New study debunks the myth that coal is cheap, and that greater reliance on it would promote economic growth

Brad Johnson:

A new economic analysis of the costs of pollution to the United States finds that coal power is harming the economy. In the American Economic Review article “Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy,” economists Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus model the physical and economic consequences of emissions of six major pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, fine particulate matter, and coarse particulate matter) from the country’s 10,000 pollution sources. They estimate the “gross external damages” (GED) from the sickness and death caused by the pollution, and compare that to the value added to the economy:

Solid waste combustion, sewage treatment, stone quarrying, marinas, and oil and coal-fired power plants have air pollution damages larger than their value added. . . . Coal plants are responsible for more than one-fourth of GED [gross external damages] from the entire US economy. The damages attributed to this industry are larger than the combined GED due to the three next most polluting industries: crop production, $15 billion/year, livestock production, $15 billion/year, and construction of roadways and bridges, $13 billion/ year. . . .

In other words, instead of being “cheap” and “affordable,” coal is actually the costliest fuel for electricity.

“The findings show that, contrary to current political mythology, coal is underregulated,” Legal Planet’s Dan Farber comments. “On average, the harm produced by burning the coal is over twice as high as the market price of the electricity. In other words, some of the electricity production would flunk a cost-benefit analysis. This means that we’re either not using enough pollution controls or we’re just overusing coal as a fuel.”


About Guy N. Texas

Guy N. Texas is the pen name of a lawyer living in Dallas, who is now a liberal. He was once conservative, but this word has so morphed in meaning that he can no longer call himself that in good conscience. Guy has no political aspirations. He speaks only for himself.
This entry was posted in Economics, Environment, News, Regulation. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to New study debunks the myth that coal is cheap, and that greater reliance on it would promote economic growth

  1. Thanks for some facts Guy. I “knew” this was so but it always helps to back up a conversation. Mahalo and good luck there in the Lone Star state. You all have had a tough year. Dohn

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