assignment #3 - Megan Carter A LOOK AT THE CONSEQUENCES OF...

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Megan Carter A LOOK AT THE CONSEQUENCES OF APPALACHIAN COAL USE AND EXTRACTION INTRODUCTION Coal has been a large source of energy for the past two hundred years, and continues to be today. Even though mankind now knows about the environmental impacts of coal, the world continues to use it in power plants and as a fuel for trains. A majority of the energy in the United States comes from coal-powered power plants. The Eastern United States surrounding the Appalachian Mountains and foothills is known as Appalachia. This region of the U.S. has been a source of coal for the U.S. and other regions of the world since the beginnings of coal extraction at the end of the 1700’s. Although coal is found in different regions of the world it is important to look at Appalachia when studying the impacts of the demand for, extraction of, and use of coal both on a local scale and on a global scale because this is where most of the world’s coal once came from, and is still a source of coal today. The impacts of coal also have an affect on other social, political, economic, and environmental phenomena. There have been laws passed and agencies created to help cut-down on the impacts of coal, but not enough changes have been made. There is a hope that in the future there will be more substantial alterations made to the way coal is extracted and used both in the U.S. and around the world. RESEARCH QUESTIONS Why is the Appalachian Mountain area of the U.S. rich in coal? Where, how, why, and when has coal been extracted from Appalachia? How is the demand for, extraction of, and use of coal related to other factors such as human population growth, government policy, and globalization? What can be done, and has been done, to moderate these problems? LITERATURE REVIEW Most people today will agree that the Appalachian Mountain area of the eastern United States is rich in coal; but why does this area of the world have more coal than say, Japan? It all lies in the geologic history of the Earth. Fossil fuels are carbon rich because they are the pressurized, heated, time-enhanced remains of dead plants and animals from hundreds of millions of years ago. Coal in particular is the result of dead plants, such as ferns and trees from 300-400 million years ago, being submerged in swamps and covered by soil and seawater. (U.S. Department of Energy 2008) This process, along with tons of rock, pressurized and heated the plants for hundreds of millions of years, which then formed carbon-rich coal. Although the eastern United States is not a sea or a large swamp now, that wasn’t the case hundreds of millions of years ago when the plants that would one day become coal lived. That is why this region of the world has plentiful coal deposits, because hundreds of
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millions of years ago the conditions were just right. One problem with coal is the high
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This note was uploaded on 08/31/2011 for the course GEO 271 taught by Professor Maingi during the Spring '11 term at Miami University.

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assignment #3 - Megan Carter A LOOK AT THE CONSEQUENCES OF...

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