Wind Power Saves Over $100 Billion In Health Care Costs In US, Study Finds

Photo-illustration: Pixabay

A study done by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and published by Nature Energy in August finds that wind power in the United States is responsible for saving thousands of lives and over $100 billion in health care costs by reducing the pollution that causes asthma attacks and other respiratory diseases.

Power plant emissions — including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter — cause or aggravate respiratory and cardiovascular health, often leading to hospitalization or even death, as documented by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine and others. However, the rapid growth of pollution-free wind power in recent years has helped to decrease emissions of these harmful pollutants. Wind power is now the country’s largest renewable energy capacity source, with enough installed to power 25 million average American homes every year.

The LBNL study covered a 9 year period. It found that all parts of the United States benefited from wind energy energy generation. The Mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwest regions benefited the most, since they are the areas in which coal-fired generating facilities are most prevalent. Many opponents of wind power claim the federal production tax credit costs taxpayers a great deal of money, but the study found that in the Mid-Atlantic region, the health benefits of wind power were equivalent to between $100 to $250 per megawatt-hour, which is 4 to 10 times greater than the value of the tax credit. In the Upper Midwest, the benefit was between $50 to $120 per megawatt-hour.

The researchers estimated the amount of avoided emissions between 2007 and 2015 using the EPA’s Avoided Emissions and geneRation Tool. It provides a statistical yardstick for determining the amount of emissions avoided by using wind and solar energy. It looks to see which US power plants are most likely to decrease energy production as the result of the availability of renewables.

For last year, the American Wind Energy Association calculated that American wind power generated $7.4 billion in public health benefits through avoided SO2 and NOX emissions, based on cost assumptions provided by the Harvard School of Public Health. Previous work by LBNL found that state policies that promote renewable energy policies have economic benefits that are far greater than their cost, due principally to lower health care expenses.

Fossil fuel advocates like to pooh-pooh the claim that lower emissions mean lower health care costs. They would prefer to scream about how unfair it is for government to pick winners and losers in business, as if government has no business protecting citizens from health risks.

Only those with a severely stunted concept of ethical behavior could argue they should be allowed to continue poisoning people with the waste products created by their economic enterprise. If we all emptied the contents of our septic systems onto their lawns, they would soon start singing a different tune, just like Rex Tillerson, who used to be the head of one of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies but went to court to prevent a competitor from engaging in fracking operations in the vicinity of his home.

How much more evidence do we need that fossil fuel advocates — including the Idiot in the Oval — are two-faced, lying weasels who are content to poison most living things just so long as they can make a profit doing so?