Coal, oil and natural gas are called fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are
used to generate electricity because they're widely available, inexpensive, easy to transport, easy to use, and the power
plants can be located almost anywhere.Coal is the most commonly used fossil fuel because it burns extremely
hot for a long period of time, and it can be stored for future use.
What is the environmental impact ?
The utility industry met the demand for electricity without real knowledge of the environmental
impact of using fossil fuels. When coal, natural gases or oils are burned, they release gases into the atmosphere:
- Carbon dioxide : a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in the lowest part of the earth's atmosphere.
This contributes to global warming- (the average temperature of the earths increase)
- Sulfur dioxide: a key contributor to acid rain, primarily in the northeast U.S.
- Nitrogen oxide: contributes to acid rain and smog, as well as health issues such as lung inflammation,
immune system changes and eye irritation.
In addition, bringing fossil fuels to the surface, such as mining or oil exploration, can ruin
to the habitat. And while it seems like coal, natural gas and oil are still plentiful, the supply will eventually
run out. Once we use them, they're gone forever.