How is electricity made? There are lots of different ways, from collecting solar power from the sun, to making power by burning coal. Most of the power we use has come from burning fuels that come from underground, such as coal and natural gas. Recently, the U.S. has been digging for gas, so less coal is being used. The biggest problem with burning coal is that is creates a lot of pollution.
A new study says that shutting down coal power plants has saved 26,000 lives due to less air pollution. If true, it means that using gas has both reduced the amount of greenhouse gas and saved lives.
Was this a good study? There is one issue: The closed coal plants were old. Comparing old coal technology with the latest natural gas technology is unfair because there are new, cleaner coal plants.
New coal power plants are just as clean as natural gas, and would produce the same environmental benefits. America has not switched to these new coal plants because natural gas is cheaper.
The study also assumes that tiny amounts of particles from coal power plants cause disease and death. Everyone knows that if someone drops a piano on your head from the fifth floor, you will certainly die. But if they drop something smaller, you may not get hurt. What about a grain of sand dropped on your head? Can that ever kill you? Some people think that there’s a chance even the smallest amount of pollution can kill, but there may be cases where there is so little pollution it will not really hurt you.
Natural gas is gaining ground, there is still life left in coal. In many regions, using coal makes more sense. We can all work toward a world with less pollution, but most of the time we still rely on older methods that we know will work.