Coal is the largest power producer in America. Recently, the International Energy Agency said that until the year 2030, it will remain to be the world’s largest source of power. However, we have to face the consequences of using coal, because of all fuels; it produces the most carbon dioxide, the number one cause of global warming. Research has shown that American coal burning power plants produce up to two billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. (Nao Nakanishi, 2008) Coal is produced from fossil fuels, which come from plants that decayed millions of years ago.
When these fossils are burnt, carbon, nitrous oxide, methane and fluorocarbons are emitted. Carbon combines with oxygen when it is released to the atmosphere, to form carbon dioxide. In the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, together with the other gases like nitrous oxide, methane and fluorocarbons form the green house gases. Carbon dioxide forms 76% of the total green house gases. These gases hang in the atmosphere, such that when the sun’s rays hit the earth and reflect back, some are unable to pass through the green house gases.
These rays remain in the atmosphere and cause the earth to be 33 degrees Celsius warmer than it should be. The change in the climate causes global warming. The effects of global warming are evident today; increase in diseases like malaria, drought, increased floods to mention just a few. (Hopwood N. etal, 2008) Questions like why coal has to be used as the major electricity producer world wide have been asked many times. The most common answer to this question is that it is found in abundance and is a reliable source of electricity.
In addition, it is quite affordable and above all cheapest to produce. However, its demand has become more than its supply so the manufacturers will have too continue manufacturing more of the product. Besides the facts that it has become the back bone of America’s economy, in that if the coal industry failed, there would be a power shortage in the other industries. This explains that economic factors have resulted to coal being a cause for global warming. The diagram below shows the consumption of coal, and the predictions for the future years. (Fueling the future, 2000)
It is very sad to know that the American courts have denied the common citizen his right to file for charges against the polluters. This decision has been based on the fact that the common citizen is not harmed by the core emissions to the extent that the harm caused provides sufficient ground for them to file charges. This incident happened a few years ago ion Alabama, where core mines are found. Such an incident is enough proof that even the authorities are now involved in the corruption that comes with core mining. The politicians have not also been left out in the contribution of coal as a cause of global warming.
The Bush’s government was a big supporter of coal production. Obama’s government too has not done much to support the use of an alternate source of energy that is not so hazardous. Even after the historic spill of the coal ash in Tennessee, the coal industry has continued to receive support from the members of the Obama government, who have said that they intend to maintain coal as the major source of energy all over America. The government can come up with other ways of producing electricity like the wind power, the hydro electric power or the solar energy.
(Power Stephen etal, 2009). Coal mining imposes threats to human life, at both the external and the internal level. At the internal level, coal affects the health of the workers at the mine fields. They breathe the gas when they are mining, and this can lead to serious problems like diseases such as black chest, which is caused by accumulation of the gases on the chest of the miners. The external effects of global warming due to the coal pollution can be seen in the increased environmental degradation. For example, the open pit method of mining the coal leads to land degradation.
There are also the deformities that are seen in children born by mothers who were exposed to the gases found in coal. For example, there is mercury, which may cause the children born to be deformed, or may cause them death. The Tennessee coal ash spill, which occurred late, last year shows the ignorance being displayed by the coal manufacturers. More than fifteen homes were destroyed, while the ones that were nearby were exposed to very hazardous conditions. Studies by scientists showed that the ashes contained heavy metals like lead, arenic among others; which could cause neurological problems and diseases like cancer.
The ash spill made brought back a debate that had died a few years ago, whether the government should declare the ash from coal as a toxic and hazardous substance. Officials from the coal mining company said that the ash was ’clean coal’. However, environmentalist are warning that there is nothing as clean coal, which is true because if the ash was clean, then they would not be storing it in the first place, but would be releasing it to the atmosphere. (Shaila Dewan, 12/25/2008). The history of coal The first ever coal to be mined in America was in 1748, and it weighed 50 tons, but today, more than one billion tonnes are produced every year.
In 1762, people whom settled in the Wyoming Valley discovered the deposits of coal. By then, Pennsylvania was a flat, moist but hot plain and was mostly covered in swamps. It was estimated that 16 billion tons of coal lied beneath the service, and an estimated 7. 5 billion tons of the coal could be mined. In 1768, the coal was first mined, and the mine was located near Pittston. Between 1776 and 1780, the coal that was discovered at the Wilkes- Berre area was mined. It was then used as an industrial product in 1788, to heat the metals that were used to make iron nails.
After the first mining and use of coal in the industries, other uses were also discovered. From then, coal became a major boost to the industrial revolution, and it continues to be used in the industries up to date. A total of 38 states have coal deposits and each has been mined one time or another. Coal mining is one of the reasons for the development of these states since the early 1800s. The uses of coal have improved as the years pass. At first, coal was used for the manufacture of the gas lights. In the 1950s, illuminating gas that was commonly used in Britain was also made from coal.
In general, coal was in the past used for the steam engines, as a domestic heat provide and as a fuel for rail roads. Efforts to stop global warming by coal There are environmentalists such as Al Gore, have tried to come up with solutions to reduce global warming by coal. There are such as the use of alternative sources of energy like the solar and the wind power, which do not contribute to global warming. They have argued that the energy sources would be important in the conservation of the environment and the effect of global warming would definitely decrease.
There is also the on going research on how the coal gases can be cleaned before they are released to the atmosphere to reduce the level of pollution that they cause. President Obama has supported this move, saying that since he supports the use of coal as the major source of electricity for all of America, then clean coal, free from any toxins would be a good idea to reduce global warming. Review of the research This research has been done through the use of secondary sources. The sources are reliable, some of them on statistical data. However, more research needs to be done on the use of coal as the major source of electricity in America.
There, is a need to join the environmentalists in the campaign against the use of coal, and to come up with other methods that are friendlier to the environment. We all have a role to play in the reducing the effects of global warming. Works cited 1) Beacon Theater, January 15, 2004, Al Gore Speaks on Global Warming and the Environment, New York, retrieved on 1/27/2009 from: http://civic. moveon. org/gore3//speech. html 2) Dewan Shaila, 12/25/2008, Tennessee coal ash spill revives issue of its hazards: Herald tribune Retrieved on 1/27/2009 from http://www.
iht. com/articles/2008/12/25/america/25sludge. php? page=1 3) District 1 – Coal Mine Safety and Health History of Anthracite Coal Mining: United States department of labor, retrieved on 1/27/2009 from http://www. msha. gov/district/dist_01/history/history. htm 4) Fueling the future: American gas foundation, 2000, retrieved on 1/27/2009 from: http://www. fuelingthefuture. org/contents/Graphs. asp 5) History of core use: fossil oils. org 14/19/2004, retrieved on 1/27/2009 from http://www. bydesign. com/fossilfuels/links/index. html
6) Hopwood Nick, Cohen Jordan, (2008), Green house gases and society, retrieved on 1/27/2009 from http://www. umich. edu/~gs265/society/greenhouse. htm 7) John Stuart Richards, 2002, Early Coal Mining in the Anthracite Region, New York, Arcadia Publishing, 2002 8) Kutcha David, 2003, Pennsylvania coal mine history, retrieved on 1/27/1009 from http://www. tccweb. org/penncoal. htm 9) Nakanishi Nao, 11/14/2008. Coal to remain world’s top power source: Energy plan USA, Research and comment, retrieved on 1/27/2009 from: http://www. reuters. com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE4AD3CQ20081114? sp=true