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...
Restoring Balance to Federal Leasing & Land Management

Restoring Balance to Federal Leasing & Land Management

  The current administration’s rush to offer vast swaths of our public lands to oil and gas companies—irrespective of their potential to actually produce either oil or gas—is both unprecedented and unwise. It comes at the expense of other land uses, traditional values, the Western economy, and multiple use principles that have guided American land management for more than a century. This fire-sale approach to managing our public lands is also fiscally irresponsible, as it encourages speculative and non-competitive leasing that allows our lands to be locked up for as little as $1.50 per acre. Nevada has been hit particularly hard, with more than 2 million acres having already been offered up for leasing. This prompted Senator Cortez Masto (D-NV) recently to introduce legislation, the End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act of 2020 (S. 3202), aimed at reining in these irresponsible leasing practices. If enacted, the bill would restore much needed balance to our federal oil and gas leasing program, and help ensure those lands that are leased provide a fairer return to the American taxpayer. This legislation would prohibit most leasing in areas designated as “low or no potential” for oil and gas development. It would also require any public land put up for lease to have an up-to-date analysis of its oil and gas development potential, and reinforce the government’s duty to manage public lands for multiple use. It should not matter which side of the aisle this common sense legislation originates from, it is long overdue and essential for the responsible stewardship of America’s public lands. Without passage of reforms, like those in S. 3202,...
Trampling on Reagan’s Clean Air Legacy

Trampling on Reagan’s Clean Air Legacy

The Trump administration’s recent move to revoke California’s ability to set tougher emissions standards for cars sold in the state is not aimed at rolling back Obama policy, it seeks to reverse a waiver that then governor Ronald Reagan secured for the state more than 50 years ago. Governor Reagan was very committed to cleaning up California’s notorious smog problem, which was largely due to auto emissions. Not only did he support stronger pollution limits, in 1967 he established the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and appointed a scientist—an expert on smog—to lead the agency. That same year, Congress was considering the Air Quality Act of 1967. Reagan wanted assurance that any new federal law would not threaten California’s strong tailpipe pollution standards. He worked with his allies in the California congressional delegation to secure a waiver that allowed the state to set its own, more stringent, pollution limits. Shortly thereafter, Reagan signed a state bill into law curbing auto emissions significantly more than was required by the new federal standards. Reagan was very proud of his smog-fighting efforts, and as president, he made them the topic of a 1984 radio address to the nation. Listen Here: https://www.conservativestewards.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Reagan-Radio-Address1.mp3   This Trump administration move to strip California of its longstanding waiver not only threatens more smog, it represents a strike against states’ rights, and it tramples on Reagan’s legacy by seeking to eliminate one of his signature achievements. Revoking the waiver is part of a broader administration rollback of automobile fuel economy standards that is so illogical even auto manufacturers, including Ford, General Motors, Honda, and Toyota, are opposed. They...
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....

Pin It on Pinterest