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The Hidden Cost of Coal
A new report from the National Academy of Sciences reveals that US coal-fired power plants do over $62 billion in environmental damages a year in "hidden costs". These include damage done to crop and timber yields, to buildings and materials, and the toll coal takes on human health--including the cost of illness and premature deaths it causes. The study, entitled the
Hidden Cost of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use examined 406 coal plants--which collectively create about 95% of the nation's coal-burned electricity. As Bloomberg notes, the "aggregate damages associated with sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emitted by the facilities amounted to $156 million on average per plant." That's a pretty hefty price tag to the environment--$156 million a year in environmental damages--and of course, the coal companies don't pick up the tab.
Paying for Coal's Pollution
Instead, the price gets passed on to the US government, which must clean up coal plants' contamination, and unwitting Americans, who get stuck with the medical bills incurred from illnesses thanks to the air pollution the plants generate. According to the report, these health costs amount to damages that "include premature mortality and morbidity (chronic bronchitis, asthma, emergency hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular disease)."
Also factored into the final costs was damage done to recreational activities and outdoor visibility. All told, the reduced or damaged crop and timer yields, the damage done to building materials, the strain on placed on outdoor recreation, the hampered visibility in certain environments, and the toll taken on human health brings the cost of coal to $62 billion a year in the US.
The study did not consider any potential damages done by greenhouse gas emissions, either--this is the cost of burning coal right now, the price that all American citizens must pay. And needless to say, it's a steep one.
More on the Environmental Damage of Coal
US Coal Plants Dump Thousands of Gallons of Waste Into Drinking Water a Year
600 Coal Ash Dump Sites Found in 35 States: Is There One Near You ...