Coal-Fired Electricity Significantly Increases Health Care Costs
Dr. Alan Lockwood, a leading U.S. expert on the health effects of air pollution from coal, says Alberta would save millions of dollars in annual health care costs by phasing out coal-fired power plants (Edmonton Journal). He says the U.S. saves $2 trillion annually in health care costs by reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act and closing older plants.
Burning coal, which appears to be a cheap source of energy, is a false economy, Lockwood says. “The health care costs that you don’t pay for on the bill from the power company far outweigh the costs at the electric meter…Wherever coal is burned, it exacts a tremendous toll on the health of people who use the power.”
Coal-fired electricity provides 42% to 60% of Alberta’s power, by far the highest in Canada. In Alberta, coal pollution is related to 4,800 asthma days (missed work or school due to asthma), 700 hospital visits, 80 hospital admissions and about 100 premature deaths every year. The cost is about $300 million annually to the Alberta health care system.
Ontario closed its last coal-fired power plant this year. Alberta has better solar and wind resources and cheaper natural gas resources than Ontario, and could be doing a far better job to reduce coal-fired electricity. When Jim Prentice was federal Environment Minister, he announced that Canada must phase out its coal-fired power plants and replace them with cleaner more environmentally-friendly energy sources. It will be interesting to see if, now that Prentice is Alberta’s Premier, will he continue his drive to make the change.