It is no doubt that coal energy has benefitted human society with innovative technology throughout the recent centuries. There has been an obvious price to pay, however, as civilizations continued to use more and more coal-burning factories for their necessities. The natural environment has become an expense as a result of coal-burned energy. Ecosystem services decline as urban development increases. And development depends upon a vast amount of different resources, the most important resource being fuel.
Mark Twain once said, “And what is a man without energy? Nothing – nothing at all.” Coal is a precious finite resource; it’s a geological gift from the earth. I certainly would not have published this blog on the internet if it were not for human civilization’s ability to harness energy from these rocks of carbon and start a technological revolution. Mark Twain also said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” While I agree with this quote in its entirety, please emit its second clause for what I am about to conclude. Too much coal is without a doubt cruel for the environment and human health. Water becomes poisoned, air becomes polluted, and biological health becomes endangered. Burning coal releases CO2 into the air which contributes to global warming. Coal also emits a medley of other chemicals and particulate matter that can gravely affect the health of humans and many different ecosystem services.
Today in class, we weighed the pros and cons of renewable energies. Solar, wind, and hydroelectrical power can create negative environmental impacts like that of coal-burning power plants. Hydroelectrical plants release methane into the air as river beds alter and water becomes reservoired. The rare earth materials that make up solar panels are haphazardly mined and go through a very tedious process to become photovoltaic cells. Wind power takes hectares of space to become as efficient as fossil fuel burning plants. Our class’s conclusion was that ecological change is a given when attempting to harness renewable energy, however, the impacts are not as dastardly as fossil fuel energy.
One of the Chinese professors told our class that China will continue to use coal as an energy source simply because China is a very poor country. Meanwhile another professor told us that ~20 nuclear power plants are being built in China… I do not think money is a problem for the country of China. The largest hydroelectrical dam in the world was also constructed in China this past decade – the Three Gorges Dam. Despite mass environmental degradation and the relocation of 2 million people, the Chinese government was adamant about finishing the Three Gorges Dam project. I simply cannot believe that China is too poor of a country; it is a bad excuse for the continuation of coal-burned energy.