Coal costs nation $62 billion a year, mostly in premature deaths, National Research Council says

Posted on Mon, Oct. 19, 2009
Report: Pollution from burning coal costs $62 billion a year
By Andy Mead

Pollution from burning coal to generate electricity costs the United States $62 billion a year, according to a report being released Monday by the National Research Council.

The report, Hidden Costs of Energy, attempts to put a dollar value on the true costs of various energy sources. Most costs were calculated in people dying from the pollution, the study’s authors said.

The report was requested by Congress. It concentrates on putting a value on the damage to human health, crops, timber yields, buildings and from major pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

Coal accounts for about half the electricity produced in the country, and more than 90 percent in Kentucky.

The report does not attempt to put a monetary value on coal mining. But it notes the environmental problems associated with underground and surface mines.

Mountaintop removal mining “shares the negative externalities of other types of surface mining and has other externalities as well,” the report says.

It lists a report by the Environmental Protection Agency that looked at more than 1,200 stream segments in the southern Appalachians impacted by mountaintop removal and the associated valley fills.

That EPA report found increased levels of minerals such as zinc and selenium in the water, increased stream flow below the valley fills, slow regrowth of forest because of compacted soils.

The research council report also looks at the dollar impacts of oil, natural gas, nuclear and alternative energy sources.

The report is linked from the article here: