Tallying the Social Costs of Fossil Fuels
Gas and oil may seem to have gotten cheaper, but their true price is a lot higher than the number on the pump. Once you factor in their impacts on the environment and human health, fossil fuels get a lot more expensive – an additional $3.80 per gallon of gas, according to a recent study by Duke University.
The study included not only carbon pollution, but also other pollutants that aren’t always accounted for, like methane, sulfur dioxide, and nitrous oxide. Combined, they take a serious toll on society in the form of illnesses, lower productivity, and extreme weather – all of which have economic costs. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar, on the other hand, become even more affordable by comparison because they don’t contribute to air pollution.
Many Americans are understandably focused on making ends meet, but it’s important to help them see the big picture. With the health and well-being of their families at stake, there is no such thing as cheap gasoline.
Dana Nuccitelli, Contributor to The Guardian
A new paper published in Climatic Change estimates that when we account for the pollution costs associated with our energy sources, gasoline costs an extra $3.80 per gallon, diesel an additional $4.80 per gallon, coal a further 24 cents per kilowatt-hour, and natural gas another 11 cents per kilowatt-hour that we don’t see in our fuel or energy bills.
The study was done by Drew Shindell, formerly of Nasa, now professor of climate sciences at Duke University, and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Panel to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. Shindell recently published research noting that aerosols and ozone have a bigger effect on the climate in the northern hemisphere, where humans produce more of those pollutants.
That research led Shindell to question current estimates of the true costs of our energy sources. Much research has gone into estimating the social cost of carbon, which attempts to account for the additional costs from burning fossil fuels via the climate damages their carbon pollution causes. However, this research doesn’t account for the costs associated with other air pollutants released during fossil fuel combustion.
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