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The Use Of Coal As An Energy Source In The United States

1361 words - 5 pages

Energy from Coal: The Nation’s Dirty Secret

Abstract
While technology has led the world into such an advanced setting with intelligent machinery and automated devices, coal has remained a loyal contributor of the energy needed by these various types of equipment to function properly. Almost half of the electricity in the United States is produced in coal plants where coal is burnt to produce this energy [1]. Both beneficial and detrimental factors come with this alternative source of energy, known by the world for centuries.
Background Information
Even with the quantity of fossil fuels dwindling due to human consumption, coal has remained one of the cheapest, reliable sources of electricity, natural gas, diesel fuel, and steel production. It is one of the main sources of energy for the United States particularly because one-quarter of the world’s coal reserves are found there [2]. Typically, coal mines are found throughout many different regions of the United States, depending on what type of coal is being mined. The types of coal used in the industry are anthracite, bituminous, sub-bituminous, and lignite [3]. Anthracite is the hardest of the four because it contains the most carbon and the least ash and moisture. It is used as a heating fuel for homes since it burns slowly over a lengthy period of time. Bituminous is medium-hard in comparison to the others and is the most common type of coal found in the United States. It generates electricity and produces coke, used to make

steel. Sub-bituminous is medium-soft, meaning that it contains a lot of moisture. This type of coal is used mainly in producing steam for electricity generation for the industry. Lastly, there is lignite, the softest of the four. It contains the most moisture and ash and is best used in electricity generating power plants.
Figure 1: http://www.teachcoal.org/aboutcoal/articles/coalreserves.html
There are many advantages to using coal because it is an abundant source of energy, provides many jobs in the coal plants, and is dependable. But there are also many detrimental factors as well, since the production of coal results in air pollution, sulfur dioxide emission, carbon dioxide emission, acid rain, and hazardous waste [4]. These environmental problems are due to both the mining of coal and coal production plants. Many issues arise with the mining of coal. Firstly, the safety of miners is put at risk as they descend hundreds of feet below the surface of the Earth. After many years in this field of work, many miners develop black lung because of inhaling the coal extensively. Secondly, the extraction of coal is very costly due to the machinery needed along with the transportation of the coal after it has been mined to the various factories that are able to extract the sulfur impurities in coal and burn the coal for energy [5]. New methods have been developed to help with some of the issues relating to coal production. To rid the surrounding environment of toxic...

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