My Letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal on “Midwest Wind Surtax”

January 3, 2011 at 10:56 am

Posted by Dr. Sarah Warren

Here is the letter I just sent to the editor of the Wall Street Journal in response to their editorial on December 30, 2010 entitled Midwest Wind Surtax. I have added links here:

Dear Editor,

As a health care professional, I am surprised that an esteemed business publication such as the Wall
Street Journal would allow an editorial analysis of energy subsidies (December 30, 2010) that fails
to account for externalities such as significant health care costs incurred by our reliance on heavily
subsidized coal.

The National Academy of Science analyzed the external costs, including health and environmental
impacts, of fossil fuels and renewables for 2005. They estimated that for 2005 alone $62 billion in
externalities, costs that were by definition not factored into the market price of fossil fuels. Their
estimate of the externalities for renewables? Virtually nil.

The National Research Council found that just two coal plants in Chicago generate $127 million
per year in hidden health costs, primarily because of the health impacts of soot from the plants’
smokestacks.

The health-related externalities of coal power plants include reduced life expectancy, reduced cardiac
and respiratory health, loss of IQ from mercury, and increased cancers. Other documented impacts
include production of heat-trapping greenhouse gases and reduction of crop yields. All of these factors
translate into both reduced quality of life and health care costs.

If we are to take a clear-eyed look at coal vs. renewable energy sources and allow the market to set
fair prices for energy based on real costs, we must consider all of the factors that are in play on this
distinctly un-level playing field, including the cost of treating illnesses that are induced by generating
power from highly polluting coal.

Sincerely,
Sarah B. Warren, Ph.D.
President, Sarah B. Warren, Ph.D. & Associates PC
Founder, Spheres of Influence

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