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As most people in this state are aware, Kentucky has very “cheap” electricity rates. These low rates are one of the reasons that many industries reside in our great state.
Most citizens would argue that this is a great blessing, and one that should be protected. However, the true cost of this “cheap” energy, when externalizations are taken into account, is actually extremely high.
By most accounts, coal is responsible for more than 90 percent of the energy production in the state of Kentucky. We truly are a “Friend of Coal” in terms of state energy policies.
Many people claim that this cheap energy source should be something we should protect and fight for. However, fighting for the prolonged mining and burning of coal in this state in order to pay “cheap” energy costs is the equivalent of digging, and paying, for our own grave.
If the true cost of coal is analyzed, the health impacts that come as a result of the mining and burning of this finite non-renewable energy source far outweigh the price we are paying on our electric bills every month.
The health and social impacts of strip-mining practices in Appalachia have been well documented — with a loss of jobs, clean water and clean air leading to poor health conditions for local citizens. The health care costs as a result of these environmentally destructive practices are extremely high and cause the true cost of coal to be much higher.
If the destructive mining practices are ignored, and things are viewed on a macro level, the combustion of coal in power plants also poses serious health problems and leads to millions of dollars in health care costs for respiratory issues.
These respiratory issues, however, pale in comparison to the yearly budget that is going to be spent offsetting the global impacts of climate change. Coal-fired power plants are the number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and continue to be a major reason for rising seas and increasingly more violent weather patterns.
“Coal keeps the lights on,” but it also keeps our local hospital beds filled with citizens subjected to its continued oppression.
Patrick Johnson is a natural resources and environmental science junior. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.