Coal, Combustion and the Grand Carbon Cycle

Carbon is the most valuable and amazing element on our living planet.

It is the building block of all life on earth, and has provided the food, clothing and most of the energy for every human for all of our history.

Yet carbon is being subjected to an unprecedented campaign of demonization focussed on man’s production of carbon dioxide. The main aim of this campaign is to cripple or eliminate the coal industry because combustion of coal produces carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide the key link in the cycle of life on earth.

Most people understand the biological carbon cycle – plants using solar energy extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, converting it to sugars and proteins, and returning oxygen to the atmosphere. Plant material, directly or indirectly, provides food for all animals. In the process of digesting carbon food, animals extract oxygen from the atmosphere to digest their carbon foods, producing carbon dioxide which is then returned to the atmosphere. More carbon dioxide means more plant growth. This is a sustainable self regulating process.

But there is an even bigger, Grand Carbon Cycle, also involving carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere by volcanoes, natural and man-made combustion of carbon fuels such as wood, coal and oil, and out-gassing from oceans during warm climatic eras. This carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by biological and chemical extractions into the oceans to form corals, shell fish and massive deposits of limestone, dolomite and magnesite on the ocean floor. In some eras, large quantities of plant material are also locked away in enormous deposits of lignite and coal. During cool climate eras, oceans also take up huge quantities of carbon dioxide into solution.

Vulcanism and combustion are helpful processes returning valuable carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Without them, earth’s precious carbon supplies would slowly become interred and locked away in massive buried deposits of carbon bearing materials such as limestone and coal.

The products of combustion of all carbon fuels are normal and natural components of the atmosphere, and essential nutrients for all life.

This paper looks at the compositions of solid carbon fuels, the process of coal combustion, the exhaust products produced, and the benefits and pollution potential of those exhaust products.

The complete article: [PDF, 791KB]

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