coal still prevails as the outdated main source of fuel.
Coal mining is dangerous
There is no other way to say it; too many people die from coal mining. Granted, coal mining has made a drastic improvement on its fatality record, but the fact still remains that on average about 20 people die per year. Some years have seen much higher death tolls. In fact in 2010, 48 miners where lost due to coal mining accidents.
Green Technology is safer
In contrast with coal mining, green technology (such as wind mills, solar plants, hydro plants, etc) has a safer track record. It makes sense, people are rarely in a situation where dynamite explosions or cave ins can claim their lives.
Green technology offers more employment opportunities
“Green Technology” is a varied alternative to coal mining which offers society a wide gamut of opportunities for employment. Meaning, it creates more jobs not only in quantity but also in variety. The fact is there are so many components going into the development and implementation of green technology that a varied level workforce is needed thus opportunities for more people to work will readily be available.
Green Technology offers higher quality employment
Green jobs are disproportionately better jobs. The green sector of the economy represents a source of high quality, well-paying jobs for the middle class. These green jobs also provide a great opportunity for workers to organize into unions within high-growth industries, allowing labor and businesses to work together to build a green economy.
A greater opportunity for personal development
Green technology is fairly new in its current implementation. Consequently, the green sector is in the process of training and developing a new workforce that is specifically tailored for this technology. This training creates opportunities for the development of workers to acquire new skills and move up within companies. On the other hand, coal mining lacks such opportunities.
Renewable energy can be acquired locally
More often than not, coal has to be transported from mining locations to energy plants. This is expensive and, as stated earlier, contributes to pollution. However, renewable energy such as wind, solar and maybe even hydro can be acquired locally. On your own house locally via photo-voltaic plates, a windmill, or even a local solar energy farm.
It’s easier to acquire renewable energy
As exemplified by the fact that renewable energy can be acquired locally, it’s considerably easier to acquire renewable energy than it is to acquire coal. There’s not that much labor involved and the labor that is present, such as the production of photo-voltaic plates, energy capture components, installment of components etc; are all done in a safer, more comfortable environment (compared to mining).
Choices for consumers
Renewable energy offers consumers options. Meaning, consumers no longer have to buy energy from one source (I.E., the power company). Rather, they can potentially shop for other energy producers and tap into their energy grids. They could also provide their own energy if they can afford the up front capital which is becoming less and less every year. In fact, not only could consumers provide for their own energy, they could potentially sell some of the excess energy back to the energy company.
The fact is, people are becoming more aware of the destructiveness of outdated, limited energy sources like coal and people are asking for a change. Change starts with the people. If we demand it, supply will follow.