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On top of being dirty, carbon-polluting, respiratory illness-inducing behemoths, it turns out that new coal plants don't create that many jobs, either. Or, at least, not nearly as many as the companies promise when attempting to entice communities to let them build one in their backyard. In fact, a new in-depth study has been done on each of the newest coal plants in the US, and it turns out that only half of the jobs promised by the coal companies ever materialized. Tom Zeller Jr. writes in the NY Times:
The analysis looked at the six largest new coal-fired power plants to come online between 2005 and 2009, including facilities in Pottawattamie County, Iowa; Milam and Robertson Counties, Tex.; Otoe County, Neb.; Berkeley County, S.C.; and Marathon County, Wisc. All were plants exceeding capacity of 500 megawatts.Just one single community saw the number of jobs created that it was promised by the coal industry.
The results: only a little over half, or 56 percent of every 1,000 jobs projected, appeared to be actually created as a result of the coal plants' coming online. And in four of the six counties, the projects delivered on just over a quarter of the jobs projected. Just one county, Pottawattamie in Iowa, saw an increase in construction employment that was roughly commensurate with the numbers predicted before the project there got under way. That was the $1.2 billion Walter Scott unit number 4 project, operated by MidAmerican Energy.
Now, you might argue that such exaggeration is commonplace in every industry -- whether it be coal companies exaggerating the jobs created by a new power plant, or a solar energy firm being over-optimistic in its employment projections. And Zeller notes as much in the opening lines of his report. The difference is, of course, that solar panels don't spew toxic emissions after they're built and endanger the health and well-being of the community that bet on it.
Which is why this is so ugly -- coal plants often solicit economically depressed communities, promising them jobs and an income generator if they accept. It's surely never an easy decision -- nobody wants to live in the shadow of a coal plant. Communities understand the severe health risks, and it puts the onus on the city government to decide if the pollution is worth the new jobs. If those jobs never show up, they're not only losing out economically, but in terms of the physical health of the residents. In short, they get screwed. If you agree to let a wind farm set up shop in your neighborhood, and it doesn't bring all the promised jobs -- at least it doesn't kill your lungs.
More on the Health Impacts of Coal
The Devastating Cost of Coal : Interview with Dr. Paul Epstein ...
Coal Pollution Will Kill 13200 Americans This Year & Cost $100 Billion
Coal Costs US Public Up to $500 Billion Annually: Harvard Study