Coal: Advantages and Disadvantages of Coal Energy

During the 17th Century, coal energy became the heart of Industrial Revolution. It marked the transition from organic economy to mineral resources hungry economy. Coal became the primary source of energy for households and industries in equal measure. With its easy availability and low cost no one felt the need to think of its alternatives.
But now in the 21st Century, human race has woken up to the hazards of Global Warming, depleting mineral resources and need to cut down carbon emissions. Coal, though still a predominant energy source around the world but researchers and policy makers have started pushing for alternatives.
Today I will be discussing various advantages and disadvantages of using coal as an energy source.

Advantages of Coal Energy 

1) Availability and ease of transporting: Coal reserves are available across the world in most of the countries. Energy intensive industries get their requirements fulfilled even if they are located away from the mining site.
2) Affordable and stable prices: Unlike other energy resources, coal is still the cheapest mineral. Also unlike other mineral, its prices in open market remains more or less stable, thus its usage is a lesser volatile proposition for industries.
3) Easily scalable: You can have a 200MW thermal plant as well as a huge 20,000 MW plant. It is easy to make coal plants of different sizes for power generation.
4) Easy to Burn: Coal has a high calorific value thus we get most energy by burning a smaller quality of coal as compared to other sources.
5) Low capital investment required: Unlike wind or solar energy generation facilities, Coal mines and extracting coals is a cheaper alternative.
6) No Politics please: Unlike crude oil, coal reserves are available in all continents thus you don’t have bodies like OPEC dictating terms regarding its production.
7) Safer as compared to nuclear energy: The safety precautions required to operate coal plant are way less stringent compared to nuclear plants (which is being touted as an alternative).
8) No dependence on climatic conditions: Unlike wind, solar or hydro-energy, one is not dependent on existing climatic conditions for mining coal.
9) Liquidation and gasification of coal is cleaner alternative as compared to solid coal.

Disadvantages of Coal Energy

1) Dangerous mining conditions: Coal mines have often been recognized as the worst places to work in. Threat of explosions and high temperatures make it really hard place to work. Deaths in these places have been reported in developing as well as developed nations.
2) Deforestation and Habitat erosion: Digging mines ruins forest lands and habitats of wildlife animals. Biodiversity and ecosystem of area takes a beating.
3) Mining process leads to pollution: Biodiversity apart, mining also leads to soil, water and air pollution.
4) Carbon emission: Coal plants are characterized by high carbon emissions which have a negative impact on environment. Emissions of harmful gases like Sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide etc. make areas around the plant inhabitable for healthy living.
5) Coal is a non-renewable source: Although widely available at present, but coal deposits are depleting fast and the future generations can’t rely on this alone.

Although coal was the fuel of 20th Century but the present and future generations need to find safer, greener and renewable alternative to it.

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