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MIT Study Finds Health Benefits of CO2 Reductions Can Save 10x the Cost of Policy Implementation

Posted By Lowell F. on August 25th, 2014

Clearly, we believe it makes sense to slash the air and water pollution that is inextricably linked to fossil fuel extraction, processing, and consumption.  We also strongly believe that moving from a dirty to a clean energy economy makes sense on a whole host of levels — economic, environmental, national security, health, etc.  Yet opponents of a clean energy transition invariably raise claims that it will cost too much to do so, even though research has shown that fossil fuels are actually FAR more expensive than they appear to be, in large part because they are allowed to pollute without having to pay for doing so. Thus, the full “lifecycle cost” of coal to the U.S. public is actually upwards of $500 billion a year, but you won’t find that $500 billion a year incorporated into the price of coal, making it artificially cheap, and strongly skewing U.S. energy markets in favor of fossil fuels. Incorporate all the health and environmental “externalities” associated with fossil fuels, while taking away the enormous subsidies they receive from taxpayers, and it’s a totally different story — one in which clean energy would win by a wide margin.

Just in case you wanted even more evidence along these lines, a new study is out from researchers at MIT which finds that policies aimed at cutting fossil-fuel pollution can more than pay for themselves.

Lower rates of asthma and other health problems are frequently cited as benefits of policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles, because these policies also lead to reductions in other harmful types of air pollution.

But just how large are the health benefits of cleaner air in comparison to the costs of reducing carbon emissions? MIT researchers looked at three policies achieving the same reductions in the United States, and found that the savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can be big — in some cases, more than 10 times the cost of policy implementation.

…The researchers found that savings from avoided health problems could recoup 26 percent of the cost to implement a transportation policy, but up to to 10.5 times the cost of implementing a cap-and-trade program…Savings from health benefits dwarf the estimated $14 billion cost of a cap-and-trade program…The price tag of a clean energy standard fell between the costs of the two other policies, with associated health benefits just edging out costs, at $247 billion versus $208 billion.

In sum, by implementing smart policies to cut CO2 emissions, not only do policymakers help head off disastrous global warming, they also reduce other forms of pollution in the process, saving enormous amounts of money on health care costs. How much money? Enough, depending on the policy, to more than pay for the policy’s implementation. Who ever said you can’t get something for nothing? In this case, you actually get MORE than that — cleaner air and water, a habitable planet for future generations, sharply lower health problems and associated healthcare costs, as well as lower energy bills for consumers and a more competitive country in the world economy. If that’s not a “win-win-win” situation, it’s hard to know what is.

New Report Details “Koch Industries’ Layoffs and Environmental Harm” Across U.S.

Posted By Lowell F. on August 15th, 2014

We all know that the Koch brothers are seriously bad news, having built their fortune on super-dirty tar sands oil, spent millions of dollars to promote dirty energy while trashing clean energy and the environment, and funded a variety of fossil-fuel front groups like this one. Now comes a new report which details the “job loss, significant environmental damage, or both, at the hands of the Kochs’ business empire” in key states across America. For instance:

  • Iowa: “1981: Koch Pipeline Ruptured, Dumped 900,000 Gallons Of Crude Oil In Eastern Polk County, Near The Des Moines River; Cleanup Costs Exceeded $250,000″
  • Kentucky: “Coal Mining Operation Was Sued For Destroying Homes”
  • Michigan: “Koch Carbon Vendor “Detroit Bulk Storage” Dumped Petroleum Byproduct Called ‘Petroleum Coke’ Along Detroit Waterfront”
  • Minnesota: “2006 Oil Spill Was Fourth Largest Oil Spill In Minnesota Within The Previous Decade”
  • West Virginia: “Freedom Industries Leaked The Chemical Crude MCHM, Consisting Mostly Of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, Into West Virginia’s Elk River.” Also worth noting on this item: “In 2008, Freedom Industries secured a contract to distribute a line of products called Talon that are used as a binder in coal processing, according to a news release issued at the time. Freedom distributed Talon to eight states, including West Virginia. … Talon is made by Georgia-Pacific Chemicals LLC. Georgia-Pacific is owned by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. The Koch brothers have, through a conservative group called Americans for Prosperity, spent millions of dollars campaigning against a wide array of environmental regulations.”

On and on it goes in states across America — damage by Koch Industries and its subsidiaries. All while receiving bailouts and taxpayer subsidies. The question is, why do we put up with this?

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Video: Bush Administration EPA Chief On Fox News – “I would have done a regulation on carbon, absolutely”

Posted By Lowell F. on August 1st, 2014

Great job by former Bush Administration EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, for pushing back against Fox News’ disinformation on the importance of regulating fossil-fuel-related carbon pollution, and for flatly asserting that she would have done so as well if she were EPA Administrator today. Of course, the fossil fuel industry isn’t happy about finally being forced to reduce the pollution it dumps into the atmosphere, but the rest of us should all have big smiles on our faces — not to mention cleaner air in our lungs.

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New Survey Finds that U.S. Voters “Will Support Pro-Climate Candidates With Pledges, Time, and Money”

Posted By Lowell F. on July 28th, 2014

According to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication:

Millions of registered voters would sign a pledge to vote for, would work for, or would give money to candidates who share their views on global warming – if asked to by a person they like and respect. This suggests that global warming could become a more prominent electoral issue if campaigns engage and mobilize this potential “issue public.”

A few more interesting details jumped out at us from this survey.

  • “[M]ore than 10 million registered voters…would definitely sign a pledge [to vote only for candidates who share his or her views on global warming ] and more than 30 million who would probably sign one, for a total of about 41 million. “
  • [A]n estimated 3 million registered voters…would definitely volunteer their time and about 23 million who would probably volunteer [time to elect a candidate because the candidate shares his or her views on global warming].
  • [A]pproximately 3 million registered voters…would definitely donate money [to a candidate because the candidate shares his or her views on global warming] and about 21.5 million who would probably give.

This new polling reaffirms what we’ve seen time and again on this issue, including a June poll by Bloomberg, which found that by a nearly “two-to-one margin, 62 percent to 33 percent, Americans say they would pay more for energy if it would mean a reduction in pollution from carbon emissions.” Also see the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication Spring 2014 report, which found that…

  • “registered voters are 3 times more likely to vote against a candidate who opposes action to reduce global warming.”
  • “Two in three Americans (66%) support the Congress and president passing laws to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy as a way to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels.”
  • “A majority of Americans (62%) say the U.S. should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions regardless of what other countries do.”

The bottom line is that Americans are ready and willing to take action on reducing greenhouse gas pollution from fossil fuels, and also to switch to a clean energy economy. Now, we just need the politicians to listen to them.

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In a Time of Severe Drought, It Shouldn’t Come Down to “One Man” to Protect Our Water from Fracking Waste

Posted By Lowell F. on July 22nd, 2014

Let’s get this straight: currently, 25% of the country is under severe, extreme or exceptional drought, with 18% of normal snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Clearly, it’s time to be conserving and protecting precious water resources in this country. Which is why stories like this one are so jarring.

Deputy Sheriff Hector Zertuche parked his pickup across the road from a gas and oil waste dump and watched through binoculars as a container truck unloaded a mountain of black sludge.

Zertuche, the environmental crimes officer for Jim Wells County, is the law here when it comes to oil and gas waste. The job has fallen to him, he said, because the state’s environmental agencies don’t effectively police the disposal of the industry’s waste. It typically contains benzene and other chemicals found in hydraulic fracturing, along with heavy metals and other contaminants from deep within the earth.

Zertuche draws his authority from the Texas Oil and Gas Waste Haulers Act, which is part of the state Water Code and is rooted in laws enacted almost a century ago during an earlier oil boom. It allows him to issue citations for everything from spilling waste along highways to not having the proper disposal permits.

So, while this is great work by Deputy Sheriff Zertuche, the question is simple: why is the job of policing the dumping of toxic materials from oil and gas drilling into our drinking water supplies being left to the initiative of one man? Where are the state authorities?  Given that in Texas, 63% of the state is currently experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions, shouldn’t it be a top priority for the state to protect precious water supplies from being contaminated by the oil and gas industries? If that’s not the case, why isn’t it?

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