Facts on the Pollution caused by the US Coal Industry

10 Harsh Realities of the US Coal Industry

Excerpted from the Union of Concerned Scientist Clean Energy report

You can download a PDF version by going here: Facts on the pollution caused by the US Coal Industry

A typical-sized 500 megawatt coal-fired electricity plant in the United States puts out each year:

1. 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas, and is the leading cause of global warming. There are no regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.

2. 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide (SOx) is the main cause of acid rain, which damages forests, lakes and buildings.

3. 10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) is a major cause of smog, and also a cause of acid rain.

4. 500 tons of small particles. Small particulates are a health hazard, causing lung damage. Particulates smaller than 10 microns are not regulated, but may be soon.

5. 220 tons of hydrocarbons. Fossil fuels are made of hydrocarbons; when they don’t burn completely, they are released into the air. They are a cause of smog.

6. 720 tons of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas and contributor to global warming.

7. 125,000 tons of ash and 193,000 tons of sludge from the smokestack scrubber. A scrubber uses powdered limestone and water to remove pollution from the plant’s exhaust. Instead of going into the air, the pollution goes into a landfill or into products like concrete and drywall. This ash and sludge consists of coal ash, limestone, and many pollutants, such as toxic metals like lead and mercury.

8. 225 pounds of arsenic, 114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, and many other toxic heavy metals. Mercury emissions from coal plants are suspected of contaminating lakes and rivers in northern and northeast states and Canada. In Wisconsin alone, more than 200 lakes and rivers are contaminated with mercury. Health officials warn against eating fish caught in these waters, since mercury can cause birth defects, brain damage and other ailments.

9. Trace elements of uranium. All but 16 of the 92 naturally occurring elements have been detected in coal, mostly as trace elements below 0.1 percent (1,000 parts per million, or ppm). A study by DOE’s Oak Ridge National Lab found that radioactive emissions from coal combustion are greater than those from nuclear power production.

10. A 500 megawatt coal-fired electrical plant burns 1,430,000 tons of coal, uses 2.2 billion gallons of water and 146,000 tons of limestone a year.

Facts on the Pollution caused by the US Coal Industry

Kevin is a contributor and strategic adviser to DeSmogBlog.

He runs the digital marketing agency Spake Media House. Named a “Green Hero” by Rolling Stone Magazine and one of the “Top 50 Tweeters” on climate change and environment issues, Kevin has appeared in major news media outlets around the world for his work on digital campaigning.

Kevin has been involved in the public policy arena in both the United States and Canada for more than a decade. For five years he was the managing editor of DeSmogBlog.com. In this role, Kevin’s research into the “climate denial industry” and the right-wing think tank networks was featured in news media articles around the world. He is most well known for his ground-breaking research into David and Charles Koch’s massive financial investments in the Republican and tea party networks.

Kevin is the first person to be designated a “Certified Expert” on the political and community organizing platform NationBuilder.

Prior to DeSmogBlog, Kevin worked in various political and government roles. He was Senior Advisor to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and a Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Asia Pacific, Foreign Affairs for the Government of Canada. Kevin also worked in various roles in the British Columbia provincial government in the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Health.

In 2008 Kevin co-founded a groundbreaking new online election tool called Vote for Environment which was later nominated for a World Summit Award in recognition of the world’s best e-Content and innovative ICT applications.

Kevin moved to Washington, DC in 2010 where he worked for two years as the Director of Online Strategy for Greenpeace USA and has since returned to his hometown of Vancouver, Canada.