Coal mining has been around for decades since the 1800s and coal has been powering our lights even till today. The documentary called, “Burning the future: Coal in America” presented a lot of vital information about how the coal industries work and how coal helps the nation stay lit. Countries that build the world’s biggest coal plants are the United States, China and India. The states that practice coal mining are Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. Coal power plants emissions contain many elements and compounds including sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and other elements including one of the largest sources which are carbon dioxide. Burning the future discusses the many factors that cause devastating outcomes.
Mountain top removal and strip mining is a process to obtain the coal and procedure has been practiced for many years in America. Coal supplies more than half of the energy for America and in the documentary, Ed Hopkins who is a director of environmental Quality in the sierra club states that, “Coal supplies more than half of the energy right now, we are going to rely on coal in the near future there is no way around that”. Coal supplies may be the only energy that can produce half of the nation’s electricity but there are other alternatives that can replace coal.
The process in coal mining is basically mountain top removal. Mountain top removals consist of about five steps. The first step in mountain top removal is forest are cleared-cut and in this process miners must destroy wild life habitat and also using explosives to get deep into the core of the mountain top to obtain the coal seam. The second process is using huge shovels to dig into the soil and trucks that haul away the remains and push it into the valleys. The third process is to dig into the rock and expose the coal. Coal industries have machines that weigh nearly eight million and these big machines are operated by mine workers. These machines can tear up a mountain in a year and these coal industries make a lot of money because they provide electricity for people like us.
The fourth process is when the machines gather a large layer of coal, dumping them on the adjacent valleys which creates valley fills. The last process is basically coal industries are usually supposed to reclaim the land but usually they leave the area bare. Although majority of the industries replant vegetation in reality the mountain will never return to its original state and this can cause many issues to the people in the area and also around the world. Mountain top generates a huge amount of waste because coal must be burned and it generates a lot of liquid waste which forms into slur. It contains carcinogenic compounds and toxic heavy metals and the slur is stored in large areas of water that sometimes can leak or break and the outcome is floods and water contamination.
Coal mining contributes to climate changes and also health issues. The main issues we are having today are air pollution, disrupted weather caused by coal burning and the toxic emissions from coal power plants. Air pollution is a very huge deal for America and all of the countries in the world. Green America.org states that, “Pollution from coal power plants typically causes thirty thousand deaths a year in America”. Pollution creates a lot of health problems for the people that live close by the coal areas. Health effects are hospitalization, pulmonary disease, hypertension, kidney disease, heart disease and even cancer. Those who drink polluted water in the area create bone damage and many other issues that result to death (Hendryx & Ahern, 2008; Hitt & Hendryx, 2010).
In west Virginia, women who live near coal mining usually have poor birth rates caused by the increase issues caused by coal mining industries. Children in the area also suffer health issues which are asthma, severe headaches, blisters, and frequent runny noses because of being exposed to water contamination and air pollution from coal practices in the area. Some of the residents also reported skin issues because of using polluted water during baths and showers (Blankenship, 2006; Reece, 2006). Pollution from coal burning power plants kill more than those who drunken drive and have AIDS combined and the toxic from coal will just keep growing because we are not stopping or reducing the usage.
Acid rain is another issue caused by the formation of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide entering the atmosphere because of coal burning and when it reacts with water and oxygen it then creates what we know as Acid rain. Acid rain causes many issues such as acidification in waterways that kill many fishes and disrupt the aquatic ecosystem. Trees and soils are also affected by this because it the acid rain damages them and cause future issues and acid rain causes decay in structures such as buildings and statues.
Although in the documentary, “Burning the future: Coal in America” states that the coal is the most abundant and the cheapest. I’m sure we can find other alternatives that can substitute coal but I don’t think the industries are willing to give up coal because it provides a lot of income for these industries. Even though coal may be the backbone of America, reducing the coal burning can help reduce the issues America is creating which are the thirty thousand plus death and the pollution. We can help reduce coal’s toxic emissions by using cleaner energy for the future. Clean energy consist of renewable energy which are wind, solar, biomass and geothermal which can supply very large portions of energy for America.
Shifting towards this route can create a better sustainable future for not only America but for the world. In order to shoot for a better future we must first conserve. Conserving energy is basically driving less, buying less, turning things off when you don’t need to use it anymore, using less water because heating water is basically using coal to heat the water. Using natural power and not relying on light bulbs and basically just cutting back on all the things you’re dependent on. We need cleaner energy and we need to increase wind power and solar power so that our future will be healthier in the long run.
Hendryx, M., & Ahern, M. M. (2008). Relations between health indicators and residential proximity to coal mining in West Virginia. American Journal of Public Health, 98, 669-671.
Blankenship, D. (2006). Especially for people like us. In C. Warren (Ed.), Like walking onto another planet: Stories about the true impacts of mountaintop removal mining. Retrieved May 12, 2011 from http://www.ohvec.org/issues/mountaintop_removal/misc/ovec_mtrbooklet.pdf
Ovec (Organized Voices and Empowered Communites). 2012. Health Study Articles on the Effects of Coal Mining. http://www.ohvec.org/issues/mountaintop_removal/articles/health/index.html
Roger Philpot 2003-2012. Learn about Coal factoids, did you know. http://rogerphilpot.homestead.com/CoalEducation.html