K I L L    C O A L

1) A 2011 Harvard study conservatively estimates the annual costs of US coal production at $345 billion [2].

"The electricity derived from coal is an integral part of our daily lives. However, coal carries a heavy burden. The yearly and cumulative costs stemming from the aerosolized, solid, and water pollutants associated with the mining, processing, transport, and combustion of coal affect individuals, families, communities, ecological integrity, and the global climate. The economic implications go far beyond the prices we pay for electricity.

"Our comprehensive review finds that the best estimate for the total economically quantifiable costs, based on a conservative weighting of many of the study findings, amount to some $345.3 billion, adding close to 17.8¢/kWh of electricity generated from coal. The low estimate is $175 billion, or over 9¢/kWh, while the true monetizable costs could be as much as the upper bounds of $523.3 billion, adding close to 26.89 cents/kWh. These and the more difficult to quantify externalities are borne by the general public.

"Still these figures do not represent the full societal and environmental burden of coal. In quantifying the damages, we have omitted the impacts of toxic chemicals and heavy metals on ecological systems and diverse plants and animals; some ill-health endpoints (morbidity) aside from mortality related to air pollutants released through coal combustion that are still not captured; the direct risks and hazards posed by sludge, slurry, and CCW impoundments; the full contributions of nitrogen deposition to eutrophication of fresh and coastal sea water; the prolonged impacts of acid rain and acid mine drainage; many of the long-term impacts on the physical and mental health of those living in coal-field regions and nearby MTR sites; some of the health impacts and climate forcing due to increased tropospheric ozone formation; and the full assessment of impacts due to an increasingly unstable climate. The true ecological and health costs of coal are thus far greater than the numbers suggest. Accounting for the many external costs over the life cycle for coal-derived electricity conservatively doubles to triples the price of coal per kWh of electricity generated.

"Our analysis also suggests that the proposed measure to address one of the emissions--CO2, via CCS [carbon capture and sequestration]--is costly and carries numerous health and environmental risks, which would be multiplied if CCS were deployed on a wide scale. The combination of new technologies and the “energy penalty” will, conservatively, almost double the costs to operate the utility plants. In addition, questions about the reserves of economically recoverable coal in the United States carry implications for future investments into coal-related infrastructure.

"Public policies, including the Clean Air Act and New Source Performance Review, are in place to help control these externalities; however, the actual impacts and damages remain substantial. These costs must be accounted for in formulating public policies and for guiding private sector practices, including project financing and insurance underwriting of coal-fired plants with and without CCS."

EMAIL: killcoal@killcoal.org                                        Copyright © killcoal.org 2012. All rights reserved.

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Feed-in Tariff
Coal's Assault on Health

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