08/08/2007 02:35 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Coal's Latest Victims

As awful as the fate of the four coal miners trapped underground in Utah is, the sad truth is that they represent merely a fraction of the casualties of America's addiction to coal.

Every year in America, pollution from coal-fired power plants cuts short the lives of more than 30,000 people and causes millions of asthma attacks, according to government consultants Abt Associates. It's also responsible for retarding the mental development of thousands of American children: according to EPA scientists, more than one in six children born every year have elevated levels of mercury in their blood, putting them at risk for developmental disorders and slower brain growth.

Worst of all, coal is driving the global climate crisis that is putting billions of people at risk from more extreme weather, spreading infectious disease, and disastrous flooding (not to mention threatening thousands of species with extinction).

I suppose there's no better evidence for the urgent need to eliminate our addiction to coal than the callous (and weird) rant against action to solve the climate crisis made by the owner of the collapsed mine: (thanks to Grist's David Roberts for finding this clip.

The man is willing to expose his workers to unsafe conditions -- and exploit their situation to pursue his far-right political agenda; is it any surprise he's willing to let the planet boil as he tries to extract a few extra dollars from allowing safety violations to stack up in his mine?

I hope Murray keeps up the crazy talk: this unfeeling greed monster is the second best poster boy for the climate crisis doubters we could hope for. Next thing you know, maybe he'll go for the climate skeptic gold and shoot an elderly friend in the face.