Study: Social Costs of Coal Not Weighed

Fuel brings $2 in costs for every $1 burned


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The social costs of coal do not reflect the price consumers pay for it, at least according to a study published in the August issue of the American Economic Review. Calculations made by a team of economists from Yale and Middlebury found that pollutants released by coal generate social costs far in excess of coal’s price, measured primarily in early deaths and health-care expenditures from exposure to sulfur dioxide. The study found that for every dollar of electricity coal generates, Americans pay two dollars in response to its pollution. That value is commonly understood as an externality, or an unaccounted-for cost of economic activity. The American Economic Review is among the country’s most prestigious journals of economic research. The authors did not consider coal’s role in climate change.

Read more at the New York Times