Negative Impacts of Coal

I enjoyed James Hansen’s recent commentary that coal must be phased out, sooner than later, emphasizing a clean, just transition and new green jobs for impacted communities. Apologies for negative impacts I have omitted that may be affecting your life or health. There are many more, please list as commentary if you like. For fact checking see in part:


19 Responses to “Negative Impacts of Coal”

  1. 1 Charles Jun 26th, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Positive impact: Brings Billions of people worldwide electricity needed to survive; powers your computer to write these negative impacts.

  2. 2 Stark Jun 26th, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Who on here turned their lights on today,
    Who would like to go to a hospital when they are sick, pregnant or in need of surgery
    Who turned on a computer, ipod, or cell phone?
    Who used a hair dryer today
    Who went to a starbucks or drank a coffee today?
    Who is concerned about their grandparents well being when they need to go to a nursing home and need to be hooked up to a medical equipment?
    Who likes hot showers?
    Who wants their kids to be educated and go to school every day?
    Who likes to have a heater in the winter?
    Who likes to have fans and air conditioners in the summer?
    Who makes less than $250,000 a year and can’t afford the expensive alternatives today….

    I for one do and unfortunately there is no alternative that is currently feasible today or in the next 15 years that will make it affordable to the masses other than energy created from power plants, of which a majority of them are coal powered. These new plants are utilizing technology that is less pollutive, more productive and safer every day. Lets think about reality of what is needed to keep our country / world going today before we protest something so basic and so important to every day survival. Yes – please lets spend a massive amount of money on research and development to find alternatives and get them to a point that makes affordable as they are DESPERATELY NEEDED as we only have 250 years left of coal in the ground…. We need to focus on this as we all want a bright future, if it be from the lights we turn on to read to our children at night or the natural sun that we should all be out enjoying.

  3. 3 danawv Jun 26th, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    You’re of course correct the coal is used to create electricity. Many things can be used to create electricity. An unstated wish of mine is that we would begin to think about transitioning away from coal, so that maybe I can power my computer with something that doesn’t simultaneously make me sick and destroy our long term clean water sources by burying them and/or and releasing toxins into them.

    It is certainly ironic, isn’t it. However, in the long run, when it comes down to it, I contend I need clean water more than I need electricity to survive. There is an exciting opportunity that my own home could be powered by wind, with the Coal River Mountain Wind Project. To make this project come about will take a lot of typing on coal powered computers. But hopefully we’ll be off the coal here in WV before we are out of clean water.

  4. 4 Morgan Jun 26th, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Stark: if we use up the 250 years of coal in the ground there won’t be much of West Virginia, or our seashores, or out…. (fill in the blank) left.

    yay irony of using dirty electricity to bring about change.

    Ok, now that we’ve fully enjoyed the irony, lets get to work building something better.

  5. 5 rubylevine Jun 26th, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    I really like that chart. Very effective.

  6. 6 Stark Jun 26th, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Everyone on this message board has the capability to use solar and wind technologies today on small scale – geothermal has been around for 100’s of years.

    Yet how many people on here have geothermal in their homes?
    How many have solar panels on their homes?

    I would assume a majority here don’t. Why is that? The technologies are not affordable for the masses. Yet you like to go to a website and celebrate protesting instead of actually doing something to benefit society.

    Randomly enough some of the largest players in coal and gas are the only ones donating substantial dollars to alternatives and you guys and gals are protesting them? That doesn’t make sense to me.

    Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Instead of tying yourself to a doozer go out there and be creative… Think of a solution instead of wasting time and money that can be spent looking for affordable ways to better the economony.

    danawv – by the way – a solar panel today can power your computer – if you have the money to pay for it I would suggest you do that. Instead of typing on the site go out and earn an extra buck and you would be 1% there.

    I enjoy the luxuries of my air conditioner at night when I am sleeping yet I also like to surf on a clean beach when possible – so to me being hypocritical and saying coal is the devil a bit wrong. As its a great resources that enables society to proper until somone smart enough can make it affordable.


  7. 7 maliki Jun 26th, 2008 at 4:42 pm


    Like, dude, your karma is like totally off whack. You should like totally love the mountains and kiss the chipmunks not dig the coal out, it’s for sure totally unnatural. You are being told by the corporate agenda that coal is cost-effective for the developing world, when in reality everyone wants to pay 1,000% more than what they pay now for solar and wind power. It’s the greedy corporate pigs that are brainwashing people to use coal.

    I totally got to get my cappuccino right now and sit at my computer in my A/C on to completely tell you why you are completely wrong about the capitalist pigs that control our world.

  8. 8 David M. Jun 26th, 2008 at 5:15 pm


    It appears the entire point of activism does not “make sense to you”.

    I think this is your problem here:
    “Yet you like to go to a website and celebrate protesting instead of actually doing something to benefit society.”

    Clearly you do not understand the true power of activism. There are many roles essentials to making change on a national level. Not all individuals have the time, skills or desire to fund or design the next generation of solar power. Clearly, not everyone has that sort of power or influence in their jobs or by themselves. Activism empowers these people and helps them have their voices heard by government, corporate interests, and other power players. In this instance, we critique coal because we beleive our leaders could be doing more to support alternative energy. Pressure from the grassroots is an essential component to making change.

    I think you would be surprised what sort of progress we have made through protest. I can’t find the page, but could someone post a link to CCC campaign wins?

  9. 9 Stark Jun 26th, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    David –

    The way you are protesting is just creating a deeper divide from realists and yourselves. By chaining yourself to dozers so that the operators can’t work and pay their bills of coal operations only hurts society.

    Why instead don’t you go out and promote how excellent solar is and focus on positive aspects of solar, wind, geo, etc…..

    Explain to people the options and speak for the future positive implications if instead of taking those family vacations one should put a solar panel on their house…

    In all honesty what you should be doing is protesting against the citizens of the world that their energy habits and high powered computers are hurting society, not the coal producers. The coal producers are just powering the laziness and greed of you and me. They are just supplying the energy that we are all too lazy to create elsewhere or go with out.

    YOU and only YOU have the option to turn your lights, use your computer, and live a good lifestyle. I look at the pictures you post and there are more lights on in those picture then need be.

    If you focused on efficiency and conservation then the coal companies would have to produce less energy, solar would be more affordable because the overall need per household would be less enabling them to be more effective.

    If people actually where able to ACCEPT FAULT IN THEMSELVES then we would be making progress.

    Yes I am protesting protestors as I believe them to be hypocritical as THEY DO HAVE THE POWER to make a difference, yet they are unwilling to sacrifice themselves to the cause.

    Sacrifice your money by giving something up today so you can afford solar in the future.
    Sacrifice your comfort by giving up air conditioner
    Sacrifice your ability to see by not turning your lights on so bright.

    Look at what you can do to make a difference, not cause an interruption.

    To me it sounds like what you are focused on is doing something or sacrificing only if the masses are willing to…. Look a bit deeper and you will see that a majority of you on here live that hypocritical life….

  10. 10 danawv Jun 26th, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Hi Stark,

    I totally agree with you that we need to be working towards energy efficiency and alternatives, and I think you’d be pleased to know how many of the people who I know who read this blog are working on that. In fact, the whole point of the Campus Climate Challenge is to work for solutions and there are thousands of youth at hundreds of schools working day and night to build energy efficient buildings and promote clean energy. Hop onto and I think you’ll get pretty inspired.

    I myself was sitting with the lights off with no A/c and no appliances but my fridge plugged in when I made that chart, and I am right now actually, The electric bill in my house, where 3 people live, is about $13 a month. So that should come as good news to anyone who was worrying about that.

    I’m also really excited about the possibility of a windfarm that would provide cheap, clean energy and safe long term jobs to one of the poorest counties in the US that is also one of the highest coal producing counties, Raleigh County, WV. For me, my work for renewable energy goes hand in hand with my work against coal — the horrible impacts I see in my community from coal inspire me to live simply and work for clean energy. I have found that telling people the truth about dirty energy is a great way to inspire people to work for clean energy and energy efficiency.

    So thanks for promoting energy efficiency and pointing out the class discrepancies — that’s right, poor people pay a higher proportion of their salary into skyrocketing prices of dirty energy, and they are the first to get poisoned when dirty energy like coal comes to their town.

    I think though, that even if I was flying in my personal jet with the A/C in my mega-mansion set at 40 degrees with no one home and eating baby seal sushi when I wrote that blog, the facts about coal’s impacts on communities would still be true.

    One activists hypocrisy doesn’t negate an entire industries abuse of a land and people. For more information on that, see

  11. 11 Mattie Reitman Jun 27th, 2008 at 2:23 am

    This chart is a great resource.

    I give it a 10 for truth and clarity, no question.

  12. 12 Aussie climateer Jun 29th, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Hi Stark

    The good news is that renewables ARE affordable and are ready to roll out now. The only reason they’re not already powering our homes is that they don’t receive anywhere near the amount of government support as governments give to the fossil fuel industries. Here in Australia the government gives $28 to the fossil fuel industry for every $1 it gives to renewables. Level the playing field and watch renewables take off!

  13. 13 Stark Jul 8th, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Aussie – I have finally stopped laughing enabling me to respond now.

    That is 100% not correct. Actually coal companies are taxed heavily and there are essentially zero subsidies offer to coal mining operations to date.

    In actuality wind, solar and water is all subsidied through the world. Which I am not against.

    How do I know,I have done my research. Secondly, a good way to figure it out is that private enterprises can only make money on subsidies in alternatives today. When it becomes affordable and economical then the private industry will be successful and it will really take off.

    The world is a business. If you can’t pay your bills you can’t survive. I assume most of you live in a house, apt, or a shelter. To live there you have to pay your bills. Most either have some sort of job or collect welfare. Welfare is a subsidy – subsidizing the individuals that either can’t or choose not to work.

    Same as the this. Please all I ask if you that you look in to reality. Close your eyes and think about how the world turns.

    The indians bartered for food and to survive.
    We work to generate currency to buy food and pay bills.
    Companies need to generate cash to pay bills, grow and work.

    People hindering this process accomplishes nothing. If you all banged your heads together and thought of a solution to the problem we would probably have more success versus you all sitting around cheering that another one of your cronies got arrested for causing people to not do their job……

    Why not change the posts to – what can we do to help. How can we make things affordable.

    Boone Pickens – the most successful energy man in the world is trying – why don’t you?

  14. 14 WV Matt Jul 8th, 2008 at 7:47 pm


    First, most obviously, the Fossil Fuel industry gets huge amounts of subsidies from the government in both tax breaks and actual tax dollars given to them. The gov’t of Kentucky just agreed to give $550 million to build a coal-to-liquids plant in Kentucky. That’s only around 7% of the actual cost of the plant. The FutureGen project in Matoon, Illinois was going to get 74% of it’s funding from the Department of Energy. When the DOE pulled out due to rising costs, the project collapsed because it’s not economically feasible with out that gov’t subsidy. The 2005 Energy Bill had $6 billion in subsidies to the Oil and Gas industry and $9 billion to the coal industry.

    Last example, but there are many more, Marriott, the hotel chain, owns a number of “Synfuel” plants. In case you don’t remember what synfuel is, it was the attempt by the government to get coal-to-liquids going in the gas crisis of the 1970s. And no, you haven’t been filling your car with liquid coal, it was a corporate boondoggle. The definition of “Synfuel” was so broad that they simply spray diesel fuel on the coal, call it “synfuel” and get $150 million in tax breaks every year.

    The State also gives subsidies to the industry in the form of externalities that the state picks up the tab on. Dr. Micheal Hendryx of WVU recently published an article in a peer reviewed journal that concluded the more coal that is mined in a community, the poorer the health of the community is. I live in West Virginia, the leading Appalachian coal producer, which has the 2nd lowest per capita income in the nation and the highest rate of disability. The state is picking up the tab on those health care costs created by the industry. The situation is the same in coal producing regions in Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee.

    In coal producing regions of West Virginia, the coal industry has held a tight grip on the economy and the politics. The monoeconomy the industry and bought off state and local governments have created caused West Virginia to have the 2nd lowest per capita income in the country. That means there are a lot of people on welfare, which the state is paying for. And before you stereotype us out here in Appalachia, it’s not usually by choice that folks get on welfare.

    And it’s not just the government that’s paying for the fossil fuel industry, it’s also the people who pay. They pay with loss of their health. They pay with the loss of their homes and their history when the industry forces them out. They pay with loss of ground water. They pay with the loss of their community. And that coal-to-liquids plant in KY I mentioned earlier will be using 16.8 million gallons of water every single day. That water belongs to the people who will not be seeing profits from it.

    And where do you think you get off saying why don’t we look for solutions? If we didn’t have to sit around refuting the nonsense that people like you put out there, maybe we could spend all our time working for those solutions. Check out for one such example.

    The world is not a business. People like Mr. Pickens may think so, but people like Mr. Pickens also supported the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth (remember them, they lied) and are busy buying up as much of the Ogallala Aquifer as they can get their hands on to sell the water to cities in deserts (that’s actually what Pickens himself did). Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that he’s investing so much in wind energy and I have brought this up as an example in meetings with government agencies, but he’s in it for nothing but the money. He made his money in the Fossil Fuels and as far as I know hasn’t divested from them.

    This chart is fantastic and if anything, it does not list enough of the negative impacts of the coal industry.

    And Finally, George Bush just approved $162 billion for a war in Iraq (the Democratic controlled congress passed it first). That’s quite a subsidy.

  15. 15 danawv Jul 23rd, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Stark doesn’t seem to have a reply for that Matt. Ha!

  16. 16 jcwinnie Feb 9th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    What became of the truthful chart?

  17. 17 danawv Feb 9th, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Ok, it’s back up, sorry for temporarily taking it down. Thanks for noticing.

  18. 18 jcwinnie Feb 10th, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Thank-you, danawv

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