Coal is a dirty energy source

Burning coal pollutes our environment with toxins, produces a quarter of US global warming emissions, and accounts for a whopping 80 percent of all carbon emissions produced by power generation nationwide. It’s time to reduce our dependence on this polluting energy source.

There are nearly 600 coal-fired power plants operating in the United States today, producing nearly half of the nation’s electricity. To decrease our reliance on coal, we must shut down the oldest and dirtiest coal plants and replace them with reliable and clean energy sources. 

UCS experts work to analyze practical, cost-effective strategies for lowering America’s coal use—and have consistently demonstrated that closing down the dirtiest coal-fired power plants would not adversely effect the reliability of our electricity supply, nor would it significantly increase the cost of electricity for consumers.

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America's costliest coal plants are ripe for retirement


A significant number of US coal-fired power plants are old, inefficient, and no longer economically competitive: it simply makes no financial sense to keep them running when cheaper, cleaner alternatives are available. They are ripe for retirement.

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Burning coal wastes money

money-filled smoke from coal smokestack

The costs of coal go beyond just its environmental impacts. Coal also incurs substantial economic costs for the states that rely on it most, especially when they import large amounts from other states or foreign countries.

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Aging, water-intensive coal plants are vulnerable to energy-water collisions

power plant by ocean

A significant number of US coal-fired generators use once-through cooling systems, which involve large amounts of water withdrawals. This places them at greater risk for energy-water collisions, which occur when insufficient water is available or water temperatures are too warm for power plant cooling.

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Investing in coal makes no economic sense

cranes and coal pile

Investing heavily in retrofitting old coal-fired power plants or in building new ones makes no economic sense. Current technological, economic, and policy trends make such commitments exceedingly risky, both from a financial and environmental perspective.

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We Need Your Support
to Make Change Happen

We can shift our nation away from dirty fossil fuels and toward cleaner, renewable sources of power—but not without you. Your generous support helps develop science-based solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.