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

coal power plant

Almost 40 percent of our energy supply here in the U.S. comes from coal, so just using less power is one way to reduce the coal you consume. If you can, switching some or all of your home’s power supply to alternative energy is amazing. For folks who can’t afford the investment to get that going, there are other ways you can reduce your coal dependence.

Cutting back on vampire power by using a smart power strip and remembering to unplug unused chargers can go a long way toward saving energy and reducing your coal use. In the warmer months air conditioning is the largest power suck in many homes, so try to take some simple measures to cool your home without the air conditioner.

It also might be time to take a look at your electronics and appliances. From your washer and dryer to your TV and gaming consoles, opting for efficiency can make a big difference in energy savings.

Get heard! Sierra Club has a petition to protect communities from toxic coal ash. You can also let your legislators know how you feel about coal and its effects on our health.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by eutrophication&hypoxia

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Kenneth D.
Kenneth Davies4 years ago


Jos� Mar�a Olmos Sant

Great article. Thanks for sharing

Shelli Lea
Past Member 5 years ago

Thanks for sharing~

Diana S.
Diana S.5 years ago

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!!!

Robin Hardy
Robin Hardy5 years ago

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?

Gene Sengstake
Gene Sengstake5 years ago

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 - - -

Sowohti Urda
Sowohti Urda5 years ago

yes, I know but nobody else does

Charles Wallis
Charles Wallis5 years ago

Great article

G. A.
G A R.5 years ago

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

Jennifer S.
Jennifer A.5 years ago

Coal is not clean! What an oxymoron!!!