THE LAST MOUNTAIN FACTS
- Almost half of the electricity produced in the U.S. comes from the burning of coal.
- Sixteen pounds of coal is burned each day for every man woman and child in the US.
- Thirty-percent of that coal comes from the mountains of Appalachia.
- Burning coal is the number one source of greenhouse gases worldwide.
- Mountain top removal has destroyed 500 Appalachian Mountains, decimated 1 million acres of forest, and buried 2000 miles of streams.
- Massey Energy is responsible for more mountaintop removal mining than any other company in the U.S. [Massey agreed to be purchased by Alpha Natural Resources in mid-2011]
- Massey Energy is America’s 3rd largest coal company by revenue, and it controls all the coal mining in Coal River Valley.
- Between 2000 and 2006 Massey committed more than 60,000 environmental violations.
- There are 312 coal sludge impoundments in Appalachia.
- Massey’s 28 impoundments have spilled 24 times in the last decade, contaminating rivers with more than 300 million gallons of sludge; two times the amount released in BP’s Gulf oil disaster.
- In the last 30 years the coal industry in West Virginia has increased production by 140% while eliminating more than 40,000 jobs.
- The wind industry in the U.S. already operates more than 35,000 turbines, and employs 85,000 people– as many as work in the coal industry.
The Political Influence
- In the last decade the coal mining industry spent more than $86 million, the railroad industry spent $350 million, and coal burning electric utilities spent more than $1 billion on political campaigns and lobbying.
The Health Impact
- The health and environmental costs associated with mining, transporting and burning coal, as reported by a new Harvard Medical School study, are estimated to be $345 billion annually – or more than 17¢ per kilowatt hour. These costs are often referred to as “externalities” since they are costs borne by the public which are not reflected in the price of coal-fired electricity.
- There are 600 coal-fired power plants across the United States, and over 600 ash ponds across the country, filled with 150 billion gallons of toxic sludge.
- Each year emissions from coal-fired power plants contribute to more than 10 million asthma attacks, brain damage in up to 600,000 newborn children, and 43,000 premature deaths.
- The EPA has announced that in 48 states, it’s unsafe to eat many freshwater fish due to mercury contamination.
Electricity Costs from Wind and Coal Sources, vs. the True Cost of Coal Electricity
- 7.9¢ typical cost of electricity from wind per kilowatt hour
- 6.1¢ typical cost of electricity from coal per kilowatt hour
- Per the Harvard Medical School report noted above, the cost of coal electricity goes up by approximately 17¢ per kilowatt hour, totaling 23.1¢ – or nearly three times that of wind – if you include the following costs borne by the public: Air Pollution Illnesses, Mercury Poisoning, Health Damages from Carcinogens, Public Health Cost to Appalachia, Climate Change Impact.
Supplying the U.S. with Wind Power
- The wind Industry operates more than 35,000 turbines and employs 85,000 people in the U.S. – the same number the coal industry employs. In 2009, enough turbines were built to power 2.4 million homes.
- In 1991, the Department of Energy published a “National Wind Resource Inventory” which pointed out that three states – Kansas, North Dakota, and Texas – have enough harnessable wind energy to supply the nation’s electricity needs. However, since the report was based on 1991 wind technologies and turbines are so much more efficient today, we now know that the DOE’s projection was a gross underestimate.
- According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Renewable Portfolio Standard of 20% by 2020 would create: 185,000 new jobs from development, $25.6B in income to farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners and $10.5B in electricity and natural gas savings to consumers by 2020.