env100 note 50.docx

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28 Mar 2012

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ENV100 Lecture Notes Mar 5, 2012
Fossil Fuels Intro continued
Reading: Chapter 15
Fossil fuel use has environmental, supply, and strategic implications
Implications of continued fossil fuel dependency:
o 1. Environmental concerns
o 2. Supply concerns
o 3. Strategic concerns
1. Environmental concerns: Coal mining affects the environment
Strip mining causes severe soil erosion and chemical runoff
o Acid mine drainage = sulfide minerals on exposed rock surfaces react with
oxygen and rainwater to produce sulfuric acid
o Mountaintop removal causes enormous damage
Coal mining harms human health
Subsurface mining is harmful to human health
o Inhalation of coal dust can lead to fatal black lung disease
Mining companies must restore landscapes, but the impacts are still severe
Costs to repair damages of mining are very high
o These costs are not included in the market prices of fossil fuels, which are kept
inexpensive by government subsidies
Coal contains impurities that are released when it is burned
Coal is the most abundant but least environmentally friendly fossil fuel
Sulphur, mercury, arsenic, other trace metals
Sulphur content depends on whether coal was formed in salt water or freshwater
o Coal in the eastern Canada is high in sulfur because it was formed in marine
When high-sulphur coal is burned, it releases sulphates
o Contributes to smog and acidic deposition
Coal-fired power plants contribute to air pollution
Province of Ontario data: coal-fired power plants are responsible for a significant
proportion of the hazardous air pollutants emitted in Ontario:
o 14.7 % of nitrogen oxides (NOx)
o 23.7 % of sulphur dioxide (SO2)
o 13.9 % of greenhouse gases (CO2 equivalents)
o 22.6 % of mercury (Hg)
Ontario Ministry of Environment, Coal-Fired Electricity Generation in
Ontario, 2001
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