Environmental ImpactsSee also: Environmental impact of the coal industry
The world's power demands are expected to rise 60% by 2030. In 2007 there were over 50,000 active coal plants worldwide and this number is expected to grow. In 2004, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that fossil fuels will account for 85% of the energy market by 2030.
World organizations and international agencies, like the IEA, are concerned about the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels, and coal in particular. The combustion of coal contributes the most to acid rain and air pollution, and has been connected with global warming. Due to the chemical composition of coal there are difficulties in removing impurities from the solid fuel prior to its combustion. Modern day coal power plants pollute less than older designs due to new "scrubber" technologies that filter the exhaust air in smoke stacks; however emission levels of various pollutants are still on average several times greater than natural gas power plants. In these modern designs, pollution from coal-fired power plants comes from the emission of gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide into the air.
Acid rain is caused by the emission of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. These gases may be only mildly acidic themselves, yet when they react with the atmosphere, they create acidic compounds such as sulfurous acid, nitric acid and sulfuric acid which fall as rain, hence the term acid rain. In Europe and the U.S.A., stricter emission laws and decline in heavy industries have reduced the environmental hazards associated with this problem, leading to lower emissions after their peak in 1960s.
In 2008, the European Environment Agency (EEA) documented fuel-dependent emission factors based on actual emissions from power plants in the European Union.
|Pollutant||Hard coal||Brown coal||Fuel oil||Other oil||Gas|
|Non methane organic compounds (g/GJ)||4.92||7.78||3.70||3.24||1.58|
|Particulate matter (g/GJ)||1,203||3,254||16||1.91||0.1|
|Flue gas volume total (m3/GJ)||360||444||279||276||272|
Read more about this topic: Fossil-fuel Power Station
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“We are no longer in a state of growth; we are in a state of excess. We are living in a society of excrescence.... The boil is growing out of control, recklessly at cross purposes with itself, its impacts multiplying as the causes disintegrate.”
—Jean Baudrillard (b. 1929)