Archive for the ‘Coal’ Tag

King Coal, The Good The Bad And The Deadly

coalCoal fired power stations are a major cause of CO2 pollution in the UK and have become the focus of demonstrations against its use. Unfortunately the country has no alternative at present but to keep burning the black stuff as it forms an important part of our power generation capacity. In fact coal played an important role in the industrial revolution that brought prosperity to the developed world and drove the shift in the population from the countryside to the cities.

Although carbon capture technology may reduce the pollution caused by burning coal its use in the future will probably decline in the developed world as we need to significantly reduce our carbon output. It’s a strange coincidence that the substance that fuelled the industrial revolution and, if left unchecked could doom humans to a hot watery grave, may have been responsible for an environmental disaster in the past.

Its now thought that around 250 million years ago, when some 70% of known species were wiped out, the mass burning of coal deposits due to volcanic activity made the planet’s environment hostile with a sudden increase in CO2 and the acidifying the oceans. Its thought this all happened in a very short time scale, in geological terms, something which could to be happening at an equally fast pace today.

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From The Winter Of Discontent To A Winter Of Disconnections

Last autumn concerns were expressed over the security of Britain’s energy supplies. We now hear the country’s gas reserves are down to just four days. If the cold weather of January and February returns the lights could start going out. The limitations of north sea gas were known from the start and a decision was taken not to allow gas to be used for electricity generation. This would protect a value resource for as long as possible. Then came the fight with the coal industry and the scene was set for a show down with employees in the power industry. Its somewhat apt that the media is full of reports and articles about the coal strike and the role of the Government in beating the NUM and reducing the coal industry to three scuttles and a small bunker.

The loss of coal generation and the growing concern about acid rain, pollution and the problems of nuclear power and the cost of decommissioning old reactors eventually resulted in the government changing the rules. Power stations could be fuelled by gas and now 37% of our electricity is produced this way. Instead of investing in renewable and sustainable energy sources we went for the quick and easy solution and squandered the gas reserves. We also failed to plan ahead and invest in the harder solutions of alternative energy and energy conservation.

Now we face the same bleak future as most other European countries, although they have taken steps to ensure they have significantly larger reserves. We will depend on imports from countries in Eastern Europe and the former USSR. The tables have turned.