Acid Rain and Its Origins
Do you ever look outside on a rainy night and think to yourself why are we destroying our own habitat. Of course you don’t. You are more rapped up in the beauty of a calm and serene shower with the wind blowing and a gentle howl of the breeze trickling through the trees. Why would you think of something bad? Well, maybe you should start thinking of rain as a bad thing. Maybe not rain, but what is in the rain.
Not enough attention is being put toward the well being of the Earth. There are definitely forces at work destroying our environment as we speak. Our government needs to explore all the deadly toxins that go into our environment every second. Without this exploration we could kill ourselves. Not only will we kill us but we will kill off everything else.
What did I pick to write on Acid rain with all the other important environmental topics? I chose it because we are subjected to precipitation all the time. I was interested to see just how dangerous acid rain is. If it really is dangerous, I was also interested to see what thing's people can do to help stop its effects. If we cannot stop the effects, I would atleast like to know something’s I can do to lessen the effects on our environment.
What is acid rain? Acid rain is the name commonly given to the deposition of a cocktail of acidifying compounds to soils, surface waters and buildings. These compounds arise mainly from the combustion of fossil fuels. In some parts of the United Kingdom, natural ecosystems have a significant acid-neutralizing capacity and acid rain has little impact on them. In other parts, the neutralizing capacity is limited, and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are sensitive to acid deposition. In acid-sensitive areas, acid rain degrades the terrestrial environment and causes damage to plants and the soils in which they grow. Substances are released which run off into water bodies and toxic to water life. Acidic materials deposited directly from the atmosphere also have the effect of altering the acid balance in water bodies and this too has an effect on the life they support. Acidic deposition onto sensitive buildings causes decay of stonework and other materials.(Environment Agency: Acid Rain, page 1)
Where does acid rain come from? Acid rain is made from man-made emissions and a few natural compounds. A few of the emissions responsible for acidic rain is sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen. Ammonia, which is mainly from agricultural process is also responsible for a lot of the acidity in rain. In the atmosphere it mixes with certain compounds and neutralizes them. The neutralized compounds break down when the products the reactions are deposited, acidity is then released.
Acid rain was noted as a problem in the 1980’s first effecting the ponds and lakes in northeastern USA, southern Canada, and what was the Soviet Union, and other smaller world regions. Acid rain, no matter when or where it falls will always cause damage to the environment. Acid rain has already caused thousands of lakes and ponds to a point of lifelessness, and has even damaged historic buildings in Europe. One of the major problems with acid rain is that it gets carried from a mass acid rain producing areas that are usually not as badly affected. Tall chimneys that are built to ensure that the pollution that is produced by factories is taken away from nearby cities, puts the pollution in the atmosphere.(Acid Rain: A Global Problem, page 1)
I would now like to address some of the regulations for acid rain and acid rain producing systems. Most sulfur producing companies such as coal mining and manure processing have many permits and laws governing their producing harmful chemicals that are incorporated into acid rain production. Obviously, these companies don’t want to make acid rain that is why bodies that govern these types of organizations take it a little easy on them. In 1990 the Federal Lean Air Act Amendments require power plants across the nation to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. The amendments also impose tougher emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks. These measures will reduce significantly the pollutants that contribute to acid rain formation. In Ohio, coal going to be burned has to have be very clean. If the coal doesn’t come out of the coal pits clean then it must be washed. This also has a lot to do with the economical issue of acid rain. This extra process adds more cost to coal production and also lessens the amount of revenue coming back to the coal companies. In Texas, you have to have a specific permit issued to the company by a permitting office to produce anything harmful to the environment. If the company does anything that might break the permit the company is fined heavily and sometimes may not be able to renew the permit, depending on how bad the offense was.(Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, page 1-2) The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) has worked to reduce acid rain by restricting the amount of sulfur allowed in the coal burned by power plants and other industrial sources. In the Baltimore-Washington area, where pollution is concentrated, plants may burn only coal with one percent sulfur or less. In rural locations, a maximum sulfur content of two percent is allowed.
For someone to totally understand the problem we have with coal burning we must first look at the social and ethical problems. Coal is our main producer of electricity as we learned in our class. If we were to cut out the burning of coal our society would simply die. Our technology is not good enough yet to find a good enough alternative resource to produce the amount of power our society needs. Our society doesn’t need all this power but until everyone starts to conserve energy we will need large amounts of energy.
There are also some ethical issues that deal with the acid rain problem are as follows. First, is energy worth more than the safety of our earth? Second, do we really need to use this much energy if it is harming our environment. Third, shouldn’t we try to minimize the effects of acid rain if it is harmful.
In conclusion, I have to say I feel that acid rain is a monster of our own creation. We obviously wouldn’t have the need for so much energy if we could cut down the unneeded use of electricity. I also feel that at the current time we cannot afford to stop using these acid rain producing processes. I really wish we could. As a son of a coal miner, I know how coal mining put food on my plate. If coal mining was cut out it would drastically hurt our country’s economy. It might not hurt the economy all over the US but it will definitely hurt areas heavily populated by coal miners. I also think this about agriculture processes producing chemicals. It would be hard to think of an Earth without farming. That is an impossibility, our species could not survive without agriculture. Overall I believe that our current level of sophistication holds us back from bettering the Earth. I know it is bad to say but, our people our too busy worrying about whether our music is loud enough or our houses are lit at all times of the day. These things are ridiculous and petty to worry about. Until our society can mature enough to conserve energy and then hopefully someday we will be able to do without these chemicals.