Visualizing the Impact of Coal with Google Earth
For a while I’ve been working on putting together a map of sites associated with coal, including coal ash and slurry spills, coal ash ponds, coal mine disasters, coal burning power plants and other areas where the impact of coal can be seen. Initially, I had planned on doing the world, but it’s just too much to take in one bite, so I decided to limit myself to the United States. If you happen to be from another country, it’s still worth a look. You can consider the United States a representative model of what coal’s impacts are on a country – any other country that uses coal heavily will face similar problems.
To see these sites you’ll need Google Earth, which is free and is a great program that you should have anyway. Just download and open this file: Costofcoal.kmz
This is still a working copy, so it may have a few typographical errors and needs to have more complete details added for each location and incident as well as citations. I’m posting it in order to get some feedback and any suggestions for additions. If anyone knows where I can find a comprehensive list of coal dust explosions and fatalities, that would be great, as it is one thing I’ve had a great deal of trouble finding. Of course, the map is, thus far, incomplete.
I suggest that you zoom into several of the ash ponds, major coal power plants and the surroundings. Just looking at the overview from a distance shows how many locations there are, but a closer look is required to get a better impression of the sheer scale of these facilities. It’s almost mind-boggling to realize how large many coal ash ponds, power plants, mines and other such areas are. Also, I recommend checking out some of the coal fires in Colorado, as a few actually have obvious visible footprints at ground level, such as smoke spewing from cracks in the ground. Most coal fires are not as obvious.
You may also find it helpful to turn off some of the categories (by unchecking the folder) in order to view one type of location or another and reduce screen clutter.
Any suggestions for additions or sources that provide lists of coal-related locations such as disasters or spills would be appreciated. I do plan on adding locations that show the result of “Mountain Top Removal” mining soon, and if there are any good geographic sources for that, I’d very much appreciate hearing about them!
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