Bryan Walsh, ecocentric at Time magazine blog, On Earth Day, Contemplating the Human Cost of Energy
In fact, the blood cost is another way to calculate the energy equation: blood per kilowatt. Mark Fulton, the managing director and global head of Climate Change Investment Research at DB Climate Change Advisors, introduced me to the concept at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference earlier this month. When we evaluate different forms of energy, we shouldn’t only take into account the financial price or even just the environmental cost, but the damage to human health and well-being as well.
And the results are a bit surprising, as Seth Godin [Seth Godin article is a reference to my Deaths per TWH article] made clear in this illuminating post from a month ago. Coal is by far the deadliest source of energy per unit of power—both because of the risk to miners (especially in developing nations like China) and to all of us through air and water pollution. Oil comes in next, while natural gas remains perhaps surprisingly low. Lower still is wind and rooftop solar, which is dangerous mostly because installers might fall off a roof while putting in panels. And at the bottom is nuclear power, which causes 0.04 deaths per terawatt/hour of electrical power, although the full toll from Fukushima still remains to be seen.
Proof that I was right about rooftop solar having real risks. Which are still minor compared to coal, oil and gas. But not zero
There are actual reported incident of a fatality to solar panel roof installer. Statistically other incidents should have happened but this is a poorly tracked area.
California Department of Public Health – California has tracked at least four fatalities related to falls and electrocutions for solar installers.
A 30-year-old solar panel installer, Richard P.* died after he fell 45 feet off the roof of a three-story apartment building. He was part of a three-man crew working to install solar panels on a sloped roof. Richard walked backward and stepped off the roof while checking the position of some brackets. No one was wearing personal fall protection equipment and there was no other fall protection system in place.
The explosion was so powerful it also seriously injured a teenager who reportedly lost an arm as he was worked on the surface outside the mine. Lozano said earlier that the boy’s employment at the mine was an apparent violation of labor laws. A similar blast caused by a methane gas buildup killed 65 miners in February 2006 at Mexico’s Pasta de Conchos coal mine in nearby San Juan de Sabinas.
US Coal Industry Makes Pitch for Relaxed Safety Regulation
The US National Mining Assn. s calling for relaxing federal regulatory procedures to exempt mines with good safety records from routine workplace inspections.
The largest coal-burning utility (American Electric Power Co) in the United States is shopping a bill to lawmakers that would delay a host of environmental regulations, including forthcoming U.S. EPA rules for mercury and other toxic emissions, as well as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and coal ash.
The proposal would give utilities more time to comply with the rules for mercury and other air toxics, which were proposed last month, as well as the Clean Air Transport Rule, which addresses soot- and smog-forming emissions that cross state lines. Power plants would need to cut their emissions or shut down by 2020, rather than 2014 and 2015, when the two rules would take effect.
Two of the public health safeguards delayed by the AEP bill (the “transport” rule and the “toxics” rule) would save as many as 53,000 lives combined by 2016.
So delaying implementation until 2020 would prevent these vital health protections from saving tens of thousands – even well over a hundred thousand – Americans lives.
AEP does not dispute these benefits. So what possible justification could they present in defense of their proposal? As an AEP spokesperson explained to E&E, the company just wants to make sure that clean air can be “done cost-effectively.”
Never mind the fact the standards are already cost-effective from a health impacts and productivity point of view. The $13.7 billion investment needed to clean up the toxic and smog-forming pollution from power plants will yield $430 billion in benefits – a return to Americans of $30 for every $1 invested.