The Record on Coal
DAY 90 ACTION: Learn about the health risks posed by coal-fired electricity and find out how close you live to a coal-fired power plant.
“It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.” – Dan Quayle
In 2010, coal was the largest single source of U.S. power, supplying 44% of electricity. But a combination of aging coal plants, environmental standards, and lots of cheap natural gas from the fracking boom toppled “king coal.” April 2015 marked the first time in U.S. history that natural gas made up a bigger share of the electricity market (31%, up from 22% in 2010) than coal (30%).
Coal is carbon intensive; for the same amount of electricity, it produces twice the carbon dioxide of natural gas (solar, wind, and nuclear produce no greenhouse gases). When burned, coal also releases soot, smog, and heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic into the air.
Since 1900, more than 100,000 people have been killed in U.S. coal mining accidents; another 200,000 have died from black lung disease. Communities near mountaintop mining operations suffer from elevated rates of many illnesses; those living near coal-fired power plants face air pollution and the occasional catastrophic coal ash spill.
The Clean Air Task Force created this helpful map, to show you where coal plants are located and the health harms they cause.
Today’s Action: Learn about coal’s role in electricity production and its impact on public health. Look up power plants near you and their health effects!