Coal is probably the single dirtiest fuel in the world, and not just because of its massive contribution to global warming. Coal plants are major sources of acid rain pollution, smog, and toxic emissions such as mercury and nitrous oxides. Coal plants are also responsible for producing huge amounts of toxic coal ash that must be stored carefully to avoid negative health impacts. Finally, the coal mining required to fuel our coal plants has a huge impact on the environment as well. Strip mining for coal has removed vast areas of wildlife habitat in the US and elsewhere. In the eastern US, mountaintop removal coal mining literally destroys the upper portions of entire mountains, while eliminating forests and polluting streams. For all these reasons, breaking our energy system’s reliance on coal is one of the most important things we can be doing to save the planet and its inhabitants.
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