Achieving Environmental Sustainability through Fiscal Policy
Critical Issues in Environmental Taxation series
Edited by Larry Kreiser, Julsuchada Sirisom, Hope Ashiabor and Janet E. Milne
Hans Sprohge and Julsuchada Sirisom Coal mining causes considerable damage to the environment. Some of the damage is irreparable. An understanding of why this is so requires understanding how coal is formed. How coal is formed explains its location in the earth’s crust. Various mining methods are used to extract coal from the crust of the earth. These methods are very destructive to the environment. Both the federal government and the various states have enacted laws to protect the environment by requiring reclamation of mined areas. Sometimes these laws are ineffective in protecting the environment. They may not be enforced or skirted through legal chicanery. Even when there are good faith attempts to comply with laws intended to protect the environment, reclamation may not be possible. The damage to the environment from coal mining is exacerbated by tax incentives and externalities. Removing tax incentives for environmental degradation and creating tax incentives for environmental restoration can mitigate the negative environmental effects of coal mining. Additional beneﬁts of doing so are that alternative energy sources may become competitive with coal and signiﬁcant conservation efforts may be undertaken. COAL FORMATION Coal formed millions of years ago from massive accumulation of dead, land-based plant life, mainly trees.1 The energy in coal comes from the energy that plants absorbed from the sun millions of years ago.2 The plants that formed coal captured solar energy through photosynthesis to create the compounds that make up plant tissues. The most important element in the plant material...
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