Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coal and its greater possibilites

Coal is the much maligned fuel that produces over 50% of the United States total power and over 95% of Indiana's power.  It is maligned for its environmental issues whether from burning the coal for power or for the way it is mined.  Unfortunately, many of the voices being heard in this issue are making a purely ideological statement that sometimes blurs the facts.  Regardless of how you fall on these issues, the truth is coal is not going anywhere as a long term reliable source of power in the world. 

One thing quickly forgotten by some is the advancements made in both mining and the use of coal in recent years.  Coal's use for making energy  has become much more environmentally acceptable and keeping within the bounds set up by clean water and clean air policies. One figure I hear quoted is that we use 30% more coal today than 30 years ago, however, our air quality is over 30% better than it was 30 years ago.

Changes in the way coal is used such as gasification  or by changing the level of oxygen in the burn cycle has and will continue to help coal users remove impurities and to insure a quality energy maker with less risk.  Scrubbing, gasification, and burning efficiencies are expensive but we have few better solutions at the moment.  The other base load alternatives to coal like natural gas and nuclear offer good prospects but continued policies against growth in these areas keep new production at a standstill.  Renewable power has and will continue to increase in use but it won't currently and will not for a long time remove our total need for coal, nuclear, and natural gas produced power.  Bottom line is no matter what side of this debate you are on, simply using renewable energy and even aggressive energy efficiency measures will not take away the need for traditional fuel sources.  So, if one can't live without them one should live with them in better conditions.

Please take the time to find out more about alternative ways to use coal for power that promote more efficient and cleaner uses of coal.  For reference I have attached the USDOE Fossil Energy Office site.

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