- Cheap, fast, processed food has brought us increases in diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and learning disabilities
- Cheap, energy - in the form of coal – has brought us increased heart disease, cancer, asthma, learning diabilities, and neurological disorders in children.
While the consequences of our collective lousy diet are sometimes easy to see - our shirt no longer buttons or we can’t zip our favorite jeans - consequences of our addiction to cheap energy, in the form of coal, don’t show up until months, even years later. Sadly, the price is being paid mostly by our children, and diets don’t fix that damage.
A 2010 report by the National Research Council estimated that pollution from one Chicago area plant alone cost over $187 million a year in hidden health costs. Lung damaging soot, mercury, lead and other pollutants literally pour out of hundreds of plants across the country daily. Many of these plants were scheduled to close over a decade ago. But our demand for low rates over increased efficiency standards have kept these filth-spewing giants operating in spite of increased pollution regulations. (Plants opened prior to new standards were exempted from the rules.)
Human nature being what it is, we tend to look for something or someone to blame when problems are hard to resolve. To be sure, EPA regulations aimed at reducing deadly pollutants from entering our air and water have expedited the closing of old, inefficient coal power plants. But market forces, NOT pollution standards, are the biggest driver of the switch to cleaner burning, cheaper natural gas.
The (TVA) agency’s shift away from coal has been part of a national trend driven largely by the abundance of cheap natural gas…
Jobs are being lost as coal plants are being shuttered. Livelihoods, in fact entire neighborhoods and communities, are dying as we switch to cleaner fuels and more renewable sources of energy. I get that. And I get the ‘sophie’s choice’ of choosing to protect a family’s livelihood over protecting an unborn child or the air and water our children breathe and drink.
I understand that it’s hard, and complicated, and the price is being paid mostly by people we don’t see or in ways not immediately obvious. Doing what’s right for now is almost always easier then doing what’s right for the long term. But if we continue along the current picture of cheap energy over clean(er) energy, the price will continue to rise, and will be paid by our children, grandchildren and beyond.
Sound like some other problems facing our country???
Photo by Ilovemountains.com on Flickr.