Coal may be the cheapest fossil fuel on the market, but its market price is only half the story. The financial price includes a range of factors, from mining and retailing costs to government taxes and, of course, profit, but it ignores some of the biggest taxes, and costs of coal: the tremendous human and environmental damage it causes (Greenpeace).
1. BURNING COAL - cause smog, acid rain, global warming and air toxics. A typical coal plant generates 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary human cause of global warming--as much carbon dioxide as cutting down 161 million trees.
2. SOLID WASTE - a typical 500-megawatt coal plant includes more than 125,000 tons of ash and 193,000 tons of sludge from the smokestack scrubber each year.
3. COOLING WATER DISCHARGE - Once the 2.2 billion gallons of water have cycled through the coal-fired power plant, they are released back into the lake, river, or ocean. This "thermal pollution" can decrease fertility and increase heart rates in fish.
4. WASTE HEAT - A typical coal power plant uses only 33-35% of the coal's heat to produce electricity.
5. COAL MINING ACTIVITIES - Surface coal mining may dramatically alter the landscape. Underground mining is one of the most hazardous of occupations, killing and injuring many in accidents, and causing chronic health problems.
6. COAL TRANSPORTATION - A typical coal plant requires 40 railroad cars to supply 1.4 million tons in a year. That's 14,600 railroad cars a year. Railroad locomotives, which rely on diesel fuel, emit nearly 1 million tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 52,000 tons of coarse and small particles in the United States. http://www.ucsusa.org/ (Union of Concerned Scientist)
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