Clean Power for Public Health and Other Hot Pubs
USCAN MEMBER REPORTS
Ozone and Public Health: An April 7th report by Environment America highlights the health effects of ozone pollution from power plants – and steps to reduce it. According to “Dirty Energy’s Assault on Our Health: Ozone Pollution”, over half of people in the U.S. live with unhealthy levels of ozone. Repeated exposure damages lungs, impacts prenatal health, and puts children at greater risk of lung disease later in life. While ozone increases asthma attacks, about 3.9 million children and over 10.7 million adults with asthma live in areas with very high levels of ozone pollution. The U.S. EPA projects that a standard in the range of 60-70 ppb would prevent as many as 12,000 premature deaths a year from heart and lung disease, along with thousands of cases of bronchitis, asthma, and heart attacks. According to this report, the U.S. should increase pollution control technologies for power plants, accelerate the adoption of clean energy and energy efficiency technologies, and regulate pollution from mobile sources to protect public health.
Energy Infrastructure: An April 12th report by the National Wildlife Federation highlights how climate change has increased extreme weather events and threatens the U.S. energy infrastructure, economy, and national security. Extreme weather incidents now cost the U.S. an average of $17B per year, and costs are likely to rise with more severe hurricanes, storms, droughts, and heat waves. Major weather-related power outages have become more common, but not enough is done to make the energy system more resilient. Among specific risks, the report “More Extreme Weather and the U.S. Energy Infrastructure” sites oil and infrastructure in the Gulf, electricity generation in the Southwest, and coal transport in the Midwest and the Northeast.
Clean Energy: According to a March 29th report from the Pew Charitable Trusts and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, global clean energy finance and investment grew by $243B, a 30% increase from 2009. China continued to solidify its position as number one with an investment of $54.4B – $20B more than the United States. Germany, Italy, and India were also among the countries that most successfully attracted private investments with national support for renewable energy standards, carbon reduction targets, and/or a certain investment climate. Wind power continued to be the favored technology, but solar experienced the strongest growth (to a 40% of total investments) as a result of declining prices and government support.
Cars and Oil: A brief from March 30th by the Center for American Progress, the Sierra Club, and the League of Conservation Voters outlines the policies needed to reduce U.S. dependence on oil. “Cleaner Cars Less Foreign Oil” links the price of oil, the drain on the U.S. economy from dependence on oil, and measures that can move the country toward a cleaner energy economy. A critical recommendation centers on domestic manufacturing of cars that get 60 mpg by 2020 and trucks that are 15% more fuel-efficient – as well as investing in electric cars are modernizing the transportation infrastructure. The plan also recommends eliminating subsidies for oil companies and preventing speculators from driving up prices, along with reducing U.S. foreign oil use by 5% percent annually to slash these imports in half by 2022.
Water Shortage: A study from March 21st by the Nature Conservancy estimates that 1 billion urban residents will face serious water shortages by 2050, in part caused by the effects of climate change. Among the most affected residents will be those in India, as well as those in the cities of Manila, Beijing, and Tehran. West Africa will face water shortages in cities such as Lagos in Nigeria and Cotonou in Benin. Water shortages will also pose risks for wildlife if cities pump in water from the outside. For instance, the India’s Western Ghats region is home to nearly 300 species of fish – 29% of which are unique to the area. The study recommends reforms in agriculture, which is typically the top consumer of water, as well as improved efficiency – because nearly half of the water in some poor countries is wasted though leaks. The authors of “Urban Growth, Climate Change, and Freshwater Availability” also highlight the need for international funding to address this challenge
OTHER HOT PUBS
Pollution and Asthma Costs: A report released on April 6th by Healthcare Without Harm, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, and the National Association of School Nurses outlines the total cost of asthma in the U.S., with detailed findings for 10 states. Over 24 million Americans – including seven million children – suffer from asthma. The costs of treating this worsening epidemic already exceeded $53B. In 2007 alone asthma was responsible for two million emergency visits and 3,400 deaths. In 2008, asthma episodes accounted for about 10.5 million lost school days and over 14 million lost work days. “The Economic Affliction of Asthma and Risks of Blocking Air Pollution Safeguards” concludes that staggering human and financial implications of asthma in the U.S. are likely to increase if Congress impedes the critically needed updates to the Clean Air Act.
Latinos and Air Pollution: A March 23rd report by the Center for American Progress highlights Latinos’ disproportionate exposure to dangerous air pollution. According to “Why the EPA Is Important for Latino Families”, two thirds of Latino families – 25.6 million – reside in areas that do not meet the federal government’s air quality standards. Among the 25 cities in the U.S. with worst particulate and ozone pollution, seven have Latino populations of 40%; the average Latino population in the 10 most polluted cities is 33%. According to the report, Latinos are three times as likely as whites to die from asthma, and Latino children are 60% more at risk than white children for asthma attacks. Because many Latinos are employed in predominantly outdoor professions, they are also at higher risk for respiratory disease, birth defects, neurological damage, and cancer.
Financing Public Goods: An April 5th working paper by the Center for Global Development recommends that governments use a modest portion of their Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocations (interest-bearing international reserve assets created by the International Monetary Fund) to capitalize a third-party financing entity. “Find Me the Money: Financing Climate and Other Global Public Goods” suggests that this entity would offer bonds on international capital markets, backed by its SDR reserves. The gains would fund private investment in climate-related projects in developing countries that would otherwise lack sufficient financing. This system could mobilize up to $75 billion at little or no cost for contributing governments, and excess proceeds from the IMF’s gold sales would offset any small budgetary costs.
Nuclear Support: A Rasmussen national poll from March 24-28th shows that just 38% of likely American voters favor the building of more nuclear plants in the U.S.; 42% oppose it, and 20% are not sure. Thirty-five percent of voters now think the U.S. should systematically phase out the use of nuclear power plants over the next 50 years, but 47% disagree; 18% are undecided. Support for building new plants and phasing our current reactors varies with gender, age, and income level. Just 24% of voters correctly recognize that 20% of the nation’s electricity is provided by nuclear power.