Acid rain solutions focus on both preventing and helping to cope with the environmental ramifications once acid rain occurs. So little can be done after the fact to improve the environment, that the best solutions for acid rain are usually aimed at ensuring that it never happens in the first place. To do this, you must first identify the causes of acid rain as well as the processes that can be modified to help prevent it.
Acid rain is caused by sulfur emissions, which are released into the air by burning coal, which is often used as an energy source. Other sources of sulfur in the atmosphere include volcanoes and decaying vegetation. Despite the existence of these natural sources, it is generally accepted that anthropogenic causes are the main sources of acid rain. This can make acid rain solutions easier to identify simply because if humans are the cause, then logically they should have the ability to change them.
The best solutions for acid rain focus on power plants and the coal used in power generation. There are technologies that can remove sulfur from emissions from coal-fired power plants. Low-sulfur coal varieties can also be used to reduce sulfur emissions. Often, a combination of these acid rain solutions is the best way to minimize the problem.
The installation of scrubbers can help prevent up to 95% of the sulfur emitted by a coal-fired power plant. The scrubbers work by spraying water with lime through the emissions of gases produced by the burning of coal. Lime interacts with sulfur dioxide, creating sludge that is then captured and stored. The problem with this method is that modernizing existing power plants with technology is usually very expensive. It is cheaper if technology is installed when the power plant is built, and the inclusion of technology is now necessary in many countries when new power plants are built.
Some forms of charcoal naturally have less sulfur than other forms. In the United States, coal with more sulfur is often found in the eastern part of the country, while coal with less sulfur is found mainly in the west, in states such as Wyoming and Montana. This solution has the ability to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 50 percent or more, but it is not without its drawbacks. The main drawback mentioned is the rising costs of transporting coal to factories in the east of the country and the loss of jobs as a result of lower demand for coal in the eastern United States.