Digging for Coal Will Gradually End in Digging Our Own Graves
- Posted on October 26, 2009
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But we were not happy. We took a 'dig' at the God Almighty or Mother Nature. From that period of time all our present-day problems were born. We dug the earth for Gold. With that, we divided us into rich and poor. We dug the earth for Uranium. With that, we made weapons for our own extinction. We dug the earth for Oil. With that, we began arming the terrorists. Now we go on digging for coal and we are gasping for fresh air.
Coal, even if it is scientifically purified, or a cyanide capsule, if it is sweet coated, both has the same effect, the death. Only difference is that the former brings us slow death and the latter a quick end. We will never feel the pain if we die instantly, but we preferred a slow death by opting for coal to produce our electricity for lighting, heating and cooling while the SUN gives us all these freely and endlessly. When will we stop digging our own graves? It depends on the new awakening and the nature-loving culture of our future generation.
The U.K. based World Coal Institute (WCI) tells the world that the coal will last us for at least 122 years. That means, we should not panic about the depleting oil resources! 21st Century coal plants emit 40% less CO2 than the average 20th Century coal plants. A magnificent quality improvement. The use of coal will rise 60% over the next 20 years. That means the oxygen masks and oxygen cylinders manufacturers will have immediate business opportunities and the coffin makers thereafter.
According to WCI statistics, coal provides 26.5% of global primary energy needs and generates 41.5 of the world's electricity. The world produced 5,845 MT of hard coal and 951 MT of brown coal/lignite in the year 2008. The top ten hard coal producers during 2008 were: PR China (2,761 MT); USA (1,007MT); India(490MT); Australia (325MT); Russia (247MT); Indonesia (246MT); South Africa (236MT); Kazakhstan (104MT); Poland (84MT) and Colombia (79MT).
Global consumption of hard coal in the year 2008 was around 5,814 MT. This was shared by PR China (46%); OECD North America (18%); OECD Europe (7%) and OECD Pacific (6%).
Currently, coal is the major fuel used for generating electricity worldwide. Countries heavily dependent on coal for electricity two years ago include: South Africa (94%); Poland (93%); PR China (81%); Australia (76%); Israel (71%); Kazakshstan (70%); India (68%);Czech Rep. (62%); Morocco (57%);Greece (55%);USA (49%); and Germany (49%).
Ms. Niki Fears, a 35 year old writer based in St. Louis, had rightly said in her article that "Those who are pushing the "clean coal" agenda do not mention the fact that all of the methods that they are using to reduce emissions do not change the fact that mining and transporting coal is still a very dirty, and very dangerous business.
"The coal industry and coal mines pose a variety of dangers to people from both a structural stand point as well as the production and release of pollution causing agents. Coal mines can be incredibly unstable, release hazardous amounts of methane and produce coal dust that gets inhaled by workers causing serious, life threatening health problems such as black lung. It is important to remember the coal comes from deep beneath the earth which means that in order for it to end up in your local power plant, someone has to go down there, loosen the coal from the rock that it has been embedded in for thousands upon thousands of years, and transport it to the surface. This involves creating artificial tunnels that often lead miles beneath the surface of the earth. This poses substantial risk to mine integrity and can lead to the type of cave-ins and other tragedies you often see on the news."
"Additionally, digging these tunnels also exposes open pockets of methane, which is one of the most serious greenhouse gases, is highly explosive, and can be quite deadly. The environment in which miners are forced to work is not only extremely dangerous but endanger the miners' health leading to a number of fatal diseases, the most commonly known of which is black lung (also known as Coal Worker's pneumoconiosis) which is directly caused by exposure to coal dust which build up in the lungs of miners working with coal. Even when precautionary measures are taken, such as wearing a mask, it can not prevent coal dust from entering the lungs. This deadly dust then settles in the lungs and can block air passages. In the past 10 years, black lung disease alone has claimed the lives of over 10,000 coal workers. There is no cure for coal worker's pneumoconiosis."
"A symptomatic version of this disease may be found in nearly everyone living in urban settings where coal is burned. A recent study performed by in partnership by the WVU Institute for Health Policy Research and Washington State University showed that people merely living in coal mining communities with no direct contact with the mines themselves, were at higher risk for kidney disease and chronic lung and heart diseases. In fact they were found to be 70 times as likely to develop kidney disease and 64 times as likely to develop chronic lung diseases such as emphysema. Death rates in coal mining communities are higher than in other parts of the country, even among non-mine workers.
This trend of poor health is not only felt by communities that mine coal, but by those who use coal burning plants as well. The Less Coal group in Utah contributes $4-$6 Billion worth of medical costs imposed on the state due to the air pollution caused by coal and are working to take measures to reduce coal burning in their state and restore a healthier environment with cleaner air by eliminating coal burning power plants and factories. And, burning coal indoors has proven to be quite deadly as many communities around the world, such as China, are experiencing.
Considering the amount of pollution released by the production and use of coal and the deadly effects that it is having on our planet and our health, it is becoming clear that there can be nothing clean about such a dirty and deadly product. Clean coal is just a green packaging for a fossil fuel that is polluting our environment, making us sick, and killing thousands of us every year. Considering that there are safe, clean, and renewable sources of energy available, you have to ask yourself if maintaining the status quo with energy is really worth the price we are paying for it with our health and our lives?"
Let us hear what Wikipedia has to say about mining and burning the coal:
There are a number of adverse environmental effects of coal mining and burning, specially in power stations. These effects include: (1) Release of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, which causes climate change and global warming according to the IPCC. Coal is the largest contributor to the human-made increase of CO2 in the air; (2) Generation of hundred of millions of tons of waste products, including fly ash, bottom ash, flue gas desulfurization sludge, that contain mercury, uranium, thorium, arsenic, and other heavy metals; (3) Acid rain from high sulfur coal; (4) Interference with groundwater and water table levels; (5)Contamination of land and waterways and destruction of homes from fly ash spills such as Kingston Fossil Plant coal fly ash slurry spill; (6) Impact of water use on flows of rivers and consequential impact on other land-uses; (7) Dust nuisance; (8) Subsidence above tunnels, sometimes damaging infrastructure.
Coal-fired power plants without effective fly ash capture are one of the largest sources of human-caused background radiation exposure. Coal-fired power plants shorten nearly 24,000 lives a year in the United States, including 2,800 from lung cancer. Coal-fired power plant releases emissions including mercury, selenium, and arsenic which are harmful to human health and the environment.
In coal the carbon content is between 92% and 98%. Coal when burned at power stations emits CO2 around 227 Lbs. of Carbon dioxide per million British thermal units (Btus) of energy or in simpler terms coal emits around 1.7 times as much carbon per unit of energy when burned. Coal contains about 80 percent more carbon per unit of energy than gas does, and oil contains about 40 percent more. For the typical U.S. household, a metric ton of carbon equals about 10,000 miles of driving at 25 miles per gallon of gasoline or about one year of home heating using a natural gas-fired furnace or about four months of electricity from coal-fired generation.
The World Bank (WB) is spending billions of pounds subsidising new coal-fired power stations in developing countries despite claiming that burning fossil fuels exposes the poor to catastrophic climate change. The bank, which has a goal of reducing poverty and is funded by Britain and other developed countries, calls on all nations to "act differently on climate change". While the WB says that the world must reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, it is also funding several giant coal-burning plants that will each emit millions of tons of carbon dioxide a year for the next 40 to 50 years.
Britain is contributing 400 million to a World Bank fund that claims to support "clean technology" but is financing coal power plants. The bank's World Development Report says: "Developing countries are disproportionately affected by climate change -- a crisis that is not of their making and for which they are the least prepared. Increasing access to energy and other services using high-carbon technologies will produce more greenhouse gases, hence more climate change."
The report says that between 75 and 80 per cent of the damage caused by climate change through drought, floods and rising sea levels will happen in developing countries. It calls on richer nations, including Britain, to increase the amount that they spend on helping developing countries to adapt to climate change.
According to Marianne Fay, the bank's chief economist for sustainable development, coal was and is the cheapest and most secure way to deliver electricity to the 1.6billion people without it. She said: "There are a lot of poor countries which have coal reserves and for them it's the only option. The bank's policy is to continue funding coal to the extent that there is no alternative and to push for the most efficient coal plants possible. Frankly, it would be immoral at this stage to say, 'We want to have clean hands, therefore we are not going to touch coal'."
Tim Jones, policy officer of the World Development Movement, which campaigns to reduce poverty, said: "The World Bank is acting in the interests of Western countries and companies and not in the long-term interests of the world's poor.
It is an absolute disgrace that money meant for clean technologies will actually be used for building new coal power stations. Every pound of green aid that will be spent on funding coal power through the World Bank is money that should be spent on supporting renewable energy in developing countries.
This endorse the truth that 'you can not practice what you preach'!
According to James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and the first scientist to warn the US Congress of the dangers of climate change, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air has already risen to a dangerous level. The pre-industrial carbon dioxide amount was 280 parts per million (ppm). Humans, by burning coal, oil and gas, have increased this to 385 ppm; it continues to grow by about 2 ppm per year.
Earth, with its four-kilometre-deep oceans, responds only slowly to changes of carbon dioxide. So the climate will continue to change, even if we make maximum effort to slow the growth of carbon dioxide. Arctic sea ice will melt away in the summer season within the next few decades. Mountain glaciers, providing fresh water for rivers that supply hundreds of millions of people, will disappear - practically all of the glaciers could be gone within 50 years - if carbon dioxide continues to increase at current rates. Coral reefs, harbouring a quarter of ocean species, are threatened.
The greatest danger hanging over our children and grandchildren is initiation of changes that will be irreversible on any time scale that humans can imagine. If coastal ice shelves buttressing the west Antarctic ice sheet continue to disintegrate, the sheet could disgorge into the ocean, raising sea levels by several metres in a century. Such rates of sea level change have occurred many times in Earth's history in response to global warming rates no higher than those of the past 30 years. Almost half of the world's great cities are located on coastlines.
The most threatening change, from Mr. Hansen's perspective, is extermination of species. Several times in Earth's history, rapid global warming occurred, apparently spurred by amplifying feedbacks. In each case, more than half of plant and animal species became extinct. New species came into being over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. But these are time scales and generations that we cannot imagine. If we drive our fellow species to extinction, we will leave a far more desolate planet for our descendants than the world we inherited from our elders.
Clearly, if we burn all fossil fuels, we will destroy the planet we know. Carbon dioxide would increase to 500 ppm or more. We would set the planet on a course to the ice-free state, with sea level 75 metres higher. Climatic disasters would occur continually. The tragedy of the situation, if we do not wake up in time, is that the changes that must be made to stabilise the atmosphere and climate make sense for other reasons. They would produce a healthier atmosphere, improved agricultural productivity, clean water and an ocean providing fish that are safe to eat.
Fossil-fuel reservoirs will dictate the actions needed to solve the problem. Oil, of which half the readily accessible reserves have already been burnt, is used in vehicles, so it's impractical to capture the carbon dioxide. This is likely to drive carbon dioxide levels to at least 400 ppm. But if we cut off the largest source of carbon dioxide - coal - it will be practical to bring carbon dioxide back to 350 ppm, lower still if we improve agricultural and forestry practices, increasing carbon storage in trees and soil.
Coal is not only the largest fossil fuel reservoir of carbon dioxide, it is the dirtiest fuel. Coal is polluting the world's oceans and streams with mercury, arsenic and other dangerous chemicals. The dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is the pretence that they are working on "clean coal" or that they will build power plants that are "capture-ready" in case technology is ever developed to capture all pollutants.
Before concluding, let me reiterate the facts that the trains carrying coal to thermal power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death and worst than Adolf Hitler's Nazi gas chambers.