What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Coal?


Quick Answer

According to Bright Hub Engineering, some pros of using coal are its reliability, affordability, abundance, safety and accessibility. Cons include the creation of greenhouse gases, destruction from mining and emission of harmful substances into the environment.

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Full Answer

Coal is the most widely used fossil fuel in power plants. Coal is readily available by mining in most of the developed and developing world. It was used as a major source of fuel even in ancient human civilizations. Coal was also used in steam engines during the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Coal is very abundant and fairly easy to mine, making it one of the most affordable fuels available. Bright Hub Engineering estimates there is about 300 years of coal still available to be mined, so availability should not be a problem for many years to come. Coal-fired power plants are considered a lot safer than nuclear-powered plants. A coal plant does not require highly trained workers and is not prone to any catastrophic events, such as a nuclear meltdown.

However, coal creates a lot of pollution from the by-products released during combustion. Coal contributes to global warming and changes in weather, like acid rain. Mining for coal is also a dangerous job and has caused a lot of injuries and fatalities from cave-ins, explosions and black lung disease. Mining for coal also displaces humans and animals. It is not a safe environment for humans to live because of the possibility of cave-ins. The ash leftover from burning coal is hazardous. Coal plants emit harmful substances like sulfur dioxide, mercury, carbon monoxide, selenium and arsenic. Coal is also non-renewable.

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