The United States burns more than a billion tons of coal each year – 20 pounds per person, per day. Pollution from coal-fired power plants kills 24,000 people prematurely each year. The fallout from coal-powered plants results in 38,000 heart attacks, 12,000 hospital visits and 550,000 asthma attacks per year.
Even burning “clean” coal emits lethal Mercury, which finds its way into the bloodstream and breast milk of women causing disastrous reproductive damage and interfering with the development of infant brains and neurological systems. So-called “clean” coal is responsible for learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, mental retardation and various learning disabilities.i
Coal also contributes 40 percent of the US carbon dioxide emissions, and Americans account for 25 percent of the global CO2 pollution annually.
Moreover, coal is an extremely water-intensive fuel source. Mining it requires 70 to 260 million gallons of water per day.ii Meanwhile the US faces critical water shortages over the next century, in part due to climate change derived from man-made pollutants like coal-fired powered plants. The harvesting and burning of coal presents a double jeopardy to our shrinking freshwater aquifers, an inefficiency we can no longer afford.
“The next century is going to have to be the century of water efficiency,” said Barry Nelson, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council.iii