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King Coal: What It Costs Us
Jeff Goodell, Washington Post
...But if history is any guide, straightforward answers to what happened in Utah will be as rare as oxygen in the collapsed mine. We can expect a hue and cry about mine safety on Capitol Hill, a lot of blame-shifting and finger-pointing and, most likely, some modest mine safety improvements. But you can bet that you won't hear much about the real issue, which is the high cost of the United States' dependence on coal, and whether it's worth the price we pay.
Many Americans think that coal went out with top hats and corsets. In fact, we burn more than a billion tons of coal each year in the United States -- about 20 pounds a day for every man, woman and child. We don't burn it in coal stoves, of course, but in big power plants that generate about half the electric power in the country.
Politically, the war in Iraq has been a boon for coal, allowing coal-friendly politicians to tout America's 250-year supply as a substitute for our addiction to Middle Eastern oil -- even though, in the real world, there is no overlap between coal (used to generate electricity) and oil (used for transportation fuels, among other things).
(26 August 2007)
With coal production, cleaner skies could mean more landfills
Anna Jo Bratton, Associated Press
As the nation's coal-fired power plants work to create cleaner skies, they'll likely fill up landfills with millions more tons of potentially harmful ash.
More than one-third of the ash generated at the country's hundreds of coal-fired plants is now recycled _ mixed with cement to build highways or used to stabilize embankments, among other things.
But in a process being used increasingly across the nation, chemicals are injected into plants' emissions to capture airborne pollutants.
(26 August 2007)