CHAPTER 23 COAL
BRINGING DOWN
THE MOUNTAIN
In the rubble, the true cost of coal
23
BRINGING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN
In the rubble, the true cost of coal
Main
Concept
Coal plays a major role as
an energy source around
the world.
Despite efforts to reduce
the health and
environmental risks
associated with burning
coal, the impact of mining
operations will continue as
long as we use coal.
Spruce No. 1 mine
West Virginia
23
BRINGING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN
In the rubble, the true cost of coal
Learning
Outcomes
At the end of this unit you
should know:
The importance of coal as a
global energy source
Methods associated with
extracting coal and using it
to generate electricity
The role of technology in
reducing negative impacts
Spruce No. 1 mine
West Virginia
23
BRINGING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN
In the rubble, the true cost of coal
Case Study: Coal mining in
Appalachia
Background: Surface mining for coal
involves blasting off several hundred
feet of mountaintop and dumping the
rubble nearby before extracting the
coal below.
TERMS TO KNOW:
Coal
Mountaintop
removal
Energy
Fossil fuels
Electricity
23
BRINGING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN
In the rubble, the true cost of coal
Mining operations have claimed nearly a
million acres of forested mountain, across
four states—Kentucky, West Virginia,
Virginia, and Tennessee.
There is still more to come as the coal
industry moves ahead supplying our
primary energy source for electricity
production.
TERMS TO KNOW:
Coal
Mountaintop
removal
Energy
Fossil fuels
Electricity
23
Coal is an important fossil fuel energy source
Energy – Capacity to do work
Fossil fuels – Non-renewable
carbon-based resources
Heat and cool homes
Operate cell phones
Power lamps and laptops
Fuel our cars
Power our industry
1 pound of coal = electricity for ten 100-watt bulbs
for an hour or an energy-efficient refigerator for 20
hours
The United States uses about
1 billion tons of coal per year.
A U.S. family of four uses about 9000 lbs per year.
40% of electricity worldwide
and 45% in the United States
comes from coal.
Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROEI): Coal
8:1, oil 15:1, nuclear 6:1, and wind 20:1
1,000,000,000 x 2000
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Coal is an important fossil fuel energy source
The most common way to generate
electricity is by heating water to
produce steam.
1 pound of coal = electricity for ten 100-watt bulbs for an hour
23
Coal is an important fossil fuel energy source
The most common way to generate
electricity is by heating water to
produce steam.
1 pound of coal = electricity for ten 100-watt bulbs for an hour
23
Coal is an important fossil fuel energy source
The most common way to generate
electricity is by heating water to
produce steam.
1 pound of coal = electricity for ten 100-watt bulbs for an hour
23
Coal is an important fossil fuel energy source
The most common way to generate
electricity is by heating water to
produce steam.
1 pound of coal = electricity for ten 100-watt bulbs for an hour
23
Coal is an important fossil fuel energy source
The most common way to generate
electricity is by heating water to
produce steam.
1 pound of coal = electricity for ten 100-wat
23
Coal is an important fossil fuel energy source
Coal has shaped waves of progress
from the United Kingdom to the
United States and now into China.
Economies have increased, but so
have health impacts through the use
of coal. Black lung, birth defects, etc.
Coal is the main fossil fuel
source used to produce
electricity, but its role is
slowly being reduced as use
of renewable fuels increases.
23
Coal forms over millions of years
TERMS TO KNOW:
Energy return on energy investment
(EROEI)
Formation of the Appalachian
Mountains was the last and
greatest of the events that joined
all of the world’s land into one
super-continent a few million years
before the dinosaurs.
23
Coal forms over millions of years
TERMS TO KNOW:
Energy return on energy investment
(EROEI)
Coal is formed over long periods
of time as plant matter is buried
in an oxygen-poor environment
and subjected to high heat and
pressure. Today, these areas are
called coal reserves.
23
Coal forms over millions of years
TERMS TO KNOW:
Energy return on energy investment
(EROEI)
Coal is formed over long periods
of time as plant matter is buried
in an oxygen-poor environment
and subjected to high heat and
pressure. Today, these areas are
called coal reserves.
23
Coal forms over millions of years
TERMS TO KNOW:
Energy return on energy investment
(EROEI)
Coal is formed over long periods
of time as plant matter is buried
in an oxygen-poor environment
and subjected to high heat and
pressure. Today, these areas are
called coal reserves.
23
One ton of
extracted coal
leaves seven tons
of overburden.
TERMS TO KNOW:
Energy return on
energy investment
(EROEI)
Overburden
Coal forms over millions of years
23
Coal forms over millions of years
Tectonic upheaval, deep and
rapid burying of organic
material, and slow
compaction into coal has been
repeated around the globe.
Europe holds about 36% of
the world’s reserves, another
30% in Asia, and a little more
than 28% in North America.
Coal recovery in the
Appalachian beds was easy
150 years ago, but now,
extraction methods have
become more destructive, as
minable coal becomes harder
to reach.
Hobet 21 has claimed at least 12,000
acres of land. Clear-cutting, drilling,
and blasting have left some 80
million tons of overburden each year.
23
Mining comes with a set of serious trade-offs
TERMS TO KNOW:
Surface mining
Subsurface mines
Acid mine drainage
Mountaintop removal
After clear-cutting forests,
drilling into the sides of the
mountains, and blasting what
remained….
The process was repeated until
the neighboring valleys were
filled with overburden and the
forest habitat was obliterated
and streams were buried.
23
Mining comes with a set of serious trade-offs
TERMS TO KNOW:
Surface mining
Subsurface mines
Acid mine drainage
Surface mining
After clear-cutting forests,
drilling into the sides of the
mountains, and blasting what
remained….
The process was repeated until
the neighboring valleys were
filled with overburden and the
forest habitat was obliterated
and streams were buried.
23
Mining comes with a set of serious trade-offs
Surface mining - In strip mining, overburden is set aside and used to refill the
pit left by mining the coal before moving on to the next strip.
Subsurface mining – Methane is released, acidifying water, toxins leach from
surrounding rocks, sulfates produce acid drainage; it affects everything from
nutrient cycles to the entirety of the local food web. Up side: less alteration to
large surface areas and more jobs.
23
Mining comes with a set of serious trade-offs
COAL DUST – Black lung disease from breathing coal dust. In
2004, there were 703 coal miner deaths from
pneumoconiosis compared to 26 from accidental death.
EXPLOSIONS AND MINE COLLAPSE – Methane gas and coal
dust are major causes of explosions. 362 miners died in the
worst mining explosion in U.S. history (1907) and 29 in a
single accident in 2010.
FIRE – Some have been burning for hundreds of years! A
mine fire in Pennsylvania has been burning since 1962 and
caused the town to be abandoned.
TOXIC FUMES – In 2006, twelve miners died from carbon
dioxide poisoning while trapped in West Virginia.
23
Surface mining brings severe environmental impacts
TERMS TO KNOW:
Environmental impact statement
Maria Gunnoe –
Goldman Environmental
Prize winner
23
Surface mining brings severe environmental impacts
Over time, mining has led
to “No Trespassing” signs,
blasting, millions of tons
of overburden, loss of
forests, soil compaction,
and more frequent and
severe flooding.
The ground can’t absorb
water and surrounding
valleys are filled with
overburden.
Flooding in 2003 nearly
swallowed up the town of
Bob White including
houses, barns, and
families.
Toxins fill the air and children in the area have a higher
incidence of birth defects including heart, lung, and
central nervous system disorders associated with the
fumes from blasting. Mining is linked to bioaccumulation
and biomagnification of toxins worldwide.
23
Surface mining brings severe environmental impacts
Loss of biodiversity in
aquatic systems affects
forest life and impacts
the very base of the food
web.
Increases in nitrogen and
phosphorus availability:
- Altered aquatic systems
- Eutrophication
- Increases in sulfatefeeding bacteria
- Production of toxic
hydrogen sulfide
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) –
Positive and negative impacts of any action
potentially causing environmental damage.
Dangers to the environment are similar
to those experienced around the world.
Mining operations beyond coal include
gold, copper, iron ore, and other
geological resources.
23
Surface mining brings severe environmental impacts
Mining impacts
Toxic ash, sulfates , mercury,
arsenic, lung disease, nitrogen
oxides, CO2, kidney disease,
loss of habitat,
toxic selenium, compacted soil,
increased flooding,
thermal pollution
Clean-up
potential?
23
Surface mining brings severe environmental impacts
Mining impacts
23
Can coal’s emissions be cleaned up?
Clean-up potential?
23
Can coal’s emissions be cleaned up?
Coal-burning pollutes the
environment by releasing a
wide range of toxins—sulfur,
carbon monoxide, nitrogen
oxide, carbon dioxide,
radioactive materials, and
particulate matter.
At the end of 2011,
the EPA imposed
Mercury and Air Toxic
standards that will
reduce emissions by
90% and predicted to
save $90 billion in
human health over
the first 5 years.
TERMS TO KNOW:
Carbon capture
and sequestration
(CCS)
23
Can coal’s emissions be cleaned up?
Coal-fired plants generate
tons of toxic fly ash—most is
buried in landfills or stored
in open ponds.
2008 – TVA Kingston Fossil
Plant in Tennessee – Holding
pond failed and released 1.1
billion gallons of fly ash into
nearby rivers.
Clean-up estimates are
$1.2 billion.
$1,200,000,000 TERMS TO KNOW:
before the costs of
property damage and
lawsuits are added in.
Carbon capture
and sequestration
(CCS)
23
Can coal’s emissions be cleaned up?
Externalized (health,
environmental, and
property) costs for mining
and using coal are between
$300-500 billion per year—
more than twice what
consumers actually pay.
Potential solution
Clean Coal Technology
Reduce the amount of
pollution produced by
coal by capturing
TERMS TO KNOW:
particulate matter,
Carbon capture
sulfur, and CO2.
Still doesn’t eliminate and sequestration
all toxic by-products or (CCS)
stop mining.
23
Carbon Capture and
Sequestration (CCS)
CO2 is released when coal
burns and is trapped by a
solvent before it leaves the
smokestack.
Can coal’s emissions be cleaned up?
23
Carbon Capture and
Sequestration (CCS)
CO2 is released when coal
burns and is trapped by a
solvent before it leaves the
smokestack.
A stripper separates CO2
from the solvent and
repurposes it for industry.
Can coal’s emissions be cleaned up?
23
Carbon Capture and
Sequestration (CCS)
CO2 is released when coal
burns and is trapped by a
solvent before it leaves the
smokestack.
A stripper separates CO2
from the solvent and
repurposes it for industry.
Additional CO2 is injected
deep underground into
available wells, seams, and
salt formations for longterm storage.
Can coal’s emissions be cleaned up?
23
Reclaiming closed mining sites helps repair the area but
does not restore the original ecosystem
TERMS TO KNOW:
Reclamation
Before mining
operation
The controversial process of reclamation requires that
the mined area be returned to a state close to premining conditions.
After
reclamation
23
Reclaiming closed mining sites helps repair the area but
does not restore the original ecosystem
Reclamation often involves use of alkaline materials to neutralize acids in the soil,
priority for easily planted vegetation like grass rather than native species, and
non-native loblolly pine to replace missing temperate forests.
Before mining
operation
After
reclamation
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Reclaiming closed mining sites helps repair the area but
does not restore the original ecosystem
A valley in West Virginia after mining shows none of the
original forest, ridges, or streams that were once found there.
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Appalachian Regional Reforestation
Initiative - arri.osmre.gov
Upcoming events - beyondcoal.org
PERSONAL CHOICES THAT HELP
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UNDERSTANDING THE ISSUE
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ANALYZING THE SCIENCE
23
Photo essay and another case
study about mountaintop removal
http://is.gd/ELKPBA
http://is.gd/NQMsJH
EVALUATING NEW INFORMATION
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MAKING CONNECTIONS
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