Just as the Japanese government insists on continuing with nuclear power in spite of the death and destruction this energy system has had on their people, apparently the United States plans to give its citizens the same misguided, unwarranted lack of protection with new or retrofitted coal plants. Apparently to avoid public protests, the new game plan is to allow coal plant companies to lease more public land. Coal companies would be allowed to open mines in Wyoming and Montana, in an area known as the Powder River Basin. Apparently, Congress left enough loopholes to allow mining in these areas that would not be possible in non-public lands. Thus, complete hearings on the affects of such mining on air, water and climate temperatures will never take place.
A recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) indicates that building new coal plants or retrofitting old ones makes no financial sense. The report insists: “The truth is that coal is far from cheap, and we can no longer afford the staggering economic, public health, and environmental costs of continued reliance on this outdated energy source.” Instead, UCS researchers call for the same funding to be used to build new renewable energy systems, such as wind and solar power, and phasing out coal burning power plants.
While proponents argue that coal mining is a boon, providing jobs for the American economy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency argues otherwise. One EPA reports posits: “Burning coal is a leading cause of smog, acid rain, global warming, and air toxins.” The report argues that coal firing plants: 1) Produce almost 4 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main cause of Global Warming; 2) Emit 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) causing acid rain, damaging forests, lakes and buildings and leaving particles in the air that can go into lungs, causing bronchitis, asthma and poor eyesight; 3) 10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx) forming as much ozone smog as a half million late-model cars; 4) 720 tons of carbon monoxide (CO) bringing headaches and stress on those with heart disease; 5) 170 pounds of mercury, a teaspoon of which can poison fish in a 25-acre lake; 6) 225 pounds of cancer-causing arsenic; and 7) 114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, other heavy metals, as well as uranium–all of which can kill.