Coal Power Plants
Coal power plants, according to the EPA (environmental protection agency), are the cause of the worst air pollution. Brown coal emits double the greenhouse gases of black coal. Coal power plants are major emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG), which according to a consensus of scientific organizations are a major contributor to global warming observed over the last 100 years, second only to cars. Brown coal emits 3 times as much GHG as natural gas. Efforts exist to use carbon capture and storage of emissions but these are not expected to be available on a commercial scale until 2025 – and therein lies the problem – and it’s a big one.
Power Demands Are Predicted To Rise
While we wait for the implementation of pollution reduction technology, the world's power demands are predicted to rise 60% by 2030. With the worldwide total of active coal power plants over 15,000 and rising, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that fossil fuels will account for 85% of the energy market by 2030. Coal accounts for about half of electricity production in the United States. In 2006, there were 1,493 coal power plants across the U.S. Today there are over 2,200. The Chinese currently have 2,000 coal power plants, and are building one new plant a week in an effort to keep up with demand. In many Chinese cities, the sun can barely be seen through the smog on most days. Chinese coal power plants are causing an environmental disaster on an unprecedented scale.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, coal power plants are one of the biggest contributors to atmospheric pollution and climate change. Pollutants that travel for thousands of miles across state lines and even the borders of neighboring countries. These particulates cause a phenomenon known, as “acid rain” which scientists have concluded is responsible for the slow death of native tree species including Sugar and Red Maple.
What About Clean Coal?
So-called, clean coal is not clean at all; it's simply a nice sounding name created by the PR departments of coal companies to describe additional processes that marginally reduce pollution.
Planting trees is one of the most affordable and best ways to reduce particulates from burning coal. Trees sequester carbon particulates in their wood and release oxygen into the surrounding atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis.
Some of the best pollution tolerant trees include black maple, American beech, flowering dogwood, black tupelo and Douglas fir, which can absorb 110 times its needle area in carbon dioxide.
Planting trees would cost a fraction of the millions spent on fines and pollution reduction equipment. Further, some of the pollutants exhausted by the plant such as carbon dioxide, are beneficial to the trees growing near the plant.
The urgency of climate change has prompted many coal power plants to consider greener solutions to a growing problem. Planting tall tree seedlings would create a forest canopy in short order, which would help mitigate coal plant pollution without any negative economic impact to the plant.