Coal and Environmentalism
When Winston Churchill was asked how he felt about his old age, pain and sickness, he answered: “Considering the alternative – wonderful”.
Similarly, when considering the use of coal for electricity production in light of its environmental damage, one must also consider the alternatives.
Alternatives for Coal in Electricity Production
Fuel Oil (Mazut)
Fuel oil has three key benefits – it contains a large amount of energy, offers low-cost transport, and is suitable for use in the field of transportation. Its key disadvantages are that it is more contaminating than any other energy source, costly and controlled by a small number of countries, most of which are hostile to Israel. Additionally, according to various scientific forecasts, fuel oil resources will last only until the mid-fifties of the 21st century.
Natural gas is a clean energy source that emits almost no toxins to the environment and is prevalent in many places around the world. Its cost is relatively low, compared to other energy sources, but its long-distance transport takes is performed in liquid form, which increases its costs. Over recent years, a number of fuel and gas drills were performed on Israel’s continental shelf, some of which were successful.
After digging up coal, franchise owners are obligated to return the ground to its former state.
In order to reduce dependency on contaminative or non-renewable resources, additional electricity generation technologies and methods were developed around the world, exploiting natural resources and scientific developments, including:
Hydro-Electric Electricity Production – a method which is successfully used mainly in Norway, where an abundance of powerful waterfalls can activate electricity production turbines.
Nuclear Energy Production – Using this method, electricity is produced from energy, created by a nuclear plant as a result of atom splits. This method is disputable, as it endangers human life and the environment in the case of a technical failure in the plant, risks the lives of the employees and creates radioactive waste, a byproduct of the production.
Electricity Production Using Wind Turbines – This method is used in many places around the world, especially in Europe. Wind energy is based on the movement and power of wind, and therefore does not ensure continuous electricity production. It also entails establishing costly wind farms which are unaesthetic, harmful to the environment, contaminative and noisy.
Electricity Production Using Solar Energy – Solar energy seems available for conversion to thermal energy, for the purposes or operating heat engines for electricity production or for directly producing electricity, by using photo-voltaic cells. However, the main problem with electricity production based on solar energy is the dependency on weather changes and the need to create backup systems for nocturnal hours and cloudy days.
The Green Electricity Generation Option
Until today, despite international research efforts, no one has succeeded in finding a “green” electricity generation method which can continuously produce electricity without depleting natural resources or contaminating the environment, offers a reasonable cost and which would successfully operate anywhere in the world.
Situation in Israel
The natural gas deposits facing Israel’s shores which were discovered over recent years are a significant resource to be used for electricity generation in Israel. However, alongside the use of gas and in light of the increase in electricity production in Israel due to demographic changes, technological developments and rise in the quality of life, electricity generation will continue to be based on coal power stations as well.