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Coal Mining- For or against

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Wed Feb 08, 2012 1:23 am
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Karzkin says...

The way you see coal is the way some of the government... want you to see it.

I'm sorry, THE government? I'm Australian, mate. The Australian government (the Greens notwithstanding) loves coal (and the $36 billion it pulls in every year).

we all know that there is a good side and a bad side to everything.

True fax yo. I've seen uranium mines in the Northern Territory, dammed rivers and wind farms in the Southern Highlands, solar stations in New South Wales, and of course the coal works all up the east coast. All of these methods of producing energy have drawbacks, like flooding valleys and degrading rivers below dams, strip mining, toxic waste, etc. The thing about burning fossil fuels, however, is that the damage has a global effect, and is often catastrophic. The is no "good way" to produce energy; we can, however, choose a "less bad" method of production.
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Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:49 am
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SparkToFlame says...

I'm sorry, THE government? I'm Australian, mate.

:) I apologize. I should have said the AMERICAN Government. People like Obama, and administration.
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Sun Feb 12, 2012 9:10 pm
Kyllorac says...

Sorry to pick on you Snoink, but...

Also, I believe there were several studies done that showed the relationship between mining and water pollution? I am not well acquainted with it, but I think that mining was one of the reasons why we have so much mercury and other heavy metals in our waterways and oceans from the gold mining in California, way back in the Gold Rush (er, for foreigners, the Californian Gold Rush was back in 1849). This was using hydraulic mining. To this day, it's not safe to eat more than one fish per week from our waterways, just because otherwise you might poison yourself from the mercury.

You might find this article interesting (link to the study at the end): ... 706201.php

Basically, the study found that mercury contamination is likely due to atmospheric mercury being carried overseas by wind, rather than a domestic source.

The Chernobyl disaster was essentially an experiment to see how far you could push things gone wrong. This, and Three Mile Island, were really the worst disasters.

Three Mile Island is nowhere near the scale of Chernobyl. For one, the radiation released by the TMI accident (by the release of waste water; not from the reactor itself) never exceeded normal tolerances for radiation, and the only evidence for detrimental health effects in the region afterwards are anecdotal. There were no deaths or injuries as a result of TMI, and the reactor never went critical, which is in stark contrast to Chernobyl, which directly resulted in at least 30 deaths and 4000 indirect deaths from radiation-caused cancer (WHO estimate), though the numbers vary depending on the source from anywhere between 3-56 directly-related deaths.

In addition, TMI is ranked at 5 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, while Chernobyl and the recent nuclear disaster in Japan are both ranked at 7. Considering the scale is logarithmic, the Chernobyl and entire Fukushima disasters were both at least 100x worse overall than TMI.

That said, even though the incident in Japan was severe, no deaths have been directly attributed to it (as of yet), despite it being of equivalent magnitude to Chernobyl. I think that says a lot about our current ability to deal with nuclear disasters should they occur, as well as the reliability of the reactors that have been constructed. Out of the 54 reactors currently in Japan, only 6 suffered enough damage to leak, and only after a massive earthquake/tsunami and years of negligence.

That was steam, and while nuclear energy may not have much of a carbon footprint, we still don't have a sure-fire way to dispose of spent nuclear fuel rods. I don't think we should be using nuclear energy until we know of a safe way to dispose of the waste.

A valid point, but if we can figure out how to maintain nuclear fusion, then the waste from nuclear fission (the method we currently use to generate nuclear power) could be used to fuel fusion reactors. There's been work ongoing to figure out how to sustain the conditions needed for fusion, especially since nuclear fusion produces far more power than nuclear fission. Our sun, to give you an idea, is a giant nuclear fusion reactor, so we're already reaping the indirect benefits of nuclear fusion, especially when using solar energy.

And as you probably already guessed, I support nuclear power, and quite strongly. It's safe when handled properly, and it's beautifully efficient. The only downsides are radiation (resulting from accidents and mishandling) and the acquisition of the materials used in the reactors, which involves mining. Radiation really isn't as scary as most people believe, though, especially when handled properly. Granted, I've had a bit more experience handling radioactive materials than most. ;P

As for global warming, the earth's climate is not a static system. It never has been, and it never will be. However, to claim that human civilization has had no impact at all upon the Earth's climate is naivety bordering on willful ignorance, while to claim that humanity must regulate/"correct" the climate is hubris at its worst. We cannot predict the weather 100% accurately, much less fill in the gaps of our recorded history, much less fill in the gaps of our unrecorded history, much less understand the full extent of our planet's history and current course.

While I'm all for reducing humanity's environmental impact as much as possible, attempting to control (much less "correct") the environment and climate when we do not fully understand the ramifications of even the smallest of modifications is something I cannot agree with. Who are we to decide that one type of climate, one set of ecosystems, is the best for the planet?

And as for coal itself (to finally get back on topic), it is a reliable source of energy, and we would be foolish not to utilize it, at least, until other more environmentally-friendly alternatives are well-established and equally reliable. It will eventually run out, especially at our current rate of energy consumption, but with the exception of hydroelectric and nuclear power, alternative forms of energy are currently not reliable enough to replace our dependence on fossil fuels. They also have quite an impact on the environment, which cannot be ignored.

Alternative forms of energy will have to be more developed and reliable before we can consider phasing out coal and other fossil fuels, and while they're approaching that point, they're not quite there yet. Until then, considering most people's aversion to nuclear power, coal really can't be beat when it comes to large-scale electricity generation.
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Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:00 pm
Snoink says...

You might find this article interesting (link to the study at the end): ... 706201.php

Basically, the study found that mercury contamination is likely due to atmospheric mercury being carried overseas by wind, rather than a domestic source.

Eek. This is probably because of unclean coal being used to power their facilities. >.> Part of the power plant process means mercury does get into the air. We have stringent limits -- they probably don't.
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