In the world today, there are many talks of the use of natural resources in our everyday life. There are four major natural resources we use for energy; clean coal, solar photovoltaics, natural gas, and nuclear energy. Today we will look at the use of clean coal in the production of energy, the pros and cons of it, and why it is a necessity in the production of energy in our world today.


Pros of Clean Coal (The Quick and Simple List):

  • There is an abundant supply, mostly in countries such as the United States, Russia, China, and India
  • Clean coal does not release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
  • It is relatively inexpensive to mine and procure
  • It has continuous power, good utilization, and a high load factor (greater total output)
  • The infrastructure of the industry for coal mining is substantial and mature
  • It can be made low carbon and clean with CCS and various scrubbers
  • It can be converted into a liquid or a gas. This will allow it to burn cleaner
  • There is a relatively low capital investment
  • Coal reserves are large and will be available for the foreseeable future without raising geopolitical or safety issues
  • Indigenous coal resources enable economic development and can be transformed to guard against import dependence and price shocks
  • Coal is readily available from a wide variety of sources in a well-supplied worldwide market
  • Coal is an affordable source of energy
  • Coal does not need high pressure pipelines or dedicated supply routes; routes do not need to be protected at enormous expense
  • Coal can be easily stored at power stations and stocks can be drawn on in emergencies
  • Coal-based power is well-established and reliable
  • Coal-based power is not dependent on the weather and can be used to underpin renewable energy, particularly wind power. (Assocation)



What is Coal?

“Coal is a combustible, sedimentary, organic rock, which is composed mainly of carbon, hydrogen
and oxygen. It is formed from vegetation, which has been consolidated between other rock strata and altered by the combined effects of pressure and heat over millions of years to form coal seams. Coal is a fossil fuel and is far more plentiful than oil or gas, with around 109 years of coal remaining worldwide. Not only does coal provide electricity, it is also an essential fuel for steel and cement production, and other industrial activities.” It can be mined in multiple ways including underground or surface mining.


Coal was formed about three hundred million years ago

Clean Coal is a type of technology developed. It is used to help reduce harmful emissions and improve the efficiency of coal-burning power plants. It enables us to use our most abundant energy resource with the least amount of environmental impact to our climate. “Clean coal has a number of variations, but all of them involve stripping the CO2 out of the coal, either before or after it is burned and then capturing it. It is then either utilized for industrial purposes or for enhanced oil recovery, or else it is pressurized into a liquid form where it can be injected underground where it supposedly will stay indefinitely in a process called carbon sequestration. The overall process is called carbon capture and storage (CCS).” (John) Clean Coal Technology seeks to reduce the harsh environmental effects by using many different technologies. These technologies help to clean the coal, and to contain its dangerous emissions.

Coal is a fossil fuel composed primarily of hydrocarbons and carbons. When it is burned it releases carbon dioxide and other emissions, which you can see coming out of smoke stacks at different plants. There are different clean coal technologies to help purify the coal and reduce emissions of the harmful chemicals. These include coal washing, and wet scrubbers. Coal washing is the process of removing unwanted minerals in the coal. It mixes crushed coal with a liquid, causing the impurities to separate and settle. Wet scrubbers remove sulfur dioxide, which is a leading factor in acid rain, from the system. They do this by spraying it with limestone and water. There is also a system called gasification. This avoids burning coal all together. It uses gasification systems, which implements steam and hot air to cause a reaction in the coal that forces the carbon molecules apart.


Coal Provided more than half the electricity for three billion people- ten times the population of the United States

There are many different uses for coal depending on the grade of the coal. There are Low Rank Coals and Hard Coal, which each has subcategories of different coals within it. Each of the different types of coals has a different use. The most significant uses for coal are in electricity generation, steel production, cement manufacturing, and as a liquid fuel.


Coal is classified into four main types: lignite, subbituminous, bituminous, and anthracite. The coal value is determined by the amount of carbon it contains.

“Coal accounts for forty percent of all electric generation and twenty one percent of all energy in the United States.” (Assocation)The heat from burning coal boils water. The steam produced from the boiling water spins a propeller. A machine turns this turning propeller into electricity.



Coal provided over forty percent of the power for three hundred billion e-mails, seventy five million “tweets” and the activation of three hundred fifty thousand Androids

The United States holds the world’s largest estimated recoverable reserves of coal in the world and is a net exporter of coal. The United States has roughly estimated around two hundred years of recoverable reserves of coal based on current production levels. This means that we have many years left of a prominent energy source in our country. There are twenty-five states in three major coal -producing regions in the United States that produce coal. The three regions are Western, Interior, and Appalachian. Roughly seventy percent of production comes from five states. From the Western Region, Wyoming, from the Interior Region, Illinois and Kentucky, from the Appalachian Region, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.


            In 2012, Wyoming produced four hundred and one million short tons of coal, or thirty nine percent of the coal mined in the United States. West Virginia was the second largest producer, with one hundred and twenty million short tons, which is twelve percent.


Coal is also a widely traded good across the world. There are Atlantic and Pacific Markets for exporting coal. The Atlantic market is made up of countries in Western Europe, mostly the United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain. The Pacific Market consists of mostly Asian importers, mostly Japan, Korea, and Chinese Taipei. This Pacific market currently holds about fifty seven percent of the world’s seaborne steam coal trade.


Coal provides enhanced energy security for dozens of nations across the globe


Coal is a relatively inexpensive fuel to produce, to mine, and to procure. It is inexpensive because it has an exceptionally large supply of it, and because it is relatively easy to mine. In comparison to nuclear and hydroelectric, coal power plants can be inexpensively built practically anywhere, transportation of coal is simple, and inexpensive does not require the maintenance and continual upkeep of high-pressure pipelines or extensive security when in route. It is likely to remain the most affordable fuel for power generation. The way that coal is transported to where it will be used depends on the distance to be covered. Coal transportation is generally carried out by conveyor or truck over short distances. Trains and barges are used for longer distances within domestic markets, or alternatively coal can be mixed with water to form a coal slurry and transported through a pipeline. Established rail networks typically transport supplies as well at seaborne trade. Coal is traded all over the world. It is shipped by sea to reach the Pacific and Atlantic markets. This seaborne trade has increased about seven percent each year.

Coal is truly a global industry. It is mined in over fifty countries and used in over seventy. Coal reserves are large. Reserves of coal will be available for the foreseeable future without rising geopolitical or safety issues. Since it mined in over fifty countries, it is in a distinctive position to support national and regional energy security. Coal is significantly more plentiful and much more widely and evenly dispersed of all the other fossil fuels. Compared to other fossil fuels such as oil and gas, the availability worldwide is significantly greater. These coal resources enable the progress of economic and social development throughout the world.


The coal industry also provides for many jobs not only in the United States, but around the world. Just in the past four years, under President Obama’s administration, coal industry jobs have increased a little over fifteen percent. Nationwide, the amount of employment in the coal industry is at the highest its been in fifteen years. Since coal is widely transported across the country and across the world, there are also increased jobs in exporting and the transportation of coal. There are currently around eighty-eight thousand coal mining jobs across the United States.


The Cons… or are they?

  • Coal contains the most CO2 per CTU, the largest contributor to global warming
  • Coal burning releases Sox and NOx, which both cause acid rain
  • Coal mining is the second highest emitter of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

There are quite a few negatives about coal production that cause it to be a problem in the environmental world. There are a lot of risks and environmental ramifications that can occur in the production of coal. Coal contains the most CO2 per BTU, which means it contains the most carbon dioxide per British Thermal Unit. A British Thermal Unit (BTU)is a measure of heat. There are variations of BTU in different types of coal, causing some to need more or less heat to burn. The problem with this CO2 release is that it is one of the largest contributors to global warming in our world today. While this emission of CO2 has been a problem in the past, the Clean Coal technology is helping to reduce these emissions. It minimizes the impact to the climate. By stripping ninety percent of the CO2 out of the coal, it starts to eliminate one of the major environmental problems with coal mining. Coal burning also releases SOx and NOx, which is oxides of sulphur and nitrogen. Both of these, sulphur and nitrogen oxide, can cause acid rain, which can be devastating to the environment. With the Clean Coal technology, these releases of the acid rain causing materials are reduced. The coal can be converted to a liquid or gas, which burns cleaner.


Coal could be the world’s most attractive fuel in years to come thanks to the methods of coal purification, which are resulting in more cleaner coal, removing sulfur and other dangerous elements.

One of the most dangerous parts of coal mining is the release of methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. Coal mining is the second highest emitter of methane. Clean Coal technology is also helping to reduce the emission of this as well. They do this with a form of clean coal called underground coal gasification. This is the least destructive form of clean coal. Underground coal gasification is “where coal is left in the ground and converted to gas by chemical means and then sucked up to the surface where it is burned.” “In the US, the Texas Clean Energy Project, outside Odessa, which received $450 million in DOE funding, will apply UCG, capturing 90 percent of the CO2 and then using that CO2 for enhanced oil recovery in nearby Permian Oil Basin. This approach eliminates most problems associated with coal mining, transportation and burning, leaving only the problems associated with sequestration and gas extraction to be grappled with.” This not only helps with the reduction of emissions of harmful materials, but it extracts two fossil fuels from the earth at once, coal and natural gas. This natural gas that is extracted in this process is another one of the major natural resources used in the production of energy.


There are many cons in the production and mining of coal that have environmental ramifications, but the production of Clean Coal technology is knocking down each of them one by one. The future of coal production and use is looking better and better. Not only is Clean Coal technology advancing and becoming more prominent in coal production, but the United States will start adopting policies that control or restrict the CO2 emissions. “In March 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new source performance standard for emissions of CO2 that would establish an output-based emission limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatthour for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants meeting certain generation capacity criteria. This emission limit would effectively require that new coal-fired generating units employ carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies to reduce uncontrolled emissions of CO2 by approximately 50%.”


With these new Clean Coal technologies, it makes the pros of using coal as one of our main natural resources for energy use outweigh the cons. Having an energy source that we can rely on for the significant future is important. It is a necessity in the world we live in to have natural resources like this that we can use to our advantage. By using clean coal, solar photovoltaics, natural gas, and nuclear energy for energy sources, we can use what is given to us on the Earth as viable energy sources. We each use energy in our everyday lives. We all use electricity, gas, transportation, heat and light in our homes, and for the production of products that we use in our everyday lives. All of the energy sources have their cons to them. From being non-renewable to causing select problems in the environment, we need to realize that the benefits of these energy sources outweigh the problems and disadvantages. Everything has risks involved, but with the development of technology over the past few years and in years to come, we can be optimistic about the future of energy.












Administration, U.S. Energy Information. U.S Energy Information Administration. 16 August 2013. 10 March 2014 <http://www.eia.gov/energy_in_brief/article/role_coal_us.cfm&gt;.

Assocation, World Coal. World Coal Association. 10 March 2014 <http://www.worldcoal.org&gt;.

Association, World Nuclear. World Nuclear Assocation. February 2014. March 2014 <http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/energy-and-environment/-clean-coal–technologies/ >.

“Coal Part Two: the visible carbon.” National Geographic 225.4 (2014): 51-61.

Growth of US Coal Jobs. 2012. <http://appvoices.org/resources/reports/AV_growth_of_US_coal_jobs_2013.pdf >.

Institute, World Coal. Coal: Secure Energy. 2014 <http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&ved=0CD8QFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.worldcoal.org%2Fbin%2Fpdf%2Foriginal_pdf_file%2Fcoal_energy_security_report(03_06_2009).pdf&ei=ojZQU9TVA4Kh2QX9qIGICA&usg=AFQjCNGSfuto-JZUW2ase8AYt5q5q9xhrg&bvm=bv.65058239,d.b2I >.

John. U.S. Green Chamber. 11 April 2012. 10 March 2014 <http://www.usgreenchamber.com/news/types-of-clean-energy-sources/&gt;.

Policy, Scinece nad Public. “Predictors of attitudes toward cardon capture and storage using data on world views and CCS specific attitudes.” Science and Public Policy (2014).

Reynolds, Mark. New jobs for coal miners. Newspaper. Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 2013.

Siegel, RP. Triple Pundit: people, planet, profit. 9 April 2012. 10 March 2014 <http://www.triplepundit.com/2012/04/clean-coal-pros-cons/&gt;.

“The full costs of generating electricity.” Journal of Power and Energy 228 (2014): 357-367.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s