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The High Cost of Coal, On Our Health and On Our Environment

17 Feb 2011  |   Daniel Jacobs

According to a report by Dr. Paul Epstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, coal costs our health, and the environment, dearly.

In the report, Epstein demonstrates how the "life cycle of coal" ??? from its extraction, to its transportation to power plants, and then to its eventual processing and combustion ??? costs the American people over $500 billion a year in economic, health, and environmental expenses.

In the Appalachian communities alone, Dr. Epstein finds that the public faces over $74.6 billion a year in healthcare costs, injuries, and death.

For our nation as a whole, Dr. Epstein argues that air pollution from coal causes $187.5 billion worth of environmental damages, and mercury pollution from coal causes $29.8 billion in environmental damages. Moreover, climate pollution from combustion costs Americans between $61.7 billion and $205 billion in environmental damages.

Finally, Dr. Epstein states:

"The public is unfairly paying for the impacts of coal use. Accounting for these ???hidden costs' doubles to triples the price of electricity from coal per kWh, making wind, solar, and other renewable very economically competitive. Policymakers need to evaluate current energy options with these types of impacts in mind. Our reliance on fossil fuels is proving costly for society, negatively impacting our wallets and our quality of life."

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