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Should the Use of Coal to Generate Electricity be Replaced by Biomass Energy?

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Introduction

Should the Use of Coal to Generate Electricity be Replaced by Biomass Energy? Coal is used as a fossil fuel to generate electricity due to its high production of energy when combust. In Australia, the quantity of coals is commercially available and inexpensive for the government to purchase to produce electricity for the country. However the use of coal produces dirty emissions, which is a great concern to the environmentalist. Coal is a carbonaceous black sedimentary rock that is solid but brittle. It is a fossil fuel, made up of mainly carbon, but consists of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, lesser amount of sulfur, and other trace of elements (RockTalk, 2005). Due to its high content in hydrocarbon, coal is easily combustible and is used as a production of electricity. To generate electricity, coal is reacted with oxygen in the combustion process and produces carbon dioxide gas and water, as well as energy; Coal + Oxygen -> Carbon Dioxide + Water + energy C(s) + O2(g) -> CO2(g) + H2O(l) (Morton, 2011) The heat energy produced is used to boil water to create water vapor. The vapor then gets forced through a high-pressure steam line, which then pushes the turbine/generator; thus the movement created from the push generates electricity (Energy, 2008). ...read more.

Middle

This makes up 1.32% emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide gas is a greenhouse gas, and is a major concern to earth as it accounts for 60% of the greenhouse effect (West). The continuous emission of carbon dioxide gas creates an elevation of increase heat within earth. This causes ice to melt and ocean level to rise, which results to coastline to recede (Juerg, 2007). Nevertheless not all by-products are of carbon dioxide, as in reality; there are incomplete combustions involved with the creation of electricity. In cases, where there is insufficient supply of oxygen during the combustion process, coal, does not get completely converted to carbon dioxide but rather other by-product such as carbon monoxide and soot. Incomplete combustion, emission of carbon monoxide C(s) + O2(g) -> CO(g) + H2O(l) Incomplete combustion, emission of soot C(s) + O2(g) -> C(s) + H2O(l) (Morton, 2011) Carbon monoxide and soot are hazardous emissions. The emission of carbon monoxide gas to the troposphere causes major concern to the environment. It is chiefly a product of volcanic activity as well as causing bushfires to occur naturally. In addition to having mixture of elements other than carbon, such as nitrogen, nitrogen oxide and other primary pollutants are also emitted to the atmosphere when coal comes to combust. ...read more.

Conclusion

This results in a carbon-negative energy source that removes carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere rather than continuously emitting it to the atmosphere (BEST). Photosynthesis removes carbon dioxide and react it with water to produce glucose and oxygen. 6H2O(l) + 6CO2(g) + Sunlight -> C6H12O6 + 6O2(g) In which the produce of photosynthesis can be combust to produce energy; C6H12O6 + 6O2(g) -> 6H2O(l) + 6CO2(g) + Energy (Morton, 2011) With biomass resources the size of the Sydney Opera House, or a large barn, it can be used as a cleaner source to generate electricity to power 500,000 Australian homes (NEED, 2011). Though this would cost millions of dollars, but emission such as carbon dioxide and other by-products such as nitrogen oxide are reduced. Nonetheless, the idea of replacing coal with biomass energy to generate electricity is inconvenient at current state. Although biomass energy reduces the emission of fouled by-product such as carbon dioxide, it still continues to produce it. Also the coal is commercially viable and the cost of purchasing coal is rather cheaper than the cost of collecting biomass resource. A metric ton of coal at a cost of $180 can generate electricity for up to 111 homes, while a Sydney Opera House size of biomass resources would only generate electricity for only 500,000 homes and that would cost Australia millions of dollars to collect the resources. ...read more.

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