Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hidden Costs of Petroleum and Unpriced Consequences


Modern civilization is heavily dependent upon energy from sources such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Yet, despite these energy’s many beneficial outcomes, they can also cause many adverse health and financial effects says The National Academies Press, the premier advisors to the nation of science, engineering, and medicine. This organization is operated under a charter granted by our Congress to publish books and other works on highly important issues in science and health policy. In response to one of their latest charges from Congress, a committee was formed to define and evaluate key external costs and benefits associated with the production, distribution, and consumption of energy from various selected sources. They were asked to focus on health, environmental, security, and infrastructure effects that are not fully incorporated into the market price of energy or into government policies related to energy production.  They was mainly on coal and natural gas such as petroleum as combined they account for nearly 70% of the nation’s electricity. Their results regarding the effects from petroleum were astonishing. 


Estimating the damages associated with external effects was a multi-step process incorporating the “Damage Function Approach”. Based upon the results of external-cost studies conducted in the 1990s, scientists were able to focus their experiments on air and health pollution using these records as a gauge. Using mathematical models, they then estimated these burdens’ resultant ambient concentrations as well as ensuing exposures. The evaluated effects related to emissions of particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and oxides of nitrogen (NOx), which have all been found as pollutants on human health, grain crop and timber yields, building materials, recreation, and visibility of outdoor vistas. Health damages such as premature mortality and morbidity (such as chronic bronchitis and asthma) contributed to the vast majority of monetized damages, with premature mortality being the single largest health-damage category due to producing, distributing, and using petroleum products. Of the sample of 498 gas facilities, a $740 million in aggregate damages from emissions were estimated. Another interesting fact that showcases just how harmful one petroleum plant can be, the 10% of the plants with the largest damages produced an astounding 65% of the air-pollution damages from all 498 plants. With so much government funded results exposing the detriment of petroleum production, how can we not pursue wind energy and other alternative electricity sources? Our lives are at stake.

Smog as seen as brown cloud covering most of the Northern Adriatic Sea acquired February 25, 2003.


References:
Committee on Health, Environmental, and Other External Costs and Benefits of Energy Production and Consumption. "Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use." The National Academies, 2010. Web. 2 March 2012. <https://download.nap.edu/chapterlist.php?record_id=12794&type=pdf_chapter&free=1>

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