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Nuclear Accidents and All, Coal Is By Far the Deadliest Energy Source Nuclear Accidents and All, Coal Is By Far the Deadliest Energy Source

Nuclear Accidents and All, Coal Is By Far the Deadliest Energy Source

by Ben Jervey
March 24, 2011

Last week, Nicola wrote about an interactive chart that compared the number of deaths per terawatt-hour that could be attributed to a few major sources of energy. Yesterday, Seth Godin did the world a service by simplifying that rather complicated chart.

This is a "non-exaggerated but simple version" of the original deaths/TWh statistics. Perhaps the most stunning, simple takeaway:

For every person killed by nuclear power generation, 4,000 die due to coal, adjusted for the same amount of power produced.

Godin also mentions this incredibly important point, which cannot be driven home hard enough:

Not included in this chart are deaths due to global political instability involving oil fields, deaths from coastal flooding and deaths due to environmental impacts yet unmeasured, all of which skew it even more if you think about it.

So, actually, it's even worse. As everyone debates the costs and benefits, the pros and cons, and the feasibility of various energy sources as we try to power our future, we should all remember: coal is dangerous, dirty, and not as "cheap" as advertised.

Godin titles his post, "The triumph of coal marketing." He's right: we've been conditioned through marketing to believe that our country cannot live without coal—that it is cheap, creates jobs, keeps our economy churning, and can be "clean"—when in fact none of those things are hard and fast truths. Rather, they're mostly lies. Coal kills. It's not as cheap as advertised, especially when all of the external costs (health, lost jobs to labor-light mountaintop removal mining, ecosystem degradation, water contamination, and so on) are considered . And it's a ticking time bomb for our atmosphere and climate.

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