Coal as a Resource Is It Ethical

Topics: Energy development, Nuclear power, Wind power Pages: 7 (2931 words) Published: February 23, 2012
In our modern society there is a constant give and take environment over energy. The use of fossil fuels and coal has become politically incorrect in our green-centric society. The use of media and spin is one of the most important tools being used by companies that make use of fossil fuels. There is an economic incentive for these companies to downplay the potentially harmful nature of these energy sources. While the usage of coal and other fuels is easy, it is also seen by many as environmentally and morally reprehensible. With advancing technologies there are more alternatives than ever before, which makes the ethical nature of these energy sources increasingly unscrupulous. The United States and Japanese governments are working towards creating a greener society. Other countries such as India and China are relying more on traditional fossil fuels to help their rise in the industrialized global economy. At the forefront of the arguments is the ethics that surround this hotly debated topic. Ethics are touted on both sides. Leading the argument for sustainability and environment is the alternative energy side. The other aspect of the argument getting rid of fossil fuels causes a fear of hurting the economy. There is also the fear of losing money and jobs in the process of transferring over to alternatives. Increased energy demands coupled with a dwindling supply of fossil fuels can only result in disaster. It is important that alternative energy sources are found and utilized. New energy sources will not only make us a greener society but will free us from dependence of foreign sources and give us a technological edge in the globalized economy. Coal was first introduced for commercial use during the Industrial Revolution. However it had been used as a source of fuel for nearly as long as humans have inhabited the earth. The earliest usage of coal dates back three thousand years. It was in ancient China where anthropologists surmise it could have been used to smelt copper. The earliest use of this in the United States was in the 1300’s by the Native Americans who used it for cooking and pottery making. The idea of using coal as an energy source really took off during the Industrial Revolution. As we started to build large-scale manufacturing plants and transportation such as trains and steam ships we realized how valuable coal actually was. Its value was only increased by its use in the steel industry. It was economically vital for the United States that coal was readily available to be mined in states like: Wyoming, West Virginia, and Kentucky. When coal was first used commercially it was easy to find and extract. Too find coal all one had to do was look around until they found a seam where coal was on the surface. Then they would start the process by creating a dig site and mining into the earth where the coal would be extracted and processed for sale. The basic tools these people used were dynamite, pickaxes, and shovels. There was also a lack of safety standards. They would continue to do this until it was no longer viable or profitable to continue. With modern technology the coal mining industry has many more tools at their disposal. “Operations like this pose several hazards, though. One is that the mine might cave in as supporting coal is removed. This is generally taken care of by large hydraulic systems that support the mine while operations are in process. There is also the hazard of explosion from methane gas and coal dust that build up in the air. As the coal is cut, methane that is trapped in the coal is released, and small chips of flammable dust get into the air.” (ESA 4)

These issues become an ethical issue because of the detrimental nature of the mining process. Coal mining’s emissions are dangerous to the people that have to work in the mines.
There are advantages and disadvantages of coal as a fossil fuel. There are also advantages of using alternative energy source such as nonrenewable...
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