Health Consequences of Environmental Degradation and Social Injustice Martin Donohoe, M. D., F. A. C. P



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Automobiles: Alternatives

  • Electric cars -killed by oil companies, automakers in early 20th century
  • Natural gas, gasohol, and biodiesel
    • Natural gas from fracking over-rated, carries environmental and seismic risks
    • Beware Jevon’s Paradox (Increased efficiency leading to increased overall energy consumption)

Automobiles: Alternatives

  • Solar cars
  • Hydrogen-powered cars
    • Byproduct = water
    • Problem: Hydrogen production requires fossil fuels
  • Telecommuting

US Energy Consumption by Fuel

  • Oil – 37%
    • peak oil production originally predicted 2014; new estimates much farther in future, but sources dirtier and more expensive/more dangerous to obtain
  • Natural gas – 24%
  • Coal – 22% - peak coal production 1920
  • Nuclear – 8.5%
  • Renewables (mostly hydroelectric and biomass; small amounts of geothermal, wind, and solar) – 7.3%

U.S. Energy Sources for Electricity

  • Coal – 51%
  • Nuclear – 21%
  • Gas – 17%
  • Oil – 1%
  • Renewables (mostly hydroelectric) – 9%
  • Electricity generation utilizes 40% of US energy

US Energy Consumption

  • Transportation – 29%
  • Industrial – 25%
  • Residential – 11.5%
  • Commercial – 8.5%

Energy Spending/Research

  • Federal funding for energy R&D (1974-2005, in 2005 dollars):
    • $50 billion: nuclear
      • Nuclear subsidies under strong consideration by Congress, supported by Obama (2011)
    • $20 billion: fossil fuels
    • $12 billion: renewable energy
    • $12 billion: efficiency
  • 2010: increases in funding for renewable energy, possibly nuclear energy

Petroleum Industry Profits

  • Mergers squelch competition, drive up prices
  • Record-breaking oil company profits
    • The world’s 6 most profitable corporations in 2008 were oil companies (in 2010, 5 of the top 50)
    • Exxon: $45.2 billion in 2008 and $44.9 billion in 2012
      • 2008 profits largest in U.S. history (exceed GDP of 2/3 of world’s nations)

Belridge, CA Oil Fields Edward Burtynsky

Nigerian Gas Flare

The U.S. and Oil

  • U.S. consumes > 20 million bbl/d
    • Produces 5 million bbl/d
    • World’s largest crude oil importer
    • Ironically, greatest export in 2011 is gas, diesel, jet fuel, and other fuels
  • Strategic Petroleum Reserve holds more than 700 million bbl
  • ANWR contains 4.3 – 11.8 billion bbl oil

The U.S. and Oil

  • 23 billion bbl under remaining U.S. territory
  • 2.5 million abandoned oil and gas wells litter U.S. (20-30 million worldwide)
    • Pollution, explosion hazards
  • Alberta Tar Sands (shale oil), Keystone Pipeline controversies

Oil and War

  • Countries that export oil are >40 times more likely to be engaged in civil war than those that do not
  • Gulf Wars I and II
  • The Future?

Coal

  • 33% of U.S. carbon emissions (41% of world’s)
  • Coal mining dangerous (explosions, cave-ins, black lung disease)
    • 48 deaths in 2010 from “accidents”/cave-ins
    • 75,000 deaths from black lung disease in U.S. (1968-2007)

Coal

  • Mountain-top removal damages ecosystems
  • Coal-fired power plants top source of mercury worldwide
  • EPA’s 2011 limits on emissions to prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 MIs, 130,000 cases of childhood asthma

Proposed Coal Shipments through Pacific NW

  • 100 million tons/yr from Powder River Basin (WY, MT; 40% of US coal deposits)
  • 20 trains/day, each 1-1.5 miles long, each over 100 cars and powered by 4 diesel engines
  • 12 barge tows/wk down Columbia River
  • Amount expected to possibly quintuple by 2030

Risks of Proposed Coal Shipments through Pacific NW

  • Diesel particulate matter:
    • Impairs lung development; associated with asthma, COPD, heart disease, stroke, and cancers
  • Coal dust:
    • COPD, pneumoconiosis – black lung, contains heavy metals

Risks of Proposed Coal Shipments through Pacific NW

  • Noise:
    • Associated with fatigue, ischemic heart disease/HTN/arrhythmia, increased risk of stroke, exacerbation of mental health problems, fatigue, cognitive development, quality of life
  • Train traffic delays affecting emergency responders
  • Derailments, car vs. train accidents

Risks of Proposed Coal Shipments through Pacific NW

  • Global warming, ozone, mercury
  • Jobs gained:
    • Building and operating transfer facilities
    • Temporary; dangerous
      • Coal terminal workers have 3-fold increased risk of lung cancer
  • Job loss:
    • Local businesses cut off for 1-2 hours per day from auto traffic

Proposed Coal Shipments through Pacific NW

  • Facing strong community opposition
  • Nineteenth Century technology vs. program of sustainable, clean energy for the 21st Century
  • For more details, see slide show on the PHSJ website at http://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/Coal-Exports-Through-the-Pacific-Northwest-NWEHC-3-133.ppt

Other Sources of Air Pollution

  • Industry - #1
  • Indoor air (chemicals)
  • Indoor combustion of coal and biomass (wood, charcoal, crop residues, and animal dung) for cooking, heating and food preservation
    • Used by almost 3 billion people worldwide
    • Causes 2-4 million deaths/yr
    • Associated with multiple pulmonary conditions
    • Solar cookers may replace
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