UNDERSTANDING COAL and CARBON and WATER (as U.S. weighs coal regulations and alternatives)

May 28, 2014

IF COAL = CARBON, how do carbon emissions affect
RIVERS, WATERSHEDS and FRESHWATER SUPPLIES?
(Facts from THE UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS)

Air pollution: Burning coal creates smog, soot, acid rain, global warming and toxic air emissions. It is the single biggest air polluter in the U.S. and those airborne particulates fall onto land and into rivers.

Fuel supply: Mining, transporting and storing coal pollutes our land, water and air – and levels our mountains, the headwater sources of our rivers.

Water use: Coal plants consume billions of gallons of cooling water, heating and lowering river levels which then harms wildlife.

Wastes: Ash, sludge, toxic chemicals and wasted heat create environmental problems.

USA: Huntington, West Virginia, storing coal

USA: Huntington, West Virginia, storing coal

A typical coal-powered plant uses only 33-35% of the coal’s heat to produce electricity. The majority of coal’s heat is released into the air or absorbed by the cooling water which is returned to local rivers. Annual waste from a coal plant’s smokestack scrubbers includes an average of 125,000 tons of ash and 193,000 tons of sludge. Forty-two percent of U.S. coal combustion waste ponds and landfills are unlined, which makes them permeable.

When the waste toxins – arsenic, mercury, chromium and cadmium – contaminate drinking-water supplies, they can damage vital human organs and nervous systems. Ecosystems are also damaged by the disposal of coal-plant waste, sometimes severely or permanently.

USA: West Virginia, coal plant on Ohio River north of Wheeling

USA: West Virginia, coal plant on Ohio River north of Wheeling

SINCE U.S. COAL POWER PLANTS ARE DECLINING,
WHY REGULATE OR REDUCE THEIR EMISSIONS NOW?

  Although coal power only accounted for 49% of the U.S. electricity production in 2006, it represented 83% of CO2 emissions caused by electricity generation that year. (Wikipedia)

  In 2012, CO2 emissions from electric power were only 39% of all U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions; but coal generated 74% of that 39%, thus coal continues to be a significant polluter.

Jan 2014 Primary Energy Production by Source
measured in quadrillion Btu
(most recent figures from U.S. Energy Information Agency, p. 5)

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 11.50.15 AM

USA: Idaho,  Columbia River Basin, Snake River Basin

USA: Idaho, Columbia River Basin, Snake River Basin

One Response to “UNDERSTANDING COAL and CARBON and WATER (as U.S. weighs coal regulations and alternatives)”

  1. Alison Jones Says:

    A case-study success of cleaning up one of the dirtiest U.S. coal-power plants due to EPA regs – despite initial claims of “immediate and devastating” consequences: http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=3mVWa8Rf


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: