Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Coal: Quietly powering our lives, polluting our skies

Few Americans (including Pound360 until we watched Frontline's gripping 2-hour episode, "Heat") understand how huge of a role coal plays in our lives.

According to Frontline, we rely on burning coal for 42 percent of our electricity.

Half of all rail traffic in this country is transporting coal. We burn a billion tons of it a year. It takes a pound of coal to power your TV for four hours, half-a-pound to power a light each day. When a pound of coal is burned, 1.5 - 2.8 pounds of CO2 (and who know how much sulfur and mercury) is released (
depending on the type of coal that's burned). Your household burns 9.5 tons per year.

US electricity use will jump 40 percent by 2020 (according to a coal executive interviewed on the show). So unless an alternative is discovered, we can expect that much more CO2, sulfur and mercury to pollute the atmosphere each year.

But the United States isn't the only guilty party here. China builds two new coal plants every week. Not surprisingly, they're currently
facing a serious coal crisis (which will hopefully spark some clean energy innovations).

(Image of coal courtesy United States Geological Survey)

No comments:

Pound360 Archive

About Me

My photo
I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.