Harvard Medical School

Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal

Each stage in the life cycle of coal—extraction, transport, processing, and combustion—generates a waste stream and carries multiple hazards for health and the environment. These costs are external to the coal industry and are thus often considered “externalities.”We estimate that the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public a third to over one-half of a trillion dollars annually.Many of these so-called externalities are, moreover, cumulative.