Rick Rule Now is the Time to Invest in Clean Air


There are many different sources of air pollution, some sources are natural (such as volcanoes and wildfires) and some sources are man-made. Energy generation produces air pollution, along with other forms of human activity. Energy generation is one of the greatest sources of air pollution, and the pollutants it releases can manifest themselves in different ways.

Energy generation facilities can release pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and carbon monoxide. These air pollutants come from a variety of different types of energy generation, but they are released primarily by the energy plants that burn fossil fuels to create energy.

“Coal is arguably the dirtiest fossil fuel of them all, as it tends to create more air pollution than any other form of energy generation,” says Camfil’s Charlie Seyffer, Manager of Marketing & Technical Materials and 37-year ASHRAE member and active committee participant. “Coal burning is responsible for around 80% of all air pollution emissions from power plants, even though it generates only about 44% of the United States’ energy. Coal pollutes at every single phase of energy production, and energy generation using coal releases a lot of particulate matter into the air. This pollution leads to acid rain, global warming, soot accumulation, and of course the health problems associated with poor air quality.” (1)

Natural gas is becoming a larger industry in the U.S., as the nation begins to turn away from coal. While natural gas is definitely cleaner than coal, it can release its own emissions. Some air pollutants are emitted during the burning of natural gas, and the extraction of natural gas can sometimes lead to methane leaks. Methane is the main component of natural gas and as a greenhouse gas, it traps far more heat than carbon dioxide.

Even green, renewable forms of energy like solar and wind can produce pollutants during the manufacturing and operation of their component parts. While these emissions are definitely fewer in number than the emissions released by the burning of fossil fuels, it is important to limit them when we can.