See repost from New York Times blog
Coal may be among the dirtiest fuels, but it is also cheap and plentiful in the United States, where it still accounts for nearly half of electricity generation.
Yet coal power’s rock-bottom price for utilities and consumers omits a host of attendant costs associated with its production, from public health impacts to local and global environmental effects. Measuring these impacts with any kind of precision is not easy, but in a new report, a team of researchers at the Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment tries to put a price tag on coal’s hidden costs.
The numbers are startling: simply tallying public health impacts, the study found that coal costs the United States economy $140 billion to $242 billion a year. Much of this burden is borne by mining communities in Appalachia, where premature deaths associated with coal mining cost local economies an estimated $74.6 billion a year.