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Recent Loss Of Life In Coal Mines Potent Reminder That Coal Kills

Posted Apr 21 2010 8:00am

My heart goes out to the victims and families affected by the rash of recent coal mine disasters around the world. Our top focus must be on the workers who risk life and limb every day, deep beneath the Earth’s surface to bring ancient, fossilized fuel topside. However, even as we grieve, let us remember that coal is an anachronistic source of energy. It belongs in the ground, where the planet placed it millennia ago.

Coal is a known killer. Coal kills many who work to harvest it. Coal kills people who live downwind of the electrical power plants which burn it. Coal kills people and wildlife which drink from streams which mountaintop removal mining has contaminated. How serious is such contamination? Here’s a quote from Dr. Dennis Lemly of the United States Forest Service, speaking with respect to the area which parenthetically has seen some of the most recent coal mining fatalities:

“Before mountaintop removal, cases of severe selenium contamination were mainly limited to coal-fired power plant discharges. Now they’re appearing across Appalachia near mountaintop mines.”

Nothing good but cheap electricity and heat comes from coal. Arguments that coal mining creates economic prosperity are disingenuous at best and perfidious at worst. When the true cost of medical care from people suffering from pulmonary conditions caused or exacerbated by coal dust or smog are included, coal is far costlier than renewable energy. Then, when other side effects of coal are included, such as neurological damage from mercury poisoning, can we truly claim that this black killer has any advantage over renewable energy?

Mountaintop removal mining, mentioned in the quote above from Dr. Lemly, is doubly bad because it inflicts enormous damage aboveground, too.

I could go on and on about how coal kills. However, I trust that I have convinced you. If so, I encourage you to support the work of fine organizations such as Appalachian Voices which strive to raise awareness of the truth about coal, especially mountaintop removal mining. I exhort you to visit their website for additional details:

Fomenting the Triple Bottom Line

Corbett Kroehler

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