My throat tightens and cough thickens as I write this. Every year since moving to central Ohio, I have been cursed with bronchitis that halts my usually active lifestyle. The smoke observed along the Ohio River is carried beyond the river and above central Ohio where the nationally highest sulfate concentrations are recorded.
The EPA website states sulfate aerosols make up about 25% of fine particles above the eastern United States. These particulates are primarily from the generation of electric power via coal plants. The EPA estimates that when the Acid Rain Program fully implemented in 2010 (reducing NOx and SOx particulates) over $50 billion a year will be saved in hospital visits, deaths, and health emergencies resulting from these particulates. Annually, over 160 million tons of air pollution is emitted by the U.S. with over 120 million people living in regions with unhealthy air-quality.
In the meantime, coal-burning rates soar along the Ohio River. Power plants will harm more people before implementing Acid Rain Program guidelines. It will save them money. The lawsuits that AEP, Cinergy and Dayton Power & Light face for ignoring pollution cuts are pennies to them. The good news is our electric bills won’t be as high. Never-mind our healthcare costs.
Our fossil fuel energy sources are finite, and our source of cheap fuel is over. We felt it at the gas pumps after Katrina, and we’ll feel it this winter in our heating bills. The current squeeze may feel minor in 10 to 20 years when all diminishing oil reserves are under OPEC control. The solution-fortunately, the United States is blessed with large coal reserves. Cough… wait! Coal is not a long-term solution. Much of West Virginia has been permanently altered into a wasteland, clear-cut forests, and scared mountains. Even as coal burning becomes cleaner with tighter air regulations, our water will be polluted with filings. The money spent cleaning air and water supplies will be so great that coal will cost much more than the energy it produces. Eventually, we will run out of coal and face energy shortages, with an economy as scarred strip-mines.
Models by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that the severity of increasing temperature and sea level rise is greatly dependant on the output of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. The amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been increased at an accelerated rate from pre-Industrial times by the burning of fossil fuels. Nature magazine (November 24, 2005) details that California aims to cut greenhouse emissions to 80% of its 1990 levels over the next 45 years with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stated ‘“We know the Science. We see the threat. And we know the time for action is now.”’ Nationally, California is an economic leader for the United States comprising 13% of our GDP. California also has the lowest per capita energy use at 6,800 kilowatt-hours compared to 12,800 nationally, getting 11% of its energy from geothermal, wind, biomass and solar units. As California improves its energy policy, businesses will redirect money into developing and implementing new energy efficient and renewable energy technologies. California is predicted to continue to profit as it decreases vehicle emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. Thank you California for implementing what needs to be national and international policy. May Ohio follow suit and not burn coal at the cost of our futures.