In certain production sectors coal is still an important energy source. At present 39% of the world-wide electric energy output is obtained by burning coal. Moreover coal plays a vital role in the production of steel. On the other hand, the size of its reserves still does not envisage any problems in terms of depletion in the future. Moreover, the use of coal was decisive in the past for the industrial development and the prosperity of European countries, whereas today it is questioned because of the high pollution level deriving from its use as a fuel.
The combustion of coal generates great quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2), greater than those produced by oil or natural gas. It should be remembered that carbon dioxide is the main culprit for the greenhouse effect, i.e. the increase of the earth’s temperature. All fossil fuels produce greenhouse gas and coal contributes by slightly less than 20% to the greenhouse effect increase.
Other polluting gases generated by the combustion of coal are nitrogen oxides (NOX) and sulphur oxides (SOX) which, by combining in the atmosphere with steam, turn into nitric acid and sulphuric acid and cause acid rain, which damage the vegetation and surface water.
At the moment 100% of ashes and chalk produced from coal are recycled. In fact, they are used for the production of concrete, cement, road floors, and building products.
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