It's hard to believe that nearly forty percent of our country's electricity still comes from coal, a dirty, outdated energy source. Coal not only causes health problems, but it's also the main contributor to climate disruption.
Just how bad is coal: in mountaintop removal mining, coal companies clear-cut forest and literally blow the tops off mountains to get the coal. This process dumps millions of tons of waste into our streets and poisons our drinking water. But mining coal is only the beginning.
Burning coal generates smog, which can cause asthma attack, chest pains and breathing problems. In fact, one out of ten children in the US suffers from asthma, and it's the number one reason kids miss school due to illness. The pollution from burning coal leads to twelve thousand emergency room visits and more than one hundred billion dollars in Health Cost every year.
Coal pollution also contains toxic mercury that damages the nerve system, and this is especially dangerous for babies and young children, because it can cause developmental problems. Mercury rains down into our oceans, rivers and lakes, contaminating our fish and seafood.
And even after coal is burned, the waste that's left over is bad for our health. Each year, coal plants generate more than one hundred and forty million tons of toxic waste, called coal ash. That's stored in thousands of pits across the country, enough toxic waste to fill more than four hundred thousand Olympic-size swimming pools.
Living near a toxic coal ash pit can be worse for kids' health than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
The good news is that the United States has become an international leader in reducing carbon pollution, largely because we are retiring coal plants and replacing them with clean, renewable energy nationwide.
The amount of electricity America gets from wind and solar power has more than doubled in the past few years. Iowa and South Dakota are already getting more than twenty percent of their energy from wind power. And in 2012, ten states got more than ten percent of their energy from wind.
Coal is making us sick, and it's time to make this toxic, outdated energy source history. Let's create a clean energy future for our country and for our kids. Let's move beyond coal.