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Trump Coal Push Means Lower Birth Weight

In his dubious and futile attempt to restore coal mining jobs (which declined far more precipitously under Reagan/Bush than they did under Obama), Donald Trump also seeks less healthy babies:

Children in a region of the US were born smaller after the area switched from nuclear plants to coal-fired power stations, new research has found.

…The analysis of data from the US Energy Information Administration by Severnini reveals that the loss of nuclear energy following the two closures was made up almost entirely by an increase in energy production by coal-fired power plants in the Tennessee Valley area, although the increase varied across different plants.

The result was that particle pollution increased in areas where coal use rose. Around the Paradise plant, which accounted for almost a quarter of the rise in coal-fired energy, concentration of particulates increased by 27% in the 18 months after the nuclear shutdown.

At the same time average birth weight fell. After taking into account a host of factors relating to the child, county and mother, including her age and education levels – although smoking habits were not specifically probed – birth weight in areas with coal-fired plants declined by around 5.4% in the 18 months after the nuclear shutdown. The impact was greatest in the areas which showed the greatest boom in coal-fired power plant activity after closure of the two nuclear sites.

…But the impact, adds Severnini, goes further, with lower birth weights linked to lower incomes, shorter height and even a lower IQ: a drop of 5.4% in birth weight, he notes, suggests a 0.7% decrease in full-time earnings [Nicola Davis, “Switch from Nuclear to Coal-Fired Power Linked to Low birth Weight in US Region,” UK Guardian, 2017.04.03].

If you plan to dig more coal, you have to plan to burn that coal. This research shows that when you burn that coal, you’ll get weaker babies who will suffer lifelong disadvantages, which will cascade into costs for the economy, federal revenues, and the budget deficit.

And there are asthma, heart attacks, strokes… man! It’s as if Trump read “Harrison Bergeron” and decided he needs to make us all equal by bringing our life expectancy down to that of his base.


  1. Darin Larson 2017-04-06 08:13

    Cory, the expansion of dirty coal just means more jobs just like Trump promised. Think of all the healthcare workers that will be needed to take care of people with asthma, heart attacks and strokes. Also, the lower life span means less of a strain on social security, Medicare and Medicaid. It’s win, win, win. We’re just going to get tired of winning!

  2. Buckobear 2017-04-06 10:05

    … and the lower birth weight means less strain on the part of the women who are forced to carry them to term.

  3. mike from iowa 2017-04-06 10:12

    Wingnuts don’t bother to see life as reality. More babies forced to be born with life-long health risks and in need of care equals a greater strain on healthcare wingnuts don’t want to provide. The stoopid never stops. More strain on local budgets means more taxes on locals while all wingnuts want is less taxes on the people who barely pay taxes now. Since the poor can’t afford lobbyists and lavish gifts to wingnut pols, we know how this debate will end.

  4. Robert McTaggart 2017-04-06 10:27

    If one could burn coal and emit half the carbon one does today, emit none of the SOx and NOx and other things, at the same price point as natural gas, then coal would be just as good as natural gas and could compete. That should be the goal, but it isn’t.

  5. Rorschach 2017-04-06 11:53

    I have an idea. Let’s ramp up coal mining and ship it all to China, creating jobs in our economy and causing the Chinese to to be shorter with lower IQs. They like their air smoggy as heck anyway. It’s a win, win.

  6. Robert McTaggart 2017-04-06 12:29

    That is what is happening already, unfortunately. I don’t think China necessarily wants to build more coal plants either, but they need more energy and coal is cheap there.

    Look to China and India to build more nuclear than anywhere else in the near term.

  7. jerry 2017-04-06 12:33

    Bad news Mr. Rorschach, China is shutting down its coal burners, putting miners out of jobs they have had for generations. They are switching to renewable energy to put their people to work and to provide the needed energy for a very populated land. Make no mistake, China is moving forward and we are moving republican, or backward.

    The cars that are being manufactured in Europe now for export to China as well as for domestic use, are way cool. They are manual transmissions (6 speeds in Toyota Yaris) that when you come to the stop light, the motor stops. When you engage the transmission, the motor starts instantly and you are off. They also are cognizant of the high cost of fuel so their vehicles get very good fuel economy.

    Meanwhile here, republicans with trump, want us to go back to the 50’s with the gas guzzlers that lasted at best 35 to 40,000 miles before we junked them. When they got about 7,500 miles on them, we called them rattletraps and rust buckets. Make America Great Again and bring back those days, lordy me, sounds like progress. Wheelwrights unite, the buggy is cool again! Thanks republicans!

  8. Robert McTaggart 2017-04-06 12:40

    We have to do our part and choose the most efficient vehicle we can. But it is also up to the car companies to keep innovating…if they have a product people want, they will make a profit.

    If they can transition from aluminum/metal based cars to polymer-based vehicles (like with carbon fiber or something else), then you may be able to get improved gas mileage via a weight reduction without losing strength, even with a larger vehicle.

  9. Rorschach 2017-04-06 12:51

    Yes, Jerry. For Trump the wheelwrights will all sing, “For he’s a jolly good felloe.”

  10. jerry 2017-04-06 12:53

    Got that trademark stuff though, old trumpy did, he did for sure. All those red hats you all can wear now are trademarked made in China stuff, with profits going to the prez.

    “The Chinese government recently canceled construction of more than 100 new coal-fired power plants and plans to invest at least $360 billion in green energy projects by 2020. It is a building boom expected to create an estimated 13 million jobs. China already leads the world in total installed solar and wind capacity.

    Trump, who has said global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to hurt the U.S. economy, signed an executive order last week that aims to roll back Obama-era policies regulating carbon emissions. He has pledged to reverse decades of decline in coal mining, which now accounts for fewer than 75,000 U.S. jobs.

    “Clean energy is the next, largest global market,” said Barbara Finamore, Asia director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S.-based environmental group. “The U.S. risks losing out.””

    All we need now is the BAT from the “business party” That will show those China guys and gals that we know business too! By golly, trumpy got those 35 jobs back in the coal fields though. Wow! Farmers and ranchers, get yourselves signed up for more republican high jinx with NOem at the helm of the South Dakota ship of state, the SS Guppy. While you are unemployed, ask NOem for a coal job. We coulda been a champion but instead, we are chumps.

  11. mike from iowa 2017-04-06 13:30


    When I was a child my family would travel
    Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
    And there’s a backwards old town that’s often remembered
    So many times that my memories are worn.

    And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
    Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
    Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
    Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away

    Well, sometimes we’d travel right down the Green River
    To the abandoned old prison down by Airdrie Hill
    Where the air smelled like snakes and we’d shoot with our pistols
    But empty pop bottles was all we would kill.


    Then the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel
    And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
    Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
    Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.


    When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
    Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
    I’ll be halfway to Heaven with Paradise waitin’
    Just five miles away from wherever I am

    Courtesy of John Prine

  12. jerry 2017-04-06 13:47

    I saw John Prine at Red Rocks many many years ago. It was one of the best times I have had and the sounds of still ring in the melon. Thanks mfi. He did another one that kind of rings true for the area now, it goes “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose. Sam Stone by John Prine”.

    Kentucky is rich in its beauty and song and now, irony

  13. Robert McTaggart 2017-04-06 14:04

    Good question why schools in SD are not reducing their energy costs in the same way as the coal mining museum. Then you could pay teachers more or increase supplies/staff where needed.

  14. Robert McTaggart 2017-04-06 17:18

    “China’s coal-fired power generation as a percentage of the total energy mix is on the rise for the second year, despite the push towards renewable capacity additions in the country,…”

    “Imagine, then, what will happen to the environment when Pakistan begins mining billions of tonnes of coal, in part due to its plan to open at least five new coal power plants by 2018 under a new agreement with China.”

  15. leslie 2017-04-06 21:06

    • the loss of nuclear energy following the two closures was made up almost entirely by an increase in energy production by coal-fired power plants in the Tennessee Valley area….
    • The result was that particle pollution increased in areas where coal use rose…particulates increased by 27% in the 18 months after the nuclear shutdown.
    • At the same time average birth weight fell.

  16. Robert McTaggart 2017-04-07 09:08

    Between 1977 and 2015, the equivalent power of about 7 new reactors was generated by uprating existing reactors. That is why the average contribution of power from nuclear has hung around 20% even though the electricity consumed by the public has increased. So we can make the most of our current reactors to deliver copious amounts of particulate-free energy…..with science!!

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