DOE-funded Study Finds Solar and Wind Power are Literally Life-Saving

Joe Romm ThinkProgress

A major new study funded by the Department of Energy documents major health and air quality benefits from the U.S. wind and solar revolution of the past decade, which include up to 12,700 lives saved.

“The monetary value of air quality and climate benefits are about equal or more than state and federal financial support to wind and solar industries,” the lead author, Dr. Dev Millstein of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, told Quartz.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study, published in Nature Energy finds that thanks to the 10-fold increase in wind and solar generation from 2007 to 2015, “cumulative wind and solar air quality benefits were $29.7bn to $112.8bn mostly from 3,000 to 12,700 avoided premature mortalities.” These benefits come from renewable energy sources replacing fossil-fuel generation that was spewing vast amounts of dangerous pollutants, including particulates.

The authors also looked also at the avoided damage to the climate — “changes to agricultural productivity, energy use, losses from disasters such as floods, human health and general ecosystem services” — from the reduced carbon pollution.

They found the cumulative climate benefits were $5 billion to $107 billion. But the $5 billion estimate stems from an unjustifiably low estimate for the social cost of carbon of $7 per metric ton of CO2; it is widely estimated to be at least five times that amount, and it is entirely possible, if not likely, that the CO2 savings have a real-world value in excess of their upper range.

The study found that in 2015, the central estimate for marginal benefit of wind translates to 4.0cents/kWh for solar power and 7.3 c/kWh for wind. The authors note that “these benefits are on par with, or in many cases greater than, recent direct prices paid for wind.”

Significantly, the health and climate benefits of the solar and wind farms will continue for decades. On the one hand, the marginal benefit of wind and solar will decline slowly over time as the grid gets cleaner, but at the same time, new wind and solar are dropping in price rapidly. So the net benefit will remain for a long time.

Finally, the authors write, “to the best of our knowledge, no study has fully quantified U.S. wind and solar benefits over the past decade.” But it is worth adding that even this LBNL study leaves out many benefits from wind and solar, including the jobs and economic growth spurred by the ongoing clean energy revolution — not to mention the value of sustaining U.S. leadership in what will certainly be one of the greatest job-creating industries of the coming decades.

So a study that fully quantified the benefits of renewables would no doubt find they greatly exceed the subsidies.


Reposted from ThinkProgress


Image from Getty

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Freight can’t wait

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

A freight train hauling lumber and nylon manufacturing chemicals derailed, caught fire and caused a 108-year-old bridge to collapse in Tempe, Ariz., this week, in the second accident on the same bridge within a month.

The bridge was damaged after the first incident, according to Union Pacific railroad that owns the rail bridge, and re-opened two days later. 

The official cause of the derailments is still under investigation, but it remains clear that the failure to modernize and maintain America’s railroad infrastructure is dangerous. 

In 2019, 499 trains that derailed were found to have defective or broken track, roadbed or structures, according to the Federal Railroad Administration’s database of safety analysis.

While railroad workers’ unions have called for increased safety improvements, rail companies have also used technology and automation as an excuse to downsize their work forces.

For example, rail companies have implemented a cost-saving measure known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which has resulted in mass layoffs and shoddy safety protocols. 

Though privately-owned railroads have spent significantly to upgrade large, Class I trains, regional Class II trains and local, short-line Class III trains that carry important goods for farmers and businesses still rely on state and local funds for improvements. 

But cash-strapped states struggle to adequately inspect new technologies and fund safety improvements, and repairing or replacing the aging track and rail bridges will require significant public investment.

A true infrastructure commitment will not only strengthen the country’s railroad networks and increase U.S. global economic competitiveness. It will also create millions of family-sustaining jobs needed to inspect, repair and manufacture new parts for mass transit systems, all while helping to prevent future disasters.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work