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Coal is Good for the Enviroment?

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posted on Jan, 19 2006 @ 06:54 AM

Just read this at BBC - it's a couple of months old, but don't think I've seen it here before:

I know that China/India are apparently into coal-fired generators in a big way, but was under the impression that they were pretty dirty things - this sounds more high-tech than I had imagined. Does anyone have anything to add with respect to this?

I also was under the impression that coal-burning generated a lot of sulphur dioxide and thus acid rain - this wasn't addressed in the article.

I kind of found it slightly reassuring that we apparently have 167 years of coal reserves left at current production and consumption rates - do you think we'll be seeing mines reopened in the West at this rate?


posted on Jan, 19 2006 @ 12:01 PM
This is definitely a political football in America that no one has wanted to touch.

Most of the coal burned in the USA has been lignite, from the Appalachians, which has a high sulfur content, and burns cooler, as well as being very pungent, even before burning.

Environmentalists have opposed coal usage in any form, even the new CCT, because it was seen as as "tool of big corporations."

On the flip side is the fact that the US is the "Saudi Arabia of Coal," own nearly a quarter of the planet's proven reserves.

And most of the unused reserves are in Anthracite, a low-sulphur, hot-burning coal in the Western US.

Development of those reserves would hurt existing mines in the Appalachians, which turn out a basically inferior product. Western coal would feed California's need, and is under largely unpopulated desert scrub, which would mitigate the environmental impact.

All of this was just as true in 1970 as it is today. It is also true that the enviromental lobby portrays coal as "dirty," "old-fashioned," and "capitalist."

I suspect the core reason they oppose it because it would compete with their mantra:

"The only way to save the earth is for America to make do with less."

Isn't politics swell? Now, go back to sleep, and forget you read this.


posted on Jan, 19 2006 @ 12:27 PM
This struck me as interesting because the UK butchered the coal industry in 1984/5 under Mrs Thatcher, and *now* North Sea Oil and Gas are running out and we'll end up importing from Russia and ?Algeria?, apparently. Neither of which count as 'reliable suppliers'. Tony Blair has been making noises about nuclear power, but I don't see any government having the political will to force it through against public opposition.

Where I come from originally, South Wales, it took about 15 years to get over the loss of pits, and indeed a lot of communities never did recover. Don't have a soft spot for coal mining - it's a dirty and dangerous business, but how low do we have to run on oil for us to see flooded and abandoned mines reopened?

posted on Jan, 19 2006 @ 01:15 PM
Well most enviros I talk to are actually excited by the prospects of Algae remediated Clean coal technology. Those who are against it are most likely the paleo-environmentalists and they are a dying breed thank god.


posted on Jan, 19 2006 @ 03:02 PM

Originally posted by TaupeDragon
I also was under the impression that coal-burning generated a lot of sulphur dioxide and thus acid rain - this wasn't addressed in the article.
Also traditional coal burning produces other emisions like soot... in some areas where coal has been burned lot everything is colored towards black/dark grey because of constant "soot treatment".

Or maybe they intend to store those along with CO2.
Although I wouldn't keep that anyway viable solution for a some time, capturing and storing of CO2 emissions from one laboratory campfire is entirely different thing than doing it to whole power plants... or thousands of them.

Originally posted by dr_strangecraft
"The only way to save the earth is for America to make do with less."
That's because western world is using magnitudes of more resources (any kind of resources) than what's sustainable...
For example your "disposable product culture" is extreme form of resource waste in many ways.

And neither "half cleaner" fuels make situation better if amount of consumed power just increases.
Until completely emission/pollution free energy sources are available there's no way for sustainable "eternal growth" of consumption. (holy cow of money driven societies)
And after achieving clean energy there would be still very big shortage of raw materials... You have to remember that mining raw materials from other solar system bodies in any useful scale is long long way ahead.
(and while some asteroids are almost pure iron nickel chunks iron is already abundant in Earth)

Originally posted by sardion2000
Well most enviros I talk to are actually excited by the prospects of Algae remediated Clean coal technology.
Would help somewhat in short term and give more "bang per produced emission" but that half cleaner fuel won't help much any if consumption skyrockets at this rate and it still releases any new carbon to atmosphere.

posted on Jan, 19 2006 @ 08:35 PM
It's not a question of of good or bad. Coal, like any power source, has tradeoffs. It produces CO2. So does burning ANY plant based renewable like the aforementioned algae. It produces some particulate and other emissions, but technology has largely mitigated that problem. On the plus side it is not imported into the U.S. We have our own. It is relatively cheap, so the money NOT spent is available for other uses.

What is the alternative to coal? Imported oil? Natural gas? Nuclear has no emissions but has a waste problem. Wind is only locally available and still only is cost competitive with government subsidies. Same with solar -- tax breaks are necessary to make it work. And the production of solar cells produces toxic waste chemicals. We could build more hydro dams and inundate river ecosystems. Fuel cells are still an energy negative, requiring more energy to manufacture than it will produce in its lifetime.

No matter which source you tout there are drawbacks -- no exceptions. It all comes down to personal subjective values as to whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

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