Alberta Government Has It Right – Coal Association Has It Wrong
The Coal Association of Canada has decided to fight the Alberta Government’s climate change strategy to reduce carbon emissions. The Coal Association is, in effect, questioning the science and the facts that clearly indicate coal-fired electricity generation is one of Alberta’s main culprits when it comes to carbon emissions.
The report, A Costly Diagnosis, was released in 2013 by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Asthma Society of Canada, Lung Association of Alberta & NWT and the Pembina Institute. The report indicates that burning coal costs the Alberta health care system more than $300 million annually in health damages, contributes to the premature death of more than 100 Albertans every year, and causes 700 visits to emergency departments and more than 4,000 asthma attacks in Alberta annually. Dr. Alan Lockwood, a leading U.S. expert on the health effects of air pollution from burning coal, 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.”
It appears that the Coal Association of Canada is willing to ignore these health statistics by suggesting jobs and profits are more important.
A 2014 poll shows 76% of Albertans surveyed believe pollution produced by burning coal can harm the health of seniors, and 70% believe those emissions also pose a risk to children. 80% of those surveyed want renewable energy used to generate power instead of coal, 76% believe government should encourage businesses to use renewable energy, 74% believe coal should be phased out, and two-thirds are willing to pay higher prices for electricity generated by wind and solar power.
When Jim Prentice was federal Conservative Environment Minister, he announced that Canada must phase out its coal-fired power plants and replace them with cleaner more environmentally-friendly energy sources. The Alberta Government is now following through on that announcement by indicating that coal-fired power plants should be retired in Alberta by 2030. Ontario closed its last coal-fired power plant in 2014. Alberta continues to generate most of its electricity by burning coal; in fact, Alberta burns more coal than all other provinces put together. The current Alberta Government is proposing climate change strategies that will help bring Alberta into the 21st century.
As a side-note, one of the reasons the coal industry remains strong in Alberta is because the previous provincial government levied one of the lowest royalty rates on coal in the world. Alberta charges the coal industry one-fifth to one-sixth of what comparable neighbouring jurisdictions do. No wonder alternative sources of electricity generation, including renewables, have a tough time competing in Alberta.