Coal Power: An Expired Technology

Posted by on Feb 13, 2012 in Earth SOS, Environmental Issues, Featured Slide, RECENT POSTS | Comments

Coal Power: An Expired Technology

By CHRISTINE EBADI  Published: February 13, 2012

Does Our Health Come With A Price Tag? How Much Will We Pay?

Why is the world so heavily dependent on coal-fired power plants for energy? It remains 29.6% of the world’s primary energy source, while generating 42% of the electricity worldwide[i]. Coal plants are the world’s number one source for green house gas emissions, making it the primary cause of global warming and climate change.

The combustion of one ton of coal will roughly generate enough electricity to light 400 homes for one day. Put in to perspective, for every ton of coal burned, it produces approximately 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and 27 pounds of sulfur dioxide emissions. It also emits nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, mercury, lead, arsenic and many other noxious chemicals. Some side effects in humans may include:

  • Headaches
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Aggravated asthma
  • Inflamed lungs
  • Increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses
  • Cancer
  • Premature death

And the guaranteed effects to the earth include:

  • Smog: damages plants and can cause death for some fish and algae
  • Acid rain: damaging forests, lakes, buildings and historic monuments
  • Air toxins: contributing to ground level ozone. Air toxins also end up back into our waters harming humans and sea animals. It also causes increased mercury in waters.
  • Dirty snow: accounting for 25% of global temperature increase, as dark                            snow absorbs the suns heat instead of reflecting it back into the atmosphere[ii]. Also causing glaciers to melt quicker, contributing to increased sea levels.
  • Global warming

All of which are precursors to climate change.

(Watch Video)


Where Is Coal Powered Energy Commonly Used?

Coal combustion and coal combustion products (CCP) are heavily used in the production of steel and cement. Paper manufacturing facilities require so much heat for processing and generating paper products, that many facilities have their own coal-fired plants built into the establishment. These are just a few among many industrial practices utilizing coal as a primary source for energy.

The US relies on coal for about 50% of all their electricity needs. Canada operates primarily on hydroelectricity, and uses coal as a secondary resource. In 2008, Canada burned 51.4 Mega tons of coal for powering electricity[iii]. Of this, Alberta was responsible for consuming 27.4 Mega tons of coal, for power[iv]. That means Alberta is responsible for 53% of all coal combustion for electricity in Canada, supplying 66%[v] of the province’s electricity needs.

Why Is China’s Excessive Use Of Coal Plants Affecting Us, And How Are We Contributing To This Problem?

Linfen, a city with a population exceeding four million, is in the province of Shanxi China. Known for its coal industry, the city is recognized as the most polluted in the world. Residents call it the ‘asthma capitol’. Spending a day in Linfen is equivalent to smoking three packs of cigarettes. The Yellow River running through Shanxi, is often described as ‘the cradle of Chinese civilization’; over one third of its fish species have become extinct, primarily due to the pollution.

China owns 14% of the global coal reserve, making it the third largest in the world. Coal Plants power 70% of the country’s electricity. Since 2000, China’s coal consumption has increased by approximately 12% each year, corresponding to the country’s industrial growth. It is now the worlds leading coal consumer, accounting for 46% of the world’s total coal consumption. This is exceptionally high when compared to the US, at 13%. According to China’s Energy Research Institute, it is estimated that in the next ten years, China will increase its energy consumption by 60% to supply the country’s industry development, driven by its GDP.

How does all of this relate with us? The earth strikes back with the ‘Coriolis’ effect. Simply put, pollution created on one side of the planet, will eventually end up on the other side of the planet in a short period of time. Particles of pollution in the air move with the direction of the wind. Pollution in the water moves with the direction of the currents. According to the ‘Journal of Geophysical Research’, pollution from China travels to the western US within one to three days. It is estimated that 25% of the air pollution in Los Angeles, results from coal plants in China.

Approximately 25% of China’s air pollution results from manufacturing goods, exported to the West. In 2010, the US imported $365 billion worth of goods from China[vi]. The top five categories of imports included Electrical Machinery ($90.8 billion), Machinery ($82.7 billion), Toys and Sports Equipment ($25 billion), Furniture and Bedding ($20 billion), and Footwear ($15.9 billion)[vii]. All of which require coal-fired powered plant to supply energy for manufacturing. In the same year, Canada imported a total value of $44.5 billion from China[viii].

Do you see a common denominator? We need to become more aware as consumers. The end price that we will pay for saving a few dollars today will be devastating in the very near future. We must stop manufacturing and purchasing goods from countries heavily dependent on fossil fuels for energy. We must commit to mandating policies that would require all existing coal plants worldwide, to upgrade their facilities to ‘clean coal’ power plants.

Clean coal? Now that is an oxymoron… It’s hardly clean; nevertheless clean coal technologies claim to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 50%. Should governments choose to continue surrendering to the fossil fuel industry tycoons, it’s absolutely necessary to apply an obligatory facility conversion towards ‘clean coal’ technology, for all existing and future plants.

To learn more about how the term ‘clean coal’ was coined into modern expression, follow this link:


What Other Available Options Do We Currently Have For Energy?

I’m glad you asked… Solar energy and wind energy, producing 0 emissions and powered my mother earth. Although there are several other resources, these are the two major technologies that we should be focusing on.

Click here to find out how coal is converted to energy to power our homes.



[iii] Minerals and Metals Sector, Natural Resources Canada – 2009 Coal Report

[iv] Minerals and Metals Sector, Natural Resources Canada – 2009 Coal Report

[v] Minerals and Metals Sector, Natural Resources Canada – 2009 Coal Report

[vi] Office of the United States Trade Representative

[vii] Office of the United States Trade Representative

[viii] Industry Canada

  • Clean Air Act
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • International Energy Agency (IEA)
  • Institute for Energy Research
  • Industry Canada
  • National Aeronautics and Space Association NASA
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA)
  • Union of Concerned Scientist
  • United States Trade Representative (USTR)
  • World Coal Association (WCA)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • World Society For The Protection of Animals (WSPA)
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