Finding A Better Energy Source

Biomass Beats Out Coal as a Green Energy Source

How Pollution Affects YOU

Pollution from burning coal to gain energy is becoming an increasingly bigger problem. Coal is beginning to affect not just the air quality, but the people. When coal is burned it releases nasty, toxic chemicals like sulfur and mercury into the air. In fact, coal plants produce 33 tons of mercury each year. The real problem for us begins when mercury makes its way into our waterways- and don't think it won't. When mercury goes into waterways, it can be transformed into methylmercury by microscopic bacteria. Once it becomes methylmercury, it can be EATEN by fish. And guess what people like to eat- that's right, fish. Effects from methylmercury include vision impairment, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, and impairment of speech, hearing, and walking. But the biggest issue by far is the 630, 000 infants that are born with brain and nervous system problems each year because of methylmercury. All because we use coal for our energy.

Local, State, and National Environment Issues

Coal is a nationwide issue- it affects every inch of the United States. The United States is highly dependent on coal as an energy source, as it supplies just under half of our energy. In addition to that, coal provides a high percentage of the U.S.'s CO2 emissions at 36%. Coal usage also hits us right here at home. In Iowa, coal provides the majority of our energy, following the nation's trend. In fact, Iowa uses about 460 trillion Btu of coal. But here's the catch- and the problem. Iowa produces 0 Btu of coal. This just doesn't make sense. Why use so much of an energy source that you don't produce yourself? These are just a few examples of how coal is an issue on so many levels.

Negative and Positive- the Visual Scene

Did you know that what you are looking at can cause health issues? I bet you didn't, but it's true, what you're seeing affects you just as much as any disease. A negative visual environment has the potential for creating anxiety and stress for you, while a positive visual environment can calm you right down to your toes. On the topic of coal, you can probably picture factories, spewing smoke from the burning coal. Doesn't that just stress you out? Make you worry about your physical health as your state of mind is compromised? There is even evidence that this happens- housing markets go downhill when they are near to those smoke spewing factories because people just don't want to deal with the stress of living near that infernal smoke.

A Better Path

So now that you know the issues, I can assume that you want to know how you can help. Biomass is an alternate energy source that can help prevent pollution. See, biomass, unlike coal, is a renewable resource, meaning that it will never go away. Biomass is made of dead plant matter (which we know we have plenty of in Iowa), so using it just makes sense. As biomass is burned, sure it creates CO2, but the CO2 it produces is also reabsorbed into new biomass plants that are still growing, making the net CO2 0. Another benefit of biomass is that it produces less ash, meaning less ash going into landfills. Finally, the best part about biomass is that it just doesn't produce mercury and sulfur the way coal does. Less mercury means a healthier and happier world. So why wouldn't you use biomass?

Every Person Makes A Difference

Even the little things we do everyday can help make a dent in the global fight against pollution. When you burn wood (which also happens to be biomass, by the way), did you ever think about where the ashes go? Or what could you do with them? Well, let me tell you. The right ashes contain a lot of good stuff. After all, they came from plants. By putting the ashes back into the earth, you're doing it a good deed- and preventing the ash from going into a landfill. Those ashes from the biomass you just burned can even help the future biomass plants to grow. Even as you make the choice to use biomass, you are recycling. That's right, recycling. The dead plants that would normally sit around doing nothing are helping you out in away they never could if you didn't make them your energy source.
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