Did you know that nearly half of the electricity generated in the United States comes from the burning of coal? The use of fossil fuels like coal to create electricity contributes to pollution and asthma rates, as well as global warming.
Non Renewable Energy
Coal is collected mostly through a process called strip mining. This process is also known as mountain top removal. Explosives are used to blow up mountains and then the coal is processed, leaving behind slurry waste sites which contaminate ground water. The coal is then burned in a power plant. The exhaust from the burning leads to air pollution, acid rain and increased asthma rates.
Natural gas is extracted through a process called fracking. Deep wells are drilled then water and hazardous chemicals are pumped into the ground to bring up the gas. The toxic waste has been known to seep into groundwater supplies. The gas is then burned to heat water for steam. Natural gas is a fossil fuel. Approximately 20% of the nation’s electricity is fueled by natural gas.
Petroleum is used to make steam to turn a turbine. Petroleum also generates about 2% of all electricity in U.S. It is also used to create gasoline which runs cars and trucks. The combustion of gas and other petroleum products leads to the release of carbon monoxide (CO), greenhouse gasses and other air pollutants.
Nuclear power uses a method called nuclear fision which creates steam by heating water. In a nuclear power plant, a reactor contains a core of nuclear fuel known as uranium. When atoms of uranium fuel are hit by neutrons they split, releasing heat. The heat is used to turn water into steam that spins a turbine to generate electricity. Nuclear power is used to generate 19% of all the country’s electricity. It is dangerous and creates nuclear waste bi-products. There is no way to safely store or dispove of this nuclear waste. There are also large environmental impacts from the mining of uranium.
Hydro-power is the source for almost 7% of U.S. electricity generated. In this process, flowing water is used to spin a turbine connected to a generator. Pressure to the turbine blades produce electricity. It does not create toxic waste or air pollution but can harm populations of fish if not properly planned.
Geothermal power comes from heat energy buried beneath the surface of the earth. This is clean energy and does not produce pollution or hurt ecosystems.
Solar power is derived from the energy of the sun. It does not create harmful pollution or damage ecosystems. Less than 1% of the nation’s electricity is based on solar power.
Wind power is created when the wind turns blades like a pin-wheel and this turns a wind turbine creating electricity. Wind power is used for less than 1% of the nation’s electricity and is a rapidly growing source of electricity.
Biomass includes wood, garbage, and farm waste, such as corncobs and wheat straw. These sources replace fossil fuels in a boiler. The burning of wood and waste creates steam that is typically used in conventional steam-electric plants. Biomass accounts for about 1% of the electricity generated in the United States.