The coal industry has been in decline in recent years in the U.S.
However, despite an 11.4 percent decrease in 2012, coal emissions in the U.S. are expected to grow by 6.19 percent this year, as predicted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Not quite seven years ago, coal once made up 50 percent of electricity generated in the U.S. It now accounts for 38 percent.
Part of coal’s very demise over the last few years has been attributed to the lower cost of natural gas. But as energy needs and the cost of natural gas increase, coal seems a more feasible option in certain countries. The rise of emissions in the U.S., however, come not from its own consumption but rather, more so than any time since 1981, that of exportation.
U.S. exportation of coal has steadily increased and in 2012 nearly doubled from 2006, with a total exportation of 97,740 (thousand short tons). Coal consumption has been on the rise in China and India, both major importers of U.S. coal, as the population in both countries continues to swell.
But regardless of where its being employed, the increase of emissions is of great concern. Coal production involves surface mining, which disturbs more surface area than that of even underground mining. Doing so sends various toxins in the air and pollutes the soil, its damage often lasting after the power plant has closed.
To clean impurities from coalmines, large amounts of water are needed. It is often received from large bodies of water, most often lakes and rivers. This disrupts any life within the water along with any surrounding wildlife. Not to mention any living beings dependent on the water and resident aquatic life for their survival.
There is still hope for progress, as we continue to move towards renewable energy – if not by choice then by the forces of nature.
In addition, coal power plants are becoming an economical burden. Many power plants were built during and prior to the 1970s. They are not aging gracefully and it is becoming more common for parts to break. Meanwhile repairs are getting more costly.
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