Fossil Fuels: Coal
Can coal provide our energy when the oil runs out?
Official figures for coal reserves imply that there is enough coal worldwide to provide fuel for power stations for 150-200 years. However these figures have been disputed - see News Flash right.
Additionally, coal is not without its own problems.
- Carbon capture processes would be needed to enable coal fired power stations to operate without releasing greenhouse gases.
- The world's transport systems are not able to use coal. It can be made into a synthetic oil, but this is expensive.
- Coal can only be used if it can be dug up and moved to where it is needed. Unlike oil, it cannot flow through pipelines. It requires powerful mining equipment and a whole network of transport machinery, all of which require oil to function. So if oil becomes scarce and expensive, coal may become more pricey too.
Coal is the most polluting type of fossil fuel. As well as releasing carbon dioxide, the smoke from burning coal contains sulphur dioxide. When mixed with moisture in the air it can fall as acid rain. SO2 pollution from coal fired power stations is blamed for causing the death of many forests worldwide.
Pollution and wealth