Written by Brian Merchant
Wyoming’s Powder River Basin is home to 10 of the nation’s largest coal mines. That coal is shipped across the country and then shoveled into some of our biggest, dirtiest power plants. Together, they generate 40% of the nation’s electricity—and the pollution that spews forth as the coal is burned kills thousands of people every year. To get an uncomfortably precise idea of where it’s having the most devastating impact, just look over this infographic from High Country News: (here’s the full-size version)
Emissions from coal plants, especially those blasted from the creaky, half century-old giants that skirt regulations mandated by the Clean Air Act, cause asthma, respiratory illness, lung disease, and cancer.
And remember, this graphic only demonstrates the impact of coal-fired emissions from one group of mines. And just look how dramatically it blankets Appalachia and the rust belt in particulate-ridden coaly air. Appalachia has its own share of coal mines too, of course—many of which result in topless mountains. So this is really just about half of coal’s deadly impact, all of which stems from one grouping of mines.
On top of all that, Climate Progress’s Stephen Lacey notes that Powder River Basin coal is responsible for 14% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
But the visual is what’s important here. More folks need to know that they’re breathing in polluted air, even if they live 100 miles away from a coal plant, and this message really needs to sink in: If you live in one of those dark red areas, coal might actually kill you.
This post was originally published by TreeHugger.
Photo from peterp via flickr
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