Coal is a fossil fuel and has been used for decades as a major source of fuel in power stations to generate electricity and in homes to provide heat. It is one of the most commonly available sources of fuel in the world and coal seams are abundant in a multitude of geographical locations. But is coal power the energy source of the future and what are the pros and cons of coal power?
Coal is derived from the remains of primeval forests. Like oil, it is a naturally produced fuel and one that is readily available. But also like oil it generates pollution as a by-product of energy production, and this is one of the reasons why coal power has become increasingly unpopular in the last two decades. So what are the pros and cons of coal power and are there any better alternatives
What are the pros of coal power?
- Coal is extremely plentiful, which makes it an economic fuel for industrial nations all over the world. It also means that coal reserves are unlikely to run out any time soon.
- Unlike natural gas and oil, coal is a fairly inexpensive fuel to burn in power stations, which means lower energy bills for consumers.
- Coal is also a versatile fuel and can be converted into a gas or liquid form for cleaner burning, which means less environmental pollution.
- Coal is capable of generating huge amounts of electricity very cheaply.
- Coal fired power stations can be built anywhere as long as there are transport links to supply the necessary fuel.
- Coal is easily transported all over the world.
What are the cons of coal power?
- Whilst the supply of coal is currently perceived to be plentiful, ultimately it is still a non-renewable fuel source and at some point in the future, accessible coal reserves will start to run out and we will be forced to mine less accessible and more dangerous reserves of coal. As such, environmentalists are keen that we move away from fossil fuels such as coal and start concentrating more on renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power.
- One of the biggest disadvantages of coal power is that like other fossil fuels, there is serious air pollution concerns related to coal power. Coal fired power stations are responsible for the release of huge amounts of sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which in turn is a major contributory factor in global warming and acid rain contamination.
- The emissions from coal fired power stations have also been linked to various long term health problems in those living and working in the vicinity of the power stations. Coal power emissions are thought to be responsible for higher levels of respiratory diseases such as asthma and, more seriously, lung cancer.
- Coal mining is a dangerous activity and millions of people are killed or affected by ill health every year in the pursuit of coal.
- Coal mining destroys the local habitat.