Coal is the enemy of mankind.

Putting aside the argument over whether CO2 causes climate change, coal is a terribly destructive way to create energy and we need to stop burning it.

First you have to dig coal up. We either sink tunnels thousands of feet into the ground, putting the lives of millions of men around the world in constant risk or we rip down entire mountain ranges get at it, burying valleys and streams with the rubble.

Then we haul it all around the country to power plants where it's burned, releasing toxins like mercury, arsenic, and lead into the air.

And then, just when you think the damage party is over, we're left with an inordinate amount of coal ash after the burn. We create enough coal ash to fill a million railroad cars a year. Coal ash isn't regulated by the federal government so the country is a patchwork of different regulations, some weaker than others, many completely ineffectual. Often the coal ash is left in unlined open air slurry ponds, ponds which can and have leaked and burst.

In December Tennessee was the epicenter for one of the worst environmental disasters in our nations history when over a billion gallons of coal ash burst from a TVA storage pond in the small town of Harriman. Dozens of houses were destroyed, the land was covered in up to six feet of toxic sludge, and water sources have been contaminated by mercury, lead, and other toxic heavy metals.

Even when coal ponds behave and don't burst through their levees, the people living near them are way more likely to get cancer. The Bush Administration buried a report by the EPA that came out in 2002 that found that people living near coal ash ponds had a 1 in 50 risk of developing cancer.

Throw another outrageous criminal act by the Bush Administration onto their pile of shame.

We need to stop burning coal as fast as humanly possible. We put a guy on the moon, we created the Internet, and invented the Wii. We can certainly stop burning coal within the next decade or two.

Are you on TwitterFollow me (@sheagunther) there, I give good tweets.

And if you really like my writing, you can join my Facebook page.

Shea Gunther is a podcaster, writer, and entrepreneur living in Portland, Maine. He hosts the popular podcast "Marijuana Today Daily" and was a founder of Renewable Choice Energy, the country's leading provider of wind credits and Green Options. He plays a lot of ultimate frisbee and loves bad jokes.

Live near coal ash? 1 in 50 chance of cancer.
The Bush Administration buried a report showing a highly elevated risk of cancer for those living near coal ash. Why do we burn coal again?