ADVERTISEMENT

What to Do about Coal?

Cheap, plentiful coal is expected to fuel power plants for the foreseeable future, but can we keep it from devastating the environment?

1 of 7

7

Orthographic aerial photograph of the December 22, 2008 Kingston Fossil Plant coal fly ash slurry spill in Kingston, Tennessee, taken the day after the event. Note : The slate blue areas are the ash slurry that fills the retention area and covers areas to the north and east outside the breached dike.....[ More ]

Kosovo Power Plant, Obilic

Coal-burning plants also emit approximately 48 metric tons of mercury a year in America. This highly toxic element persists in the ecosystem. After transforming into methyl mercury, it accumulates in the tissues of fishes.....[ More ]

Coal plant in Ashkelon, Israel

Coal-fired power plants account for more than two thirds of sulfur dioxide and about one fifth of nitrogen oxide emissions in the U.S. Sulfur dioxide reacts in the atmosphere to form sulfate particles, which in addition to causing acid rain, contribute to fine particulate pollution, a contaminant linked to thousands of premature deaths from lung disease nationwide.....[ More ]

4

Iron hydroxide precipitate (orange) in a Missouri stream receiving acid drainage from surface coal mining. Underground mining can cause serious problems on the surface. Mines collapse and cause land subsidence, damaging homes and roads.....[ More ]

3

Mountaintop removal coal mining in Martin County, Kentucky
Conventional coal mining, processing and transportation practices scar the landscape and pollute the water, which harms people and ecosystems.....[ More ]

2

A rescue team walks to the Sago Mine. The mine is run by the International Coal Group, which tried to rescue the 13 trapped miners after an early morning explosion on January 2, 2006. Coal mining is among the most dangerous occupations.....[ More ]

Surface coal mining in Wyoming

Despite the current popularity of the term “clean coal,” coal is, in fact, dirty. Although carbon capture and storage could prevent much carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, coal production and consumption is still one of the most destructive industrial processes.....[ More ]

risk free title graphic

YES! Send me a free issue of Scientific American with no obligation to continue the subscription. If I like it, I will be billed for the one-year subscription.

cover image Subscribe Now
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Share this Article:
Scientific American Back To School

Back to School Sale!

12 Digital Issues + 4 Years of Archive Access just $19.99

Order Now >

X

Email this Article

X