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

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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).

(IEA, 2008)

Significantly, 77% of electricity in Australia (IEA, 2008) is produce from the combustion of coal. ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ reported that an average Australian person uses 5 tons of coal each year for electricity (Manning, 2012).

Coal is relatively inexpensive in Australia as there are high content of coal viable, and this is one of the main reason for the continuous use of coal to generate electricity (Australian Coal Association , 2011). ‘Mongbay’, an environmental science website, showed that it costs up to a maximum of 180 dollars to purchase a metric ton of coals in Australia (Butler, 2012). Thus the combustion of a metric ton of coal produces approximately 2000kWh of electricity (Department of Energy , 2000). This is equivalent to the use of electricity for up to 2000 hours (Rouse, 2006), which can supply 111 homes with power each day.

Furthermore not only is coal commercially viable throughout Australia but also viable for marketing. Due to the high quality and quantity of coal, Australia markets the coal to neighboring countries such as China. The selling price of exporting coal to China is approximately $114 per tone (Hays, 2008). The transportation of coal is also inexpensive, as coal does not require high-pressure container or airtight vessel. Thus the profit made from marketing coals goes toward services in Australia such as roads and schools.

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Since there are sharp incline of coal usage and requirement in Australia, as well as other countries demanding to purchase coal, the process of collecting coal must quickly meet this situation. Due to this, many civilians are given an opportunity to be employed to mine coal. This creates wealth to some people as an average coal miner can earn up to $65000 to $250000 per year (Fairfax, 2012).  

However, the usage of coal to produce electricity by complete combustion creates by-product such as carbon dioxide.

Australia releases approximately 399,219 metric tons of carbon dioxide each ...

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