Clean Energy's Impact on Public Health

Because of the coal power it displaces, solar and wind energy generated in the Mid-Atlantic, and Upper Midwest has an outsized impact.
August 21, 2017, 7am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Andrei Stanescu

A study from Lawrence Berkley Labs looked to quantify the impact of clean energy on public health, and the money saved by keeping those people healthy. "They examined how much wind and solar reduced emissions of four main pollutants — sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and carbon dioxide (CO2) — over that span of years," David Roberts reports for Vox. The study found that clean energy likely prevented 7,000 premature deaths saving 56 billion dollars. These savings are before accounting for CO2 reduction and the impact that would have for climate change.

The impact of clean energy is different in different regions of the U.S., "In California, wind and solar are mostly displacing natural gas. In the upper Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions, which rely more heavily on coal, wind and solar have greater impact," Roberts explains.

Finally, because tax rates in the U.S. are progressive and air is breathed equally by all people, funding clean energy is particularly equitable. "This is something that often gets lost in discussions of environmental regulations. It’s not just that their total benefits almost always exceed their direct costs. It’s that those benefits are uniquely egalitarian and progressive," Roberts argues.

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Published on Friday, August 18, 2017 in Vox
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