The use of coal is much bigger than that. Coal is used to create almost half of all electricity generated in the United States. It is inexpensive compared to other energy sources, which means lower bills for its consumers. Coal is easily stored, transported, and controlled in large volumes A variety of industries use coal’s heat and by-products. Separated ingredients of coal (such as methanol and ethylene) are used in making plastics, tar, synthetic fibers, fertilizers, and medicines. Coal power produced 49. 7% of the U. S. electricity supply in 2005.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the U. S. has demonstrated coal reserves of approximately 496 billion tons of coal (more than any other country in the world), half of which is mine able with existing technologies. Consumption of coal worldwide is expected to increase 71% between 2004 and 2030, driven by developing countries that use coal to generate about 75% of their power. The burning of coal, like that of gas and oil produces carbon dioxide (CO2) the main greenhouse gas, which is linked to global warming. Coal also contains sulfur dioxide when it is burnt.
In the atmosphere, it becomes sulfuric acid by oxidation, an irritant for the lungs and a main component of “acid rain”. Coal is a fossil fuel that is burnt in order to produce electricity. It produces emissions such as sulfur, nitrogen oxide (NOx), and mercury, which can pollute the air and water. Sulfur mixes with oxygen to form sulfur dioxide (SO2), a chemical that can affect trees and water. Mercury that is released into the air eventually settles in water. This mercury in the water can build up in fish and shellfish, and can be harmful to animals and people who eat them.
Now that I’ve told you about the cons of coal as our energy power source, I must tell you that there are changes being made to reduce these risks and ease your minds of ecological concerns. Industry has found several ways to reduce sulfur, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and other impurities from coal. They have found more effective ways of cleaning coal after it is mined, and coal consumers have shifted towards greater use of low sulfur coal. Power plants use flue gas desulfurization equipment to clean sulfur from the smoke before it leaves their smokestacks.
There are also technologies that can remove impurities from coal or that make coal more energy-efficient so less needs to be burned. Scientists are also working on new ways to reduce mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants. Reuse and recycling can also diminish coal’s environmental impact. Land that was previously used for coal mining can be reclaimed for uses like airports, landfills, and golf courses.