The True Cost of Coal

The American Economic Review has just published a paper, “Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy,” which highlights the economic costs of air pollution versus economic benefits for several industries.  While the paper is fairly dense (and there is a cost to download it), the authors make clear that the economic harms of coal-fired power far outweigh its economic benefits.  In fact, coal has the worst cost benefit ratio of several polluting industries profiled, including solid waste combustion, sewage treatment, and stone quarrying (which also create more economic harms than benefits).  The authors of this study are just looking at the air-pollution harms of coal, which leaves aside the many other health and environmental harms caused by coal-fired power plants.  If you add those in, it is exceedingly clear that coal has a major negative impact on the US economy. In fact, a study published earlier this year by the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, and written by faculty at the Center for Health and Global Environment at  Harvard Medical School, found that the true cost of coal is up to ½ trillion dollars per year, when all environmental and health impacts are added in.  Based on this true cost accounting, all clean energy sources are much cheaper than coal.  Of course, if you consider the fact that some of the economic harms of coal literally result from people dying, the need to transition our energy mix away […]

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9 Toxins to Keep Off Your Body


Do you know what “fragrance” means when you see it on the label of a personal care product? Neither do we! That’s because all sorts of chemicals used to scent products can be clumped under the vague term “fragrance” – and they don’t have to be disclosed. Found in everything from shampoo to deodorant, a single product’s secret fragrance mixture […]

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Take Action to Limit Mercury Pollution


The most recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency reveals that from 1999 to 2005, mercury emissions from power plants increased more than 8 percent. That’s after several years of foot-dragging by the Bush administration, followed by a court ruling actually ordering the EPA to come up with new rules around mercury. Still, as usual, the coal industry is fighting […]

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