US has the world’s largest coal reserves, followed by Russia and China. At current production rate, the US coal reserves would last 224 years. Almost 93% of the coal used in US is used for generating electricity.

Proved coal reserves at end 2008 (by British Petroleum)
Country Total (million tonnes) Share of total
US 238308 28.9%
Russia 157010 19.0%
China 114500 13.9%
Australia 76200 9.2%
India 58600 7.1%

In the United States, about 49% of electric power is generated by coal. It is the largest energy source of electricity generation.

Sources of electricity in the United States in 2008

Sources of electricity in the United States in 2008 (data from EIA)


However, coal power plants produce several types of emissions that adversely affect the environment. The five major emissions associated with coal combustions are:

Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
Particulates and ash

Current methods to reduce those emissions include:

SO2 removal by flue gas desulfurization equipment, also known as "scrubbers"
NOx removal by catalytic converters
Particulates removal by electrostatic precipitators or baghouses, ash removal by ash removal systems
Mercury removal by above methods

Research on reduction of carbon dioxide emission is underway. Carbon capture and sequestration seem to be the most promising methods for CO2 reduction. However, there is still a long way before commercialization.

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