The average residential utility customer in the U.S. burns 8,753 pounds of coal per year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
What this means for you…
Ok, so you burn a lot of coal. So what? What does that mean? It means damage to the environment.
There are 2 primary vehicles through which coal impacts the environment:
- The Mines
- The Plants
We all know that coal puts some black dirty looking smoke into the air, but we rarely think about the mines. It takes a lot of effort to excavate coal from the earth (they’re a bit attached, one might say.) These are where much of the environmental damage occurs. Two primary causes would be…
Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), which sounds about as lovely as it is. Essentially when you swing pick axes at the ground looking for coal, you don’t always get it. Sometimes instead you hit rocks which contain a very fancy sounding “sulfur-bearing mineral pyrite.” Sounds like chemistry class — we won’t bore you with the details.
- Bottom line: This stuff reacts with the air and becomes a toxic compound. Then it flows into the nearby water supply, making the water poisonous and undrinkable.
Mountaintop Removal (MTR). Nope, no typos there. They literally remove the top of mountains and mine them for coal. The description is best done in photographic form:
This can cause a range of issues such as:
- Destruction of natural habitat
- Damage to water supplies
- Air pollution
The devastation from from mountaintop removal is so intense the vegetation from the region never survives. The land is then clear cut (ALL the trees are cut down). The lumber is then either sold, or worse, burned. This leads to even more damaging green house gases being released into the air.
Images like the one above are iconic in our culture and the damage we do to our planet, and for good reason. They put 381 MILLION pounds of toxins into our air EVERY YEAR. That weighs as much as almost 3 million people!!
Of the lesser known facts, coal plants are the second largest consumers of water. They are second only to agriculture. Not only that, the by-products of the water usage do a fair amount of damage as well.
Coal sludge, the waste-product generated by washing coal – the use of the water – is generally disposed of by either:
- Digging holes in the ground and filling them with coal
- Directly injecting the sludge into abandoned underground mines
In both cases, there is serious risk for water supply contamination.
See here for regulations on coal storage, and here for more ways in which coal can harm the environment.
What We Do To Help
We here at ECS Geothermal install HVAC units that use 100% renewable energy. Help us reduce waste, conserve the water supply. Let’s make the world a better place for our children.
Not only that, you can save money in the process. Our HVAC systems are the most cost effective and comfortable option available. Check out our savings calculator here to see how much you can save.
Let us help you help the environment. We’re making the world a better place, one home at a time.
Installing ground source heat pumps since 1993
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