Coal production costs the U.S. up to $500 billion each year in hidden health, economic, and environmental impacts, according to a new study by Harvard researchers. Researchers at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School
found that the public health costs in the Appalachian region alone are $75 billion annually; health impacts of air pollution from coal-fired power plants cost $187 billion; impacts of mercury emissions cost $29 billion; and greenhouse gas emissions and related climate change effects climb can reach $206 billion. In addition, coal mining and combustion leads to billions in “smaller” costs, including land disturbances, environmental cleanups, property value effects, and crop damage, according to the report, which will be published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. While the study concludes that coal production is an “integral part of our daily lives,” it also carries economic implications that go “far beyond the prices we pay for electricity.” If these hidden costs were factored into the true cost of electricity, the study said, consumers would be paying more than double the current average price of 12 cents per kilowatt hour.