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The Hidden Costs of Coal

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The Hidden Costs of Coal

Energy from coal might seem cheap on the surface, but when you add in the costs of coal-related pollution and health issues, the true cost of coal starts looking pretty steep.

Coal fired power plants spew toxins into our air while mountaintop removal mining practices destroy our mountains and pollute surrounding waterways. Here are just a few of the hidden annual costs of coal from the Appalachian region alone, according to a recent Harvard Medical School study:

  • Public health: $75 billion
  • Health costs due to air pollution from coal power plants: $187 billion
  • Mercury emissions: $29 billion
  • Climate change and greenhouse gas emissions: $206 billion.

According to the study, adding up all of these hidden costs would increase the per kWh price for coal by almost 18 cents. To put that in perspective, coal power now costs around 12 cents per kWh. Solar power costs between 10 and 15 cents per kWh.

>>Next: What you can do to reduce your coal dependence.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by senor_codo

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her lifes mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


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11:40AM PDT on Mar 22, 2012


3:30AM PST on Mar 3, 2011

Great article. Thanks for sharing

5:18AM PST on Feb 24, 2011

Thanks for sharing~

5:28PM PST on Feb 23, 2011

It seems the only people the facts about the extreme damage coal (all fossil fuels, for that matter) does to our health, our ecosystem, and natural resources are OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS! If they didn't have their heads crammed so far up their rectal sphincters, or their pockets crammed full of fossil fuel producers' lobbyists' BRIBES, they would stop ALL subsidies to the fossil fuel producers, and legislatively END the use of all fossil fuels in the next five years.

We could fund a lot of alternative energy R&D with all the money we are wasting on coal and oil producers!!!

4:34PM PST on Feb 23, 2011

We are trying to fight mountaintop removal mining here in Kentucky by supporting bills that will force coal mines to either become cleaner and greener or shut down. Unfortunately each bill has been opposed by our representatives. The only one on our side seems to be John Yarmuth(D), who was the only one who opposed an amendment that prohibits the EPA from deeming fossil fuel waste as hazardous. In fact, Hal Rogers(R) voted to de-fund the Clean Water Act when his district (5) is at the most risk from water contamination from coal mining. How is the EPA supposed to protect us from environmental dangers if corporate owned politicians wont allow them to do their job?

7:02AM PST on Feb 23, 2011

Somehow we have to put the brakes on these bastards (I really don't know what else to call these people who don't care about anything but themselves and their finances - everything they do is at the expense of "us" and the planet) who have their own agenda that literally includes the destruction of the world and all the beauty therein. We can't afford to lose everything they are so willing to put on the line if we expect to maintain our human-beingness and live in the world we so espouse to want. They are literally selling their souls to the devil - and taking ours right along with them - and we are letting them - - -

1:35PM PST on Feb 22, 2011

yes, I know but nobody else does

9:19AM PST on Feb 22, 2011

Great article

8:58AM PST on Feb 22, 2011

? and your point is??? don't we already know all this?

8:11AM PST on Feb 22, 2011

Coal is not clean! What an oxymoron!!!

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