Can energy efficiency save lives? According to a recent report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), the answer is yes. If every state across the country reduced its annual energy consumption by 15 percent, we could save six American lives each day and avoid $20 billion in health harms. In the U.S. alone, four out of every 10 people live in a county with unhealthy air pollutants. Air pollutants such as fine particulate matter and nitrogen oxides contribute to health issues in our respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems and are directly linked to major health risks such as lung cancer, heart disease, asthma attacks, and strokes.
A simple and cost-effective way to lower our greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the number of harmful pollutants in our atmosphere is to invest in energy efficiency. The “Saving Energy, Saving Lives” report conducted by ACEEE and PSR found that by reducing energy consumption by 15 percent nationwide, we could cut fine particulate pollution by 11 percent, carbon dioxide emissions by 14 percent, nitrogen oxide pollution by 18 percent, and sulfur dioxide by 23 percent. The question remains, how can we cut energy use by 15 percent across the board? While many states have already taken steps towards energy reduction, the greatest benefits are achieved when entire regions work collectively. This could mean developing new building energy standards, enforcing energy efficiency guidelines, creating energy-saving targets for electric utilities, administering new energy use standards for appliances, and implementing regional carbon cutting programs such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) which has seen success in nine Northeastern states.
States that rely on coal for electricity generation would see the greatest health benefits from energy efficiency. For example, West Virginia residents could save an average of $184 in avoided health harms while Illinois residents would save $87 in avoided health harms. Based on the report numbers, the savings generated from energy efficiency would be enough to pay the annual health insurance premiums for over three million families.
The benefits of creating an energy efficient society reach past health concerns and into the economic disadvantages of low-income communities. On average, low-income households live in a closer vicinity to coal-fired power plants meaning they have higher exposure to harmful pollutants. Low-income families also see disproportionately higher utility bills; paying up to three times more than non-low-income households. This makes energy efficiency a viable solution to reducing financial burdens and promoting economic opportunities through job availability in the clean energy sector.
As we pave the way towards stricter federal guidelines, we can continue to focus on energy efficiency on a local level as a means of reducing health risks from fossil fuel pollutants and promoting environmental prosperity. To learn more about the benefits of energy efficiency, read the full report in the link below. To promote a healthy environment by starting your own energy saving project, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-265-3971
Eschwass. (2019, April 23). Saving Energy, Saving Lives: The Health Impacts of Avoiding Power Plant Pollution with Energy Efficiency. Retrieved from https://aceee.org/research-report/h1801