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Acid rain solutions focus on both prevention, and on helping to deal with the environmental ramifications once the acid rain does take place. So little can be done after the fact to improve the environment that the best acid rain solutions often focus on making sure it never happens in the first place. To do this, it is first necessary to identify the causes of acid rain together with processes that can be changed to aid in prevention.
Acid rain is caused by sulfur emissions, which are put into the air through the burning of coal, often used for energy. Other sources of sulfur in the atmosphere include volcanoes and decomposing vegetation. Despite the fact these natural sources do exist, it is generally agreed that anthropogenic causes are the main sources of acid rain. This may make acid rain solutions easier to identify simply because if humans have caused it, then logically they should have the ability to change it.
The best acid rain solutions focus on power plants and coal used in the production of energy. Technologies exist that can remove sulfur from the emissions coming out of coal plant. Low-sulfur varieties of coal can also be used to reduce sulfur emissions. Often, a combination of these acid rain solutions provides the best way to minimize the problem.
The installation of scrubbers can help prevent as much as 95 percent of sulfur emitted by a carbon-fired electric power plant. The scrubbers work by spraying water with lime through the gas emission produced from burning the coal. The lime interacts with the sulfur dioxide, creating a sludge that is then captured and stored. The problem with this method is that retrofitting existing power plants with the technology is usually very expensive. It is cheaper if the technology is installed as the power plant is being built, and the inclusion of the technology is now required in many countries when new power plants are erected.
Some forms of coal naturally have lower sulfur than other forms. In the United States, coal higher in sulfur often comes from the eastern portion of the country, whereas low-sulfur coal 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 is not without is disadvantages. The main disadvantage mentioned is the higher transportation costs of the coal to plants in the eastern portion of the country, and the loss of jobs resulting from the reduced demand for coal from the eastern United States.