Every Breath Matters: Pollution & COVID-19

Every Breath Matters: Pollution & COVID-19

Nothing quite sharpens one’s focus on the importance of clean air quite like a respiratory illness that exploits lungs damaged—and made more vulnerable—by pollution. A recent study out of Harvard found that even a small increase in long-term exposure to air pollution significantly increases one’s risk of dying from COVID-19. The study focuses specifically on exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which includes the visible air pollution from vehicle exhaust and coal-fired power plants. These tiny particles of pollution are able to travel deep into one’s respiratory tract and reach the lungs. Exposure to PM2.5 is already known to cause inflammation and cellular damage. Evidence suggests that it may also suppress early immune response to infection. This pollution has been linked to many of the pre-existing conditions that increase mortality among those with COVID-19. The Harvard study, which analyzed 3,080 counties across the U.S., found that coronavirus patients in areas that had high levels of air pollution before the pandemic are more likely to die from the infection than patients in parts of the country with cleaner air. This should be a huge wake-up call to all of us, especially those who have not previously been concerned all that much about air pollution and how it affects their health. The study gives added urgency to expanding our use of renewable energy and electric vehicles (EVs). Having cheap, reliable, and clean electricity is important in the best of times, but it becomes most critical in times like these, where we face fear, uncertainty, and economic hardship. The energy market has changed dramatically in recent years, with solar energy emerging as...
The Growing Cost of Coal

The Growing Cost of Coal

  For more than a century, Americans have been conditioned to think of coal as a cheap and abundant energy source—and for much of that period it was true. However, the passage of time can change such things, and it has. Big time. Today’s reality is, as the nation’s aged coal-fired power plants continue to get older, using coal for electricity generation has gotten more and more expensive. Like cars, homes, or most anything else, coal plants require more investment in repairs and maintenance as they age. These investments become an ever-greater portion of the power generation cost. In Arizona, a recent filing by Tucson Electric Power (TEP) shows just how dramatic this reality is affecting the price of coal-generated electricity. TEP projects that the 2020 to 2030 cost of electricity from two of the primary coal plants it relies on, Four Corners and San Juan, will be $80 per megawatt hour (MWh) or more. In its cost chart (see below), TEP also projects power from new combined cycle gas plants to cost more than $50 per MWh, while solar power comes in at only $29 per MWh. Regardless of where you live, if coal is a big part of your utility’s power mix, odds are it is causing your electricity rates to be higher than they should be. The investment firm Lazard Asset Management, which keeps track of global energy prices, reports that the cost for electricity from coal-fired power plants can run as much as $143 per MWh. By contrast, many solar contracts, especially in the Western U.S., are selling electricity for less than $25 per MWh....
Huge Bi-Partisan Win for Renewable Energy

Huge Bi-Partisan Win for Renewable Energy

With an unprecedented level of bi-partisan support, both houses of the Nevada legislature have passed a bill to establish a state renewable energy standard of 50 percent by 2030. The vote was unanimous, with “yea” votes recorded by every Republican and Democrat in the Nevada Senate and General Assembly. The legislation (S.B. 358), which also sets a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, was signed into law by Governor Sisolak on April 22. Given Nevada’s tremendous solar and geothermal energy potential, the low costs of these energy sources, and the state’s urgent need to diversify away from expensive natural gas generation, passing this legislation was the smart and conservative choice. Currently, Nevada depends on out-of-state natural gas for more than two thirds of its electricity generation. This makes no sense for a state that has unrivaled solar and geothermal resources–even more so, now that electricity generated by these renewables is cheaper than electricity generated using natural gas. Even new solar plants with storage are beating the price of gas-generated power. Also, since the price of natural gas is projected to double between now and 2030, Nevada residents were facing significant electricity rate increases. Solar energy, by contrast, is forecast to continue getting cheaper. CRS has been sounding the alarm about Nevada’s risky over-reliance on natural gas and the lack of diversity in its electricity portfolio for several years. It is gratifying to see the state take this prudent action to address that problem. There are still some on the political right, mostly those with close ties to special interests, who still peddle tired old canards that renewable...

Pin It on Pinterest