Is burning coal bad?

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posted on Feb, 26 2006 @ 12:14 PM
People often see this as a bad thing but its emissions are easily scrubbed...the by-product of which is variou industrial acids that we need so badly.

So really, is Coal burning for electricity a bad thing when it supplies with so much?

posted on Feb, 26 2006 @ 12:30 PM
With New "clean coal" technologies coal can be very earth friendly. You could infact have a zero emission coal. The earth has enormous resources of coal that could be utilised cleanly.

You just have to get this technology to be economically competitive thats the hard part.

A lot of people just hear coal and think of it as a arcane dirty fuel.

posted on Feb, 28 2006 @ 03:43 PM
It's all a question of investment ( the French gets more than 75% of their power from nuclear plants) and if any given government is truly interested in doing what is best for their country funds would be move from all those other wasteful programs ( agri subsidies etc) and invested in a efficient clean national energy grid.

As i remember only South Korea ( or some former SU state) has a higher percentage of nuclear power generated....


posted on Feb, 28 2006 @ 04:06 PM
Unfortunately, when people think of Coal, they think of what the reality is right now, not the potential reality of tomorrow. Also there is no way to scrub all the toxic emissions, it's just not feasible or even possible. There will always be some leakage, even if the scrubing rate is like 99.99%, it is very unlikely to get up that high, and we'd be lucky if the Coal companies agree to scrub their stacks to reduce half the emissions(industry wide, world wide) that they are spewing into the atmosphere today.

If we want to see a measurable change in the industry, it's going to have to be mandated from the Top.

While we wait until the "Powers that be," get their arse in gear all we(us Engineering students and Engineers) can do is try to effect change through pure innovation.

posted on Feb, 28 2006 @ 04:12 PM
Burning anything is bad. Particulates, soot, smoke, volatile organic compounds and so on. Forest fires are tremendously polluting, as are volcanic eruptions, but we haven't even begun to adress those sources of emissions.

There's nothing with burning coal to produce energy. If the process is uncontrolled, and the emissions unregulated, we'll have problems, obviously.

I'm smoking a cigarette as I type this, so take it with a grain of salt.

posted on Mar, 4 2006 @ 08:34 PM
The sin began when it was dug from the ground. My downtown yard is littered with coal pieces from old coal burning chimneys. I used to collect the little black clumps... filled a five gallon pail over a few years. Last week I dumped the pail out... littered the yard again. It felt good. Coal is better off in the ground, seperated from man as Law intended. Otherwise a disruption of Time-Space, much calamity.

Sri Oracle

posted on Mar, 5 2006 @ 07:07 AM
when i had a wood stove, i used to burn a wood coal mix. i would go through about 200 lbs of cal in the winter. in the evenings i would put several chunks in and that would keep the heat going for a good 6 hours. when i got up there would be just enough hot coals left for me to start the fire again. it cost all of 20 buck for the 4- 50 lb sacks of coal.

one night i cam home and my brother had kept putting more coal on after the flame from the heavy oil in the coal quit. he must have put nearly half the bag in. it was the largest pile of glowing coals i had ever had in the stove ( i had one with a window) and it was by far the hottest i had ever had the place. upper 90's in my house when it was in the 30's outside

posted on Mar, 5 2006 @ 07:09 AM
i could make a cord of wood last 2 years using a wood/coal mix. i have never tried petroleum coke. i hear it burns much hotter than coal

posted on Mar, 22 2006 @ 11:28 AM
I think the best and smartest idea is Solar Power.I seen a show on TV about this massive solar power plant somewhere in the U.S there are tons and tons of hudge soler panels and collecters that garther the suns energy then store it in large battery like things so it can be used and distrabuted to towns,citys,ect

I think of it this way, solar power dose not harm the einviorment at all nothing is burned and nothing is left behind (smoke,toxic/radioactive wast,ect) it onley makes sence to use it more. There is alot of space in deserts and open fields all over the U.S and Canada so why dont people and energy companys say,

"Hey look no one lives in the desert and the sun shines there for long amounts of time and large grassy fields out in the country side are the same so why dont we build large solar plants and solar energy unites to gather energy!"

The hudge wind mills are just as good theay dont gather as much energy but in large number theay are just as good and cheeper to mainetane then other types of power plants.People theese are the 2 best ways to get energy.I know at the moment theay are not as advanced as theay could be but if people payed more attion to them more reserch can get done and way to make them more efficent could happon.

Above is a link to a site that talks about wind power large numbers theay are perfect.And allready some large citys are takeing notice of the befits of haveing wind power plants (big wind mills) i seen this in Toronto and herd of it in other large citys.

The above link talks about solar energy.Im telling you theese are the smartest ways that work the best.good post
(sry for bad spelling)

posted on Mar, 22 2006 @ 03:08 PM
Solar power is great but we need to be able to convert more of the suns energy to usable power. The sun beats down un us with about 1,000 watts per square meter- that immense amounts of energy. Most solar cells only convert a fraction of that energy though. Its not a infinte power source but for mankinds needs is pretty much is we have about a 4 Billion year supply left of the stuff.

I personally think a policy that used, Solar, Hydro-electric, Wave, Hydrogen and bio diesel and wind power would be best. Wave power for example is a amazing power source, a tiny fraction of the energy created in ocean waves would meet all our energy needs.

If they could get fusion reactors working we wouldnt need any of that stuff for all practical purposes it would be a infinte energy source as long as we had water. But its turning out to be very difficult to master. I have heard people say just keeping a fusion reaction contained in a Magnetic field is like trying to hold jello with rubber bands. Since this stuff can be millions of times hotter then the sun you have to do it that way, no physical container could contain it.

posted on Mar, 22 2006 @ 03:29 PM

Better than using just solar panels and wind turbines, which according to the links you provided are not always efficient, why not use coal power plants but with algae emissions scrubbers?

You get more power, because coal plants are quite efficient, and you get extra bio-fuels out of the algae scrubbers that absorb the pollution from the smokestacks.

Check this thread out to see what I mean: Pond Scum and The Future

I'm not saying solar power plants are out, but I do believe using algae-derived energy systems in conjuction with existing technologies is the economical and not to mention GREEN way to go.

P.S. - Sorry if this seems like a blatant self promotion of my thread, but since the topic is "Is burning coal bad", I'm just responding, "not if you do it right" and providing the relevant links

P.S.S. - ShadowXIX, speaking of wave power, have you heard of that Japanese desalinization plant that works by exploiting the temperature difference between warm surface water and cold deeper waters? It also produces energy!

Xenesys Inc. - Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC)

posted on Mar, 22 2006 @ 03:36 PM
Thanks for the info Beachcoma I was aware of thermal power but didnt think you could get a economically feasible power source from such a small difference in Temperature. As little as 15 degree Celsius difference thats impressive.

I still remember that generator thing from Science class that you put over a cup of hot water or ice water and it would make the fan on stop spin. Forgot what it was called but it was pretty interesting still remember it clearly after all these years.

posted on Mar, 22 2006 @ 09:38 PM
lol wow afater reading some of that pond scum stuff and a bit more on cole i guess all i can say is with the right technolgy (filters and stuff) its not that bad afater all.

Useing wave power is an amazeing idea with the right reserch and willingness this could be very good source of energy but the fact is to be frank about it in my opinion "people are to stupid to do the thigns to help the Earth" wut i mean is.

Not enough people know of theese other ways to gather energy or theay just dont care.If people did alot more then theay are doing now more wind/solar/cole,sucm lol even wave plants can be built and we would no longer have to use plants that harm the Earth with there wast.

I wonder if in my life time i will live to see the day when people stop being so greedy and careing for money and oil and all that crap and smarten up to fix the Earth...i want to see people get there head out of the ground and build fields of wind mills and other plants that are not harmfull for the planet but good!.

posted on Mar, 22 2006 @ 10:13 PM

Useing wave power is an amazeing idea with the right reserch and willingness this could be very good source of energy but the fact is to be frank about it in my opinion "people are to stupid to do the thigns to help the Earth" wut i mean is.

Actually Wave power along with Wind power represant two of the fastest growing energy sources on the market today. Why? They are almost already cost competitive with Coal and Oil. The reason why you don't see these two technologies everywhere is twofold. Local Resistance by homeowners, as apparently quite a lot of people consider Wind Turbines to be ugly and disruptive. Some of the olders models I agree are an eyesore and do have legitamate environomental concerns attached to them, like Bird Strikes etc. Also another Wind downside is that it isn't uniformly windy all the time anywhere on earth so it's very unpredictable. If only we were able to make them slightly mobile......hrm. With Tidal power the Eyesore problem remains with some models, however there are now very low profile models out now that remove that as they stick out less then what's out in the water normally.

EDIT: Actually scrach what I said about it not being uniformly windy, higher up there is abundant wind, I've heard of turbines suspended by helium baloons are in the works and actually have been tested. I'll try to find the link.

Thanks for the info Beachcoma I was aware of thermal power but didnt think you could get a economically feasible power source from such a small difference in Temperature. As little as 15 degree Celsius difference thats impressive.

That's quite a large temperature differential, the difference between 15 c and 30 c is a jacket with a sweater depending on the wind chill, to wearing a T-Shirt and Shorts. This technique is being used for desalination, chilled-sea agriculture, air conditioning(this is being used in Lake Ontario to heat office buildings in Downtown Toronto, they want to get every highrise feasibly near the water front cooled in this fashion. They need to use the air conditioning in the winter due to the heat output by all the computers and lights), and mineral extraction.

Here is an article on Ocean thermal energy conversion.

[edit on 22-3-2006 by sardion2000]

[edit on 22-3-2006 by sardion2000]

[edit on 22-3-2006 by sardion2000]

posted on Mar, 22 2006 @ 10:22 PM
Do you have any idea how dangerous it is to live near a coal plant? You get less radiation from being near a nuclear blast than you from living near a coal plant. The levels of mercury exposure are insane. The byproducts of coal are highly toxic and usually just dumped near towns where they can expose people to a lot of nasty things.

Waste coal has higher concentration of mercury than normal coals. In West Virginia and nationally, gob has 4 times more mercury than bituminous coal. In Pennsylvania, gob has 3.5 times more mercury than bituminous coal. Culm has 19% more mercury than anthracite coal.

Bituminous waste coal also has higher levels of sulfur (see chart below).

[This is based on thousands of samples collected in 1999 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Click here for more details on mercury content in coals and waste coals.]

Data on other metals in waste coal is sparse, but evidence from single metals tests on Pennsylvania culm and gob show both to have about 4 times as much chromium and 3 times as much lead.

Since more waste coal must be burned to produce the same amount of electricity as normal coal would, this means that -- in the states most affected by waste coal burning -- over 6 times as much mercury must be fed into a waste coal burner to produce the same amount of energy as a traditional coal power plant. For culm vs. anthracite coal, it takes nearly twice as much mercury.

Burning waste coal doesn't make the waste go away. If 100 tons of waste coal are burned, 85 tons will remain as waste coal ash.

Since far more mercury and other toxic contaminants enter a waste coal burner to produce a given amount of electricity, these high levels of toxic contaminants have to come out somewhere. Toxic metals cannot be destroyed by burning them. To the extent that they are captured in pollution controls (protecting the air), they are then concentrated in the highly toxic ash that ultimately threatens the groundwater wherever this ash is dumped. Waste coal burners have cleaner air emissions than antiquated coal plants due to their better pollution controls, but this only means that the ash is far more toxic, since the highly toxic particulates captured in pollution control equipment end up in the ash. The industry claims that 99.8% of the mercury in the fuel is captured and ends up in their ash.

Waste coal ash is dumped in communities not far from the waste coal burners, threatening the groundwater with leaching lead, mercury and other poisons. Power plant waste is allowed to be dumped without the basic protections (landfill liners) that are required for dumping household trash. When burning any solid fuel, the resulting ash has a higher surface area than the raw, unburned material. The dangers of toxic leaching from ash can be expected to be greater than from the unburned waste coal. Just like with coffee, running water over coffee grounds leaches far more coffee out than if you ran water over whole coffee beans.

Former ORNL researchers J. P. McBride, R. E. Moore, J. P. Witherspoon, and R. E. Blanco made this point in their article "Radiological Impact of Airborne Effluents of Coal and Nuclear Plants" in the December 8, 1978, issue of Science magazine. They concluded that Americans living near coal-fired power plants are exposed to higher radiation doses than those living near nuclear power plants that meet government regulations. This ironic situation remains true today and is addressed in this article.

The fact that coal-fired power plants throughout the world are the major sources of radioactive materials released to the environment has several implications. It suggests that coal combustion is more hazardous to health than nuclear power and that it adds to the background radiation burden even more than does nuclear power. It also suggests that if radiation emissions from coal plants were regulated, their capital and operating costs would increase, making coal-fired power less economically competitive.

Because existing coal-fired power plants vary in size and electrical output, to calculate the annual coal consumption of these facilities, assume that the typical plant has an electrical output of 1000 megawatts. Existing coal-fired plants of this capacity annually burn about 4 million tons of coal each year. Further, considering that in 1982 about 616 million short tons (2000 pounds per ton) of coal was burned in the United States (from 833 million short tons mined, or 74%), the number of typical coal-fired plants necessary to consume this quantity of coal is 154.

Using these data, the releases of radioactive materials per typical plant can be calculated for any year. For the year 1982, assuming coal contains uranium and thorium concentrations of 1.3 ppm and 3.2 ppm, respectively, each typical plant released 5.2 tons of uranium (containing 74 pounds of uranium-235) and 12.8 tons of thorium that year. Total U.S. releases in 1982 (from 154 typical plants) amounted to 801 tons of uranium (containing 11,371 pounds of uranium-235) and 1971 tons of thorium. These figures account for only 74% of releases from combustion of coal from all sources. Releases in 1982 from worldwide combustion of 2800 million tons of coal totaled 3640 tons of uranium (containing 51,700 pounds of uranium-235) and 8960 tons of thorium.

Based on the predicted combustion of 2516 million tons of coal in the United States and 12,580 million tons worldwide during the year 2040, cumulative releases for the 100 years of coal combustion following 1937 are predicted to be:

U.S. release (from combustion of 111,716 million tons):

Uranium: 145,230 tons (containing 1031 tons of uranium-235)

Thorium: 357,491 tons

Worldwide release (from combustion of 637,409 million tons):

Uranium: 828,632 tons (containing 5883 tons of uranium-235)

Thorium: 2,039,709 tons

If given a choice I'd rather have 4 or 5 nuclear plants near me than *ONE* coal burning plant.

posted on Mar, 22 2006 @ 10:28 PM
Compared to older coal plants, modern coal plants ARE cleaner. But those scrubbers, and the waste STILL has to go somewhere.

posted on Mar, 22 2006 @ 10:42 PM

Originally posted by Zaphod58
Compared to older coal plants, modern coal plants ARE cleaner. But those scrubbers, and the waste STILL has to go somewhere.

With Algae it goes up to at least 90% and maybe even higher. The waste algae can then be processed into usable and cleaner than gasoline biofuel. Coal using new and developing technologies can help ward of instability in Mid East oil, Peak Oil, Hurricanes, Terrorist attacks, etc.

Agae scrubbing looks like it's fairly cheap. It also looks like it has applications to other wastful industries, like maybe in refining, manufacturing, things like that.

Go to part 3 of this episode of Sci-Am Frontiers.

Click picture for link

Remember the fight to see which fuel will prevail will take quite along time. We are entering the competitive phase of a new energy paradigm. My prediction is that none will win until we get Fusion power all worked out and we all start driving electric cars. BTW The picture below is an electric car, just in case you are interested.]

[edit on 22-3-2006 by sardion2000]

posted on Mar, 22 2006 @ 10:45 PM
Yeah, but that's for FUTURE plants. How many CURRENT plants use something like that? Biotech is definately the future, but until we can get it in regular use, it's just sitting there, not doing us any good. There's a grass that can be planted in the waste that does something similar, but it's just sitting there in limited use.

posted on Mar, 22 2006 @ 10:56 PM

Originally posted by Zaphod58
Yeah, but that's for FUTURE plants. How many CURRENT plants use something like that? Biotech is definately the future, but until we can get it in regular use, it's just sitting there, not doing us any good. There's a grass that can be planted in the waste that does something similar, but it's just sitting there in limited use.

I believe the future of this technology is within 3-5 years. The concept is so simple even a stoned hippy enviro can understand it and see the benefits. I feel it won't take that much time for the Execs to see the benefits.

As supply and demand in the Oil markets get worse due to politican instability and possible a few more wars, the markets will be forced to start rushing in alternatives as it will start to severely effect their bottom lines. They usually only act when it's in their best interests. It's in their best interests to avoid another Recession, Depression or even an Economic Collapse of Biblical proportions...okay maybe not the last, but this just smells like Y2K all over again. People in the Industry knew about it for years in advance, yet the suits ignored them and waiting till, in some cases literally, the last minute.

Nuclear energy will also play a big part in the energy mix unfortunately, though the problem with that is they are very costly to maintain and supervise safely, and any new ones, say started now wouldn't come online for years. They are also very expensive to build, what with all the safeguards and all.

There's a grass that can be planted in the waste that does something similar, but it's just sitting there in limited use.

Care to give it a name and a link? You've interested me.

[edit on 22-3-2006 by sardion2000]

posted on Mar, 22 2006 @ 11:04 PM
It's called Beach Grass. It's used to reclaim the land where the waste coal is dumped. The gob retains heat and burns off the native plants before they can be established. The Beach Grass thrives in those conditions, and allows other plants to grow, and the land where the gob, and the mining was done to recover.

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