Is “Clean Coal” an Oxymoron when it comes to Health Impacts from Coal Power Generation?


The Unpaid Health Bill – how coal power plants make us sick(46 page pdf, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL),  March 2013)

Also discussed here: Air pollution: Europe’s avoidable health risk(1 page pdf, Lancet, Mar. 16, 2013)

Today we review a report that calls for an end to coal powered plants in the EU by 2040, although the same reasons for doing so apply elsewhere, particularly in the United States, because of the impact of coal power emissions not only on human health, but also on the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from carbon sources as soon as possible to mitigate climate change. Over 18,000 premature deaths/year in the EU can be linked to coal emissions which make up 20% of the GHG emissions for Europe. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology, touted as the vanguard of “clean coal”, is found to have even more emissions of NO2 with lower SO2.

coal health

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE

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2 Responses

  1. When coal is used as a fuel source, the gaseous emissions generated by the thermal decomposition of the coal include sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, and other chemical byproducts that vary depending of the type of the coal being used. These emissions have been established to have a negative impact on the environment, contributing to acid rain and climate change. As a result, clean coal technologies are being developed to remove or reduce pollutant emissions to the atmosphere. Some of the techniques that would be used to accomplish this include chemically washing minerals and impurities from the coal, gasification (see also IGCC ), treating the flue gases with steam to remove sulfur dioxide , carbon capture and storage technologies to capture the carbon dioxide from the flue gas and dewatering lower rank coals ( brown coals ) to improve the calorific value , and thus the efficiency of the conversion into electricity .

    • thanks for your comments. When the techniques “being developed” deliver results under operational conditions, the suspicions that exist will dissipate – and I accept that SO2 emissions have decreased since the time that reducing acid rain was a top priority but for carbon dioxide capture remains an unproven technology does it not?

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