U.S. Coal Facts

Indypendent Staff Jun 7, 2007

  • In 2006 coal consumption was 1.1 billion short tons

State / Short Tons
1. Wyoming 488.4 million
2. West Virginia 203.8 million
3. Kentucky 149.6 million

Ninety percent of coal is used to fuel the 600 coal-fired power plants in the United States. These plants are responsible for 40 percent of annual carbon dioxide emissions and supply more than 50 percent of electricity produced.


1. Peabody Energy $600 million
2. Arch Coal $260 million
3. Massey Energy $111 million

Coal industry campaign contributions since 1990 total $33.6 million, three-quarters of which went to the Republican Party.  Between 1998 and 2005, the coal industry spent $80 million on lobbying.

Under the guise of “energy independence” and a “solution to global warming,” politicians and industry are re-branding coal as a clean alternative. This ignores the devastation that trails coal from the mine to the power plant, including mountaintop mining, coal dust pollution, toxic sludge, as well as the energy required for the production chain. From extraction and transportation to refining and energy production, coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel.

A rash of bills pushing clean coal technology is making its way through Congress, but there are plenty of existing subsidies already going to the industry.

During Bush’s 2000 campaign, he promised to commit $2 billion over 10 years to advance clean coal technology through research and development initiatives.  Three years ahead of schedule, Bush ful-filled that promise in his fiscal year 2008 budget request, allocating $426 million for the Clean Coal Technology Program.

Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, funding research into carbon-capture technology to remove and bury the carbon in coal after it is burned. The coal industry received $9 billion in subsidies under the act, as part of an initiative supposedly to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. This includes $6.2 billion for new power plants, $1.1 billion in tax breaks to install pollution-control technology and another $1.1 billion to make coal a cost-ef-ficient fuel. The act also allowed superfi-cial re-definitions of coal processing, such as spraying on diesel or starch, to qualify them as “non-traditional,” allowing coal producers to avoid paying $1.3 billion in taxes per year.


Despite $5.2 billion invested in carbon capture so far, the technology is at least five to 10 years away from realization, according to dr. James Hansen, director of the NASA goddard Institute for Space Studies. meanwhile, more than 150 coal-fired power plants are on the drawing board.

Congress is preparing to fork over billions of dollars in subsidies to build as many as 10 coal-to-liquid fuel production plants.  These would create a new industry of coal-based diesel fuels for use in cars, trucks and airplanes. Bills currently before the House and Senate would guarantee subsidies for coal to fuel if oil prices drop below $40 a barrel and give 51-cent tax credits to every gallon of coal-based fuel sold through 2020.

When combusted, this coal diesel would emit twice the amount of greenhouse gases than petroleum-based gasoline.

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