Advantages and Disadvantages of Coal

Join us as we assess the advantages and disadvantages of coal as a source of energy in a bid to determine whether its use for power generation is in our best interest or not.
ScienceStruck Staff
Coal, Mineral
Coal has been used by man since ages. Over the course of time, its popularity has increased leaps and bounds, and a large part of the credit for this goes to the numerous advantages that it boasts of. The inability of alternative sources to establish themselves and the high infrastructure of oil and natural gas production have also contributed to the current status of coal as one of the major sources of power.

Coal - Advantages and Disadvantages

Regardless of which source of energy it is, we need to take its advantages and disadvantages into consideration to determine whether it is a reliable or not. Such assessment also comes handy when it comes to the issue of replacing conventional sources of energy with the modern ones.

Advantages
Among the exhaustible sources of energy, coal is one of the most abundant source. It is also one of the most inexpensive fossil fuel as far as power generation is concerned. The electricity produced from coal is not just enormous, but much more reliable than the other forms of energy. Unlike alternative energy sources, like solar power and wind power, this source is not at all dependent on the weather. It can be safely stored and hence, it is possible to make arrangements for emergency use.

Similarly, the infrastructural requirements for processing and transportation of coal are less compared to other fossil fuels―oil and natural gas to be precise. There also exist two environmental advantages: (i) it produces a range of bi-products when burned, which can be put to use elsewhere, and (ii) it reduces our dependence on oil and natural gas―the sources which are getting exhausted at an alarming rate.

Disadvantages
As in the case of almost all the other energy sources, even coal has some drawbacks of its own. Its biggest problem is the air pollution that it causes. Numerous harmful gases, including carbon dioxide, sulfuric dioxide, and ash, are released in the environment when coal is burned to produce energy. In fact, it tends to emit twice as much CO2 than the other fossil fuels. Even coal power plants are notorious for noise pollution and environmental degradation.

The fact that the workers at the coal mines are exposed to all these forms of pollution makes them vulnerable to a range of ailments. The work process at these mines is also quite dangerous and the risk of fatalities is high. And even though we say that the coal is most abundant among fossil fuels, it doesn't mean that the coal deposits will be there forever.

The large-scale pollution attributed to coal and other fossil fuels is the biggest hindrance in their use, and thus, alternative sources are pitched as a replacement for them. There do exist some advantages of coal liquefaction and coal gasification, but they are overshadowed by the fact that they are more expensive than producing fuel from crude oil. Scientists are trying to come up with newer methods of using coal efficiently to produce energy, but it is bound to take some time to implement them at the ground level.