Coal is a combustible sedimentary rock with high carbon and hydrocarbon levels that may adversely impact the environment. Nevertheless, this rock is a valuable energy source used to generate electricity. Therefore, to facilitate the continued use of coal, mining firms utilize clean coal technologies that help address their environmental liabilities. These clean coal technologies include carbon capture, utilization, storage (CCUS), sequestration, and gasification.
Each clean coal technology works differently in mitigating the environmental impacts of coal. For example, Yan and Zhang explain that CCUS technology mitigates the environmental impact of coal by capturing CO2 emissions from fossil power generation and storing or reusing them for other processes (1289). This clean coal technology mitigates coal’s environmental impact by preventing the CO2 emitted during coal combustion from reaching the atmosphere. Some CO2 captured by CCUS technology may be stored below the surface or used to make other materials. Sequestration may also mitigate coal’s environmental impact by capturing environmental carbon compounds and reducing its greenhouse effect (Prasad and Pietrzykowski). This technology captures CO2 emitted into the atmosphere or diverts, storing the gas in terrestrial environments. Alternative clean coal technology is gasification which entails the conversion of coal into useful gases that can be used to generate power and heat without mining coal. This technology mitigates coal’s impact by preventing its direct mining, which is closely linked to the production of CO2, an environmental pollutant.
Accounting for the Environmental Impact of Coal
An analysis of the externalities of mining coal and the cost consumers pay for coal indicates that we do not adequately account for its environmental impact. Research shows that coal has been a comparatively cheaper fuel for centuries (Owusu and Asumadu-Sarkodie 3). Consumers pay relatively low for coal compared to other non-renewable energy sources. However, the growing demand for coal-based energy is associated with rapid CO2 emissions, a global challenge (Owusu and Asumadu-Sarkodie 3). The low cost does not match coal’s negative externalities implying that we do not adequately account for coal’s environmental impact in the cost consumers pay for its products.
Owusu, Phebe Asantewaa, and Samuel Asumadu-Sarkodie. “A Review of Renewable Energy Sources, Sustainability Issues and Climate Change Mitigation.” Cogent Engineering, edited by Shashi Dubey, vol. 3, no. 1, Apr. 2016, https://doi.org/10.1080/23311916.2016.1167990.
Prasad, Majeti Narasimha Vara, and Marcin Pietrzykowski. Climate Change and Soil Interactions. Elsevier, 2020.
Yan, Jinyue, and Zhien Zhang. “Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS).” Applied Energy, vol. 235, Feb. 2019, pp. 1289–99, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2018.11.019.