This week we’ve had a few too many reminders of how much coal does not care. First, while we all laughed at the parody “Coal Cares” website that the Yes Men created to look as if it was a Peabody Coal project, Peabody Coal’s response was quick reminder of that website’s true message about the coal industry’s focus on profits over people. Claiming the website’s information about the health effects of coal was false, Peabody officials went on to tout the supposed health benefits of life with coal:
Peabody is proud to help hundreds of millions of people live longer and better through coal-fueled electricity. A growing collection of studies demonstrate the correlation between electricity fueled by low-cost coal and improvement in health, longevity and quality of life.
This week’s prank from the Yes Men may have been a fake, but it drew attention to a very real issue – and all the health data about coal’s pollution on the website were true. Pollution from coal plants is making kids sick, triggering asthma attacks and more. Coal pollution causes over 12,000 visits to the emergency room each year – and over $100 billion in health costs.
And the coal industry is trying to appeal to children too. Just look at this article from the NY Times about the American Coal Foundation’s curriculum that Scholastic distributes to fourth graders. One group calls it “predatory marketing.”
It reminds us of the coal industry’s previous efforts to brainwash children.
Then yesterday we saw an appalling hearing on mountaintop removal coal mining in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The coal industry’s friends on the committee spent hours claiming this destructive practice was good for jobs and that any safeguards implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency only hindered the Appalachian economy.
They ignored mountaintop removal coal mining’s devastating effects on Appalachian communities – both environmentally and economically. Towns are disappearing, water is being polluted, and people are getting sick when the coal industry blows up the mountains around them.
We need to move beyond coal – as communities in eastern Massachusetts will now that the old Salem Harbor coal plant will be shuttered.
We can move beyond coal, as one Virginia coalition is showing through off-shore wind – while also encouraging one old coal company (Dominion) to join the wind power clean energy cause in the state. That is the way of the future.
We cannot remain saddled with coal power from an industry that does not care about people. Low-income families are struggling to pay health care bills for their kids, while polluters like Peabody Coal should be paying for the mess they create.
The real effects of coal pollution on kids with asthma is not funny. This is yet another reminder that we need to transition to cleaner sources of energy like wind and solar that don’t make people sick.