This is another article which looks into the hidden costs of economic activity. This week we look into the hidden costs of coal fired power generation.


Coal fired power generation gets a lot of coverage because of the large amounts of greenhouse gasses that are associated with this activity.

But what if there are other, more hidden costs that make this activity even more dangerous.

In the 2009 paper by the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S. Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use, they looked for exactly these types of costs and their findings were very worrying.

Their landmark study found that the total annual health related damages from sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxides and particulate matter created by coal burning in the U.S. amounted to $68 billion in 2005.

These annual costs are simply incredible. These costs do not include damage to ecosystems or the health effects of other air pollutants such as mercury.

Their findings also made clear that there were many coal-fired power plants with modest damages per kWh, but that there were a small number of plants that were associated with large amounts of damages.

I think that the findings from this study are interesting, because in the atmosphere where there are still some who are sceptical about climate change and its human origins, these health impacts can help shape the debate and make the argument for cleaner sources of energy definitive.

What you need to know

This article looked into the hidden costs of coal fired power generation.

This type of power generation contributes to $68 billion worth of health damages in the U.S. alone every single year. The worldwide figure would be staggeringly high.

Once the ecosystem damages are accounted for, there is no business case for this wanton destruction of society and the environment.

Climate change was a good reason to look beyond coal, but these health damages make the case stronger still.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think the world needs to do to move beyond coal?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

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