After reading a very interesting article over at Scientific American, I quickly realized that the coal fired process to produce electricity for over 50% of the US is even worse for the environment than I thought.
Coal combustion is the biggest polluter in the US and is responsible for the largest amounts of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. The coal industries’ toxic emissions are responsible for over 30,000 deaths due to health related problems. You thought that was bad, now it has been discovered that fly ash, the waste product of the coal industry, is more radioactive than the waste from a nuclear facility.
Scientist discovered that coal has small trace amounts of radioactive materials, which in its natural form, is not a big deal. However, when the coal is burned, all of those radioactive elements are not burned, but concentrated into the fly ash. The scientist believe that the amount of radioactivity is nothing to get alarmed about, except for the people who live close to the coal facilities. Unfortunately, these are the individuals who are truly affected by the fly ash as it makes its way into the water and food sources for those neighboring cities.
I believe that this recent development should make us push even harder for alternative forms of electricity. The Scientific American article was obviously pushing for nuclear energy although I am not totally sold on nuclear as the costs (material and capital) are way to high making it not very feasible. I still believe that solar is the answer to our energy problems in America, with the most recent price drops, solar is now cheaper than coal, so what are we waiting for?