Category — Externality Debate
A new study from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard Medical School, Full Cost Accounting for the Life Cycle of Coal, estimates that the negative externalities of coal-fired electricity generation are two-to-three times as great as the actual price of the electricity itself. Wow–so much for the cheap price of electricity from coal itself being a social good. And forget that decades of ever more stringent air and water regulation has internalized the so-called social cost of coal-fired power plants. And forget that carbon dioxide (CO2) has positives, not only negatives, for the biosphere.
So forgetting all this, and taking the report’s analytics at face value, it is concluded that the FULL COST of coal makes “wind, solar, and other forms of nonfossil fuel power generation … economically competitive.” As such, the study calls for phasing out coal and phasing in “cleanly powered smart grids [and] using place-appropriate alternative energy sources.”
However it is not a stretch to think that the conclusions of this Harvard study were preordained. Delving into the literature shows that a different group of folks could set out to examine the same thing even selecting from among the same pool of climate, economic, and epidemiological studies and arrive at a largely different conclusion—a conclusion that the externalities from coal-fuelled electricity are only slightly negative, and perhaps even positive.
Basically, at this point in time, the conclusion is largely dictated by the storyteller.
Center for Health and Global Environment
The Center for Health and Global Environment is a hot bed for climate alarmism and anti-coal propaganda. The latest paper, with so much missing in its analysis, builds in that tradition.
The new paper acknowledges its lineage from earlier work from Greenpeace and thank James Hansen for comments. Epstein et al. also state: “The genesis for this paper was a Conference—“The True Costs of Coal: Building a Healthy Energy Future” that was “supported by the Energy Foundation and the Rockefeller Family Fund.”
March 7, 2011 13 Comments