Coal Generated Electricity More Harmful Than Electricity from Natural Gas

A recent study, conducted and authored by an environmental engineer from the University of Michigan, finds that the electricity generated from coal is much more harmful to the environment that the electricity generated by natural gas. The study was published in the online journal Environmental Science & Technology earlier in October in 2017. Shelie Miller is the lead author with Brian Ellis and Lu Chen as co-authors. Lu Chen is a recent graduate from the University of Michigan for Environment and Sustainability, and Brain Ellis is in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan.
The study finds that the electricity generated by hydraulic fracturing of coal has a higher impact on the health. The chemical toxins, so released, by the coal-generated electricity are ten and hundred times higher than the natural gas electricity produced by fracking.
The study made an analysis of the toxins generated and given out by the shale gas and coal. The comparative study looked at the impact of the toxins released into air, soil, and water. This study followed the impact analysis during the extraction and the generation process and conducted that coal was more harmful to human health.
Shelie Miller, the author of the paper, says that the U.S market is shifting to natural gas produced electricity. She also thinks that this will lessen the “toxicity burden” on the electricity sector. However, she also states that this research does not say that shale gas does not release any sort of toxins. She says that according to the results obtained from the research, the toxins released by shale gas productions are much, much less compared to the coal-generated electricity. The impact of the toxins released by shale gas is also much less when compared to coal.
During the research, the research team took the concern of water contamination during fracking into consideration while analyzing the impact of shale gas on human health. The research took Pennysliva as the origin point for both shale and coal. Coal released soot (mercury), nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and other particulate matter into the environment. However, for shale gas, the toxins, wastewater and particulate matter released during the entire procedure was considered and thoroughly analyzed.
The result suggested that coal was much more harmful to the human health. Although shale gas is less harmful compared to coal, it does provide a risk to water contamination. “We looked at the total mass of emissions released per unit of electricity generated throughout the lifetime of both systems, and the overall toxic load is much greater for coal,” says Shelie Miller.
During the research, the research team states that they overestimated the toxin releases and their estimates when they considered fracking. The reason for this was that there were no well-recorded events or numbers for fracking. Twenty-three natural gas and thirteen coal powered plants for electricity provided the data for this research.

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