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Environmental Concerns With Coal

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Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
Oil, Gas, and Coal in Our Lifetime

Increasing our use of coal would increase concern over several environmental issues. Two main environmental concerns associated with the use of coal are:

  1. Pollution, caused by emissions of contaminants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury, which affects human and environmental health

  2. Greenhouse gases, emissions of which contribute to global warming

The main legislation that applies to air pollution is the Clean Air Act (CAA). Under the CAA the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set limits on the amount of certain pollutants that can be released into the air. By using technology that either traps the pollutants before they are released into the air or that changes them into less harmful pollutants, the amount of air pollution can be controlled. Burning greater amounts of coal however, would mean that more pollutants would need to be controlled through these methods.

Burning greater amounts of coal would also release greater amounts of greenhouse gasses, especially carbon dioxide which is the main gas associated with global warming. Little legislation exists in the U.S. right now that applies to global warming. Therefore, increasing our coal use could contribute greatly to global warming and cause major environmental problems.

EXPLORE: Global Warming

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