Friday, January 18, 2008

The Problem With Coal: It Kills People

The EPA recently passed a new, more restrictive cap for sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants in the Eastern United States. The new Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) of 2005 will take effect in 2010 and be fully implemented by 2015. The U.S. has succeeded in reducing sulfur dioxide emissions from coal plants significantly since 1980 under the cap and trade program. Despite this, coal emissions are still killing thousands of Americans every year. Sulfur dioxide is a precursor of fine particulate matter. Fine particulate contributes significantly to pre-mature mortality (death). In a recent report on the benefits of CAIR, (here) the EPA predicts that in 2015, CAIR will create $85-100 billion in annual health benefits, preventing 17,000 deaths, 22,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 12,300 hospital admissions, 1.7 million lost work days and 500,000 lost school days. This means that coal fired power plants will cause approximately 17,000 emissions related deaths this year. Coal is a cheap and abundant fuel supply but it exacts a huge public health toll that other electricity sources like nuclear, natural gas and renewables do not.

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