The Cost of Coal

Cattenom nuclear plant“Cattenom nuclear plant” by Toucanradio is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 Every day, the average coal-based power plant consumes about 9000 metric tons of coal. This is equal to a full train pulling 90 cars with 10 tons of coal in each car. That amount of coal burning releases about 5,720 pounds of CO2 per short ton or for a full day of burning releases collectively  51480000 pounds of CO2 and for an entire year, 18790200000 pounds are released for a full year worth of coal. The effect of coal use on the environment is more than just large amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, it also takes up large amounts of land, causes soil erosion, flooding, and creates large quantities of dust pollution. While coal isn’t the most used energy source in the U.S, it does release the most CO2 when it is burned. Coal makes up only about 17% of the U.S energy sources.

In the U.S, there are 853 open coal mines currently in operation that turned out 896,941 tons in 2015. Each ton of coal from a coal mine sells for an average of 35$ depending on the quality. This cost of mining and selling coal yields less of a profit than natural gas which has resulted in natural gas quickly replacing burning coal for energy.

Natural gas produces 35% of the current power in the U.S power generation sector, this isn’t even including industrial, residential, commercial sectors. The mining of natural gas is a lot like oil, the company drills deep into the ground into a natural gas pocket. Then, they cool the gas as to turn it into a liquid, they then suck the liquid up through a series of pipes and store it into large tanks or other storage devices. This process also takes up less space compared to a coal mine that requires the clearing of trees and plants to build a mine. Using natural gas over coal has a drastic impact on the environment and reduces the amount of CO2 released greatly.