As the world’s largest coal-mining state, Virginia is the biggest on earth, but as the world grows more energy-hungry, Virginia’s coal seams are also getting older.
A new report says the state’s coal mining sector is already seeing the cost of its climate policies rise, as the cost to produce and export the coal mined there grows.
The cost of the costs associated with climate change is also rising, with coal mining’s carbon emissions expected to rise more than 30 per cent between 2020 and 2040, according to a new report by the environmental group Appalachian Voices.
“What we’re seeing in Virginia is a real acceleration of climate change and that’s why the impact of climate-change policies will continue to grow,” said Appalachian Voices’ executive director, Jennifer Cope.
The report, published Monday in the journal Environment and Planning, finds that Virginia’s current coal-fired power plants have a carbon footprint that is 20 times greater than the average US coal-burning power plant.
“Virginia is already suffering from a lack of clean energy, which will continue even as the US becomes more energy efficient,” Cope said.
The authors of the report say Virginia coal-mines have seen the cost rise by more than $5,000 per tonne over the last 10 years, a 20 per cent increase.
That means the cost per ton of coal mined in Virginia has doubled over the past decade.
In 2020, the state accounted for less than half of US coal consumption, according the report, but it now accounts for a third of global coal demand.
“We need to be investing in coal, but we also need to understand the cost,” said Cope, who was also the chief executive of the Virginia Environmental Coalition.
Coal’s role in climate change “Coal is not the only fuel that is responsible for climate change, but when you look at the coal sector as a whole, it is more important than ever to be looking at its climate impacts,” said Daniel Branson, the president of Appalachian Voices, a nonprofit environmental group that tracks climate change impacts in the US.
The group estimates that the state has lost nearly half of its coal-derived electricity capacity since 1970, as coal mining operations have shuttered and the market has been flooded with cheap natural gas.
In Virginia, that is having an adverse impact on people living in rural areas, where it is difficult to access the power plants’ coal seams.
Coal is a fuel that makes up about 10 per cent of US energy production, according TOEFL tests that the US uses to measure education levels.
“Copper, zinc and other minerals have a climate impact that is similar to coal,” said Branson.
“But because of the climate change that’s happening, it’s affecting the quality of the air, the water quality, and we are having an impact on health and on people’s health as well.”
Cope noted that coal is a large source of CO2 emissions in Virginia, which is why it is one of the states most vulnerable to climate change.
Virginia has been using coal for more than a century, but the state is transitioning to a low-carbon energy economy, Cope explained.
Coal has become more expensive to mine, and there are now fewer mines around the state, which has led to coal mines being more heavily regulated, and thus having stricter environmental controls.
The study also found that climate change in Virginia was costing the state more than it’s being saved, as more coal mining costs have been added to the price of coal, and this has led the state to invest in cleaner coal mining methods.
“That’s why there’s been an increase in the cost for those technologies that are needed to reduce emissions,” Cice said.
But as the coal industry is becoming more energy independent, the cost has also increased.
“In 2020, when you consider that Virginia had a 30 per in the last decade and it’s increased to 45 in 2030, it makes sense that we are now going to have an increase of this cost,” Branson said.
Virginia coal mines are responsible for about $3.6 billion in climate impacts, according Appalachian Voices data.
But that cost is not only increasing as the country becomes more fuel-efficient, but also as the price for cleaner coal is rising.
The CO2 that is emitted from coal-related operations can be stored in a storage tank, but that storage will also lead to increased air quality, which Cope says can also cause health issues.
“The problem is, when the air quality gets worse and the air pollution gets worse, there’s an increased incidence of asthma,” said Karen Anderson, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Kentucky, who is working on a paper on the impacts of coal mining.
“And the longer you’re exposed to coal dust, the worse you get.”
Coal is the third-most used fuel in the United States, behind gas and diesel.
The environmental group says coal is also a