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US carbon costs the earth

By Colin Ricketts - 18 Sep 2013 6:43:40 GMT
US carbon costs the earth

Southern California seems to buck the US trend with lots of photovoltaic industry and wind farms, here combined in one, given the suitable climate; California image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Nitrogen oxide emissions from burning coal do not even approach the magnitude of those of sulphur dioxide. The disturbance of land after mining or fracking is vast, plus the methane emissions from gas wells, and even cows, are hard to measure absolutely.

We do, however, have exact figures after many years of investigating and proving the terrible effects of carbon dioxide on both our planet and ourselves. Arsenic, mercury and soot are also polluting the areas near these power plants. In a paper designed to test how inefficient our current fossil fuel reliance is, the authors here came up with a figure of $33 per ton of carbon pollution, for a new coal plant. This is known as the SCC, or Social Cost of Carbon.

Laurie Johnson and Starla Yeh of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Chris Hope of Cambridge University wrote the paper in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. They intended to use government figures to illustrate how much waste, literally, goes up in dangerous smoke.

It turns out that it's cheaper to replace an old coal-fired power station with a wind turbine array than to simply run the coal plant. Natural gas, too, is cleaner than coal, but you still have the carbon footprint that we are all trying to avoid. The aim is to reduce the huge health and pollution risk and prevent global warming.

The US carbon footprint is largely produced by power plants, making up a full 40% of the total. In addition, the SCC measures the climatic damage we avoid by reducing carbon dioxide pollution. With no Federal limits on the carbon they produce, power plants are almost directly causing the sea-level rise and the climate changes that the whole earth suffers from. The US alone paid out more than $140 billion in damages for weather damage in 2102, of which the lion's share ($100 billion) was paid for by the taxpayer.

Solar voltaic and wind power both loom large in many countries recently, as new technologies grow and efficiency makes photovoltaic assemblies particularly cheap. It is only necessary to look at the amazing enlargement of renewable energy facilities in California or Germany to realise that the future certainly isn't black.

It may be almost colourless in these areas!

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