Posts Tagged Synapse

The Madness of King Coal

Back when Utah had a governor who thought global warming existed, and who also though we might need to take significant steps regarding our air pollution, the state funded a study by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc, with the help of the Harvard School of Public Health.  It estimated, predictably, that each year over 2 billion dollars in health and water costs are wasted, and approximately 200 lives lost due to coal plant power production in Utah. Not to mention that other “externality” to coal power, global warming.

Wow!  Our state funded study showed us that that nasty air we see every winter is bad for us?  It’s time for us all to come out for energy efficiency and renewable energy power generation, right?  Say farewell to King Coal right Governor Herbert?

Of course not, this is Utah, and what happened next was also as predictable as it is sad.

According to a report at KSL.com, the state “sidetracked (the study) and refused to vouch for it — after it ran into a wall of opposition from industry.”

The study figured $8 million per death, using long established statistical methods.

Clean energy advocate Arthur Morris was at a state meeting where industry representatives denounced the study.

“Kind of went crazy,” Morris said. “It was a little bit surprising to me that they were so incensed by valuing people too much.”

“Anything that would increase energy costs gets our attention,” said attorney Jim Holtkamp, air quality chairman for Utah Manufacturers.

Of course, no one seems to have quibbled with the 202 lives lost, just how much dollar value was placed upon them.  Which, makes some sense, I suppose, when all you really care about is the bottom line.

Supposedly “public meetings” were held when the study came out a few months ago.  Check out Rocky Mountain Power’s statement to KSL about their meeting:

We disagree with the study’s conclusions. Rocky Mountain Power participated in an initial review of the published study along with a broad group of Utah business stakeholders including the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Utah Manufacturers Association, Utah Association of Energy Users, Utah Industrial Energy Consumers, Utah Mining Association, Deseret Power and others. Together, we identified enough concerns with the assumptions used in the study’s analysis to determine that its results should not be relied on.

-Jeff Hymas, Rocky Mountain Power

Funny, I wonder why clean air advocates and “the public”, never heard about any meeting, and somehow all of the business stakeholders managed to get the news…

It’s time to choose clean air over dirty air, and make the state pay attention to this study and do something about it.  The study not only shows the cost of the current path, but was designed to show the benefits of changing course.  It estimated the cost of substituting energy efficiency and renewables for 1/3 of the least efficient coal plants and found:

To achieve even more dramatic co-benefits, if approximately one-third of Utah’s most inefficient and polluting coal generators are replaced with a rigorous energy efficiency program and either gas or renewable energy, externalities amounting to $70 – $79 could
be realized for each MWh of coal retired or displaced.5

Did I say cost, sorry I meant savings, as that number “exceeds the cost of most electrical generation.”

If anyone out there would like to participate in getting this study publicized and forcing the state to do something about it, feel free to attend this Thursday’s 6pm meeting of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE), at the University of Utah Orthopedic Hospitals’ 3rd floor conference room.  All who care about Utah air quality are welcome, whether health care providers or not.  I will summarize the meeting and action plan in a post after Thursday night.

I’m at work but can answer comments or questions about the meeting after 5 or tomorrow.

By the way, hello and thanks for having me, I’m a physician in Salt Lake, and I’d much prefer cleaner air!

Gary

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