Coal generates 44% of our electricity, and is the single biggest air polluter in the U.S.
Air pollution: Burning coal causes smog, soot, acid rain, global warming, and toxic air emissions.
Wastes generated: Ash, sludge, toxic chemicals, and waste heat create more environmental problems.
Fuel supply: Mining, transporting, and storing coal levels mountains and pollutes the land, water, and air.
Water use: Coal plants need billions of gallons of cooling water and harm wildlife.
A typical (500 megawatt) coal plant burns 1.4 million tons of coal each year. As of 2012, there are 572 operational coal plants in the U.S. with an average capacity of 547 megawatts.
Coal pollutes when it is mined, transported to the power plant, stored, and burned. Click on the pictures above left to see more about the kinds of environmental damage caused by coal.
Power plant photo credit: Warren Gretz, DOE/NREL
Learn More about Our Coal Use
In-Depth Analysis and Reports
- Ranking the States that Import the Most Coal (2014)
- An Economic Analysis of the U.S. Coal Fleet (2013)
- Ripe for Retirement: The Case for Closing America's Costliest Coal Plants (2012)
- A Risky Proposition: The Financial Hazards of New Investments in Coal Plants (2011)
- Burning Coal, Burning Cash: Ranking the States that Import the Most Coal (2010)
- Coal Power in a Warming World: Investing in Carbon Capture and Storage (2008)