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Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Special to The Green Register by Kyle Crider, Manager – Environmental Operations, Ecotech Institute

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Dirty Deeds And They’re Done Dirt Cheap
AC/DC, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (1981)

Actually, if coal were the subject of AC/DC’s song, it could be titled “Dirty Deeds Done Cheaper Than Dirt” because, thanks to American taxpayers’ subsidizing of coal, the U.S. government recently sold 721 million tons of coal for literally cheaper than dirt.

How dirty is this cheaper-than-dirt coal? Scott Cooney of Green Business Owner (GBO), author of Build a Green Small Business and creator of the wonderful GBO Hawaii sustainability strategy board game, has an excellent new article on this subject over at Inspired Economist. Cooney quotes a Harvard Medical study documenting how burning coal is responsible for:

  • 600,000 cases of brain damage in newborns (presumably from mercury and other heavy metal contamination of mothers being passed to the unborn)
  • 10 million asthma attacks
  • 43,000 premature deaths

Here in the Southeast, we love our cheap, mostly coal-fired power, not realizing that we are paying for it in ways that do not show up on our monthly electricity bills. If you see a sign next to your favorite fishing hole warning you that fish should not be eaten due to high levels of mercury, that’s not some dastardly chemical plant upstream, dumping illegal toxins into the waterway. That’s the fallout from a perfectly legal coal-fired power plant, probably many miles away.

It’s time to dethrone King Coal and implement a democracy of clean, renewable, sustainable power. In this “Ecotech Democracy,” our fuels come to us for free, in the form of sun, wind, and water. Can it be? Dirty Energy, Inc., has been promising us electricity that is too cheap to meter for decades, but in reality, costs have been going up and up and up. Energy price spikes have initiated every major economic recession of the last few decades. Sun, wind, and water are fuels that indeed not only are free, but clean, and will last as long as our sun! So, in addition to free and clean, we have fuels that will never run out.

If all this sounds too good to be true, it may be because you’re not hearing the good news message in your media source. Want some more good news? It’s not too late to change the channel.

“We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
Thomas Edison, In conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone (1931); as quoted in Uncommon Friends: Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel & Charles Lindbergh (1987) by James Newton, p. 31

by Kyle Crider

Kyle is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at