Connecting Public Health to Energy

Air Quality

Bloomberg News recently reported that Beijing’s air pollution had reached eight times World Health Organization-recommended levels. Continued high levels of smog in the city had prompted China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection to send inspection teams to the capital and surrounding areas.

Smog, a mixture of pollutants including ground-level ozone, causes choking, coughing, and stinging eyes, and it aggravates serious health problems such as asthma, emphysema, lung cancer, and other respiratory ailments. Smog is the by-product of automobile exhaust, power plant emissions, and factory production, which mostly use fossil fuels. While smog levels in the U.S. have been greatly reduced since the heights of the 60s and 70s, air quality is still a concern in many large cities, especially during the heat of the summer months.

Renewable energy sources such as solar energy don’t produce the same dangerous by-products as fossil fuels do. EPA’s State and Local Climate and Energy Program has launched a new tool that estimates the emissions benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy policies and programs. The AVoided Emissions and geneRation Tool (AVERT) is a free tool with a simple user interface designed to meet the needs of state air quality planners and other interested users. Non-experts can easily use AVERT to evaluate county-level reductions of electric power plant emissions due to energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RE) policies and programs.

Harnessing power of solar energy makes sense on so many levels. But perhaps the most compelling reasons are public health benefits of a fuel that doesn’t pollute.

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