Coal has an almost indescribably huge effect on the US economy. We have been producing about a billion tons of coal annually, and using almost all of it (in 2008, we exported about 4% of what we mined). An estimated 174,000 people hold full-time, permanent jobs related to the coal industry. Perhaps even more significantly, coal has been the basis for an entire culture based on economically cheap (but environmentally and medically expensive) electricity.
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