Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) is enabling energy companies to provide a healthier alternative to coal, including one company in South Texas.
According to the U.S. Energy Administration, the state of Texas is the largest consumer of coal in the entire country, with it’s carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions also ranking among the highest in the nation. But coal is slowly losing it’s grip on energy production and is being replaced by the cleaner and healthier natural gas, a direct result of the recent 2008 fracking boom in the U.S.
How dangerous is coal to our health?
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 1,000,000 lives are shortened worldwide and 24,000 in the U.S annually as a direct result of coal particle pollution. Sulfur dioxide, mercury, particulate matter and nitrogen oxide are the four main coal emissions that can cause health problems ranging from chronic asthma and bronchitis to acid particles in the lungs and even death.
Natural gas, on the other hand, is the cleanest burning fossil fuel and provides significant benefits over coal. Here are a few health facts about using natural gas over coal:
- “DOE (department of energy) analyses indicate that every 10,000 U.S. homes powered with natural gas instead of coal avoids the annual emissions of 1,900 tons of NOx, 3,900 tons of SO2, and 5,200 tons of particulates. (National Renewable Energy Laboratory. 1999)
- Reductions in these emissions translate into public health benefits, as these pollutants have been linked with problems such as asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, and heart disease for hundreds of thousands of Americans.” (California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board. 2012)
- Increasing reliance on natural gas, rather than coal, is indisputably creating widespread health benefits as the burning of natural gas produces fewer harmful particles in the air. (Yale Climate Connections)
- Natural gas emits 50 to 60 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) when combusted in a new, efficient natural gas power plant compared with emissions from a typical new coal plant. (National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). 2010)
- When natural gas replaces coal as a fuel for generating electricity, the benefits to air quality include lower carbon dioxide emissions than coal and almost none of the mercury, sulfur dioxide or ash.
Since 2008, the use of coal for energy production has dropped 13% nationwide and the use of natural gas has risen 10%. Continuing to produce an affordable energy source like natural gas will not only keep our environment cleaner but will save thousands of lives within the United States each year.
Making the Switch
San Antonio-based CPS Energy has announced it will be shutting down its coal-fired J.T. Deely Station in 2018, making it the first publicly-owned coal plant in Texas to close. Ex-CEO Doyle Beneby began a strategy in 2011 to move way from coal in favor of using natural gas as a baseload power.