Think just the environment is suffering from our abuse of fossil fuels? Think again. A new study by the National Institute of Sciences shows that over $120 billion dollars worth of our health care costs is caused directly by coal and oil use. Yep, just from burning those fossil fuels on a 24/7 schedule for our energy needs causes us to spend billions on health care issues. Their study set out to measure the costs that are not built into the price we pay for the fuels themselves, just the hidden costs of their use. Also important to note, the study’s hidden cost estimate does not include any damages caused by climate change – just a direct correlation between the fuels and our health. However, they also didn’t include some major users of fossil fuels, from planes to coal mining. Yikes.
Nor did the study measure damage from burning oil for trains, ships and planes. And it did not include the environmental damage from coal mining or the pollution of rivers with chemicals that were filtered from coal plant smokestacks to keep the air clean.
“The largest portion of this is excess mortality , increased human deaths as a result of criteria air pollutants emitted by power plants and vehicles,” said Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who led the study committee.
Nearly 20,000 people die prematurely each year from such causes, according to the study’s authors, who valued each life at $6 million based on the dollar in 2000. Those pollutants include small soot particles, which cause lung damage; nitrogen oxides, which contribute to smog; and sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain.
This is not good news for us at all. Even worse is the finding that so-called “renewables” are even worse for us than regular gasoline is, something I have been saying for a long time.
The study lends support to arguments that society should pay extra for energy from sources like the wind and the sun, because their indirect costs are extremely small. But it also found that renewable motor fuel, in the form of ethanol from corn, was slightly worse than gasoline in its environmental impact.
We often think that the “cost” of gas is $2.50 at the pump, but that is far from the truth. In reality, it costs a lot more – including our health.