What's unfair to residents of coal-dependent states?

Politicians in both parties have complained that proposed federal climate change bills are “unfair” to Midwestern states, which rely largely on coal to generate electricity. Utility companies and corporate groups have tried to reinvent themselves as defenders of the public interest against those who would unjustly “punish” consumers living in coal-dependent states.

Physicians for Social Responsibility released a report this week on “Coal’s Assault on Human Health.” This report should be required reading for all members of Congress, especially Senator Tom Harkin and other Democrats who have demanded more subsidies for coal-burning utilities in the climate-change bill. From the executive summary (pdf file):

Coal pollutants affect all major body organ systems and contribute to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases. […] Each step of the coal lifecycle–mining, transportation, washing, combustion, and disposing of post-combustion wastes–impacts human health. Coal combustion in particular contributes to diseases affecting large portions of the U.S. population, including asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke, compounding the major public health challenges of our time. It interferes with lung development, increases the risk of heart attacks, and compromises intellectual capacity.

In yesterday’s Des Moines Register, Lee Rood highlighted some of the extra burdens Iowans bear because of coal-fired power plants. Follow me after the jump for more.

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Sign this petition against new coal-fired plants in Iowa

The Sierra Club has created an online petition for Iowans, urging energy providers to invest in clean sources for electricity generation, not coal:

Coal is keeping us from moving to a new clean energy economy. To keep our utility prices low, our local energy providers need to move beyond coal and start meeting our electricity needs via clean, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass.

Sign on to the online petition today to voice your support for an end to coal and the start of green jobs and better health. We will be delivering the petition directly to energy providers across the state.  

Petition to Energy Providers:

I urge my local power provider to reallocate any proposed investment in coal into clean, safe, renewable energy sources and efficiency measures that will provide real consumer relief and a clean environment for generations to come.

We need to break our addiction to fossil fuels and shift to clean energy and efficiency programs that can meet energy demand and stimulate our local economy.

An investment in coal is a large step backwards. I do not support investing in a dirty fuel source that will drive up costs and increase my utility bill.

We need sensible energy solutions now, and real investment in energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy to take our state smartly into the future.

Energy experts agree with Al Gore: we don’t need to build any new coal-fired power plants to meet demand for electricity. Not in Marshalltown or Waterloo or anywhere else in Iowa.

Utilities could be doing much more to implement energy-efficiency measures.

Not only is every new coal-fired power plant a 50-year investment in the wrong direction, consumers will end up paying more for electricity from new power plants.

Also, coal-fired plants are a leading source of deadly fine particulate pollution and mercury pollution.

You can read more reasons to support clean energy production over new investment in coal and other fossil fuels on the websites of the Iowa Environmental Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Please sign the petition and forward the link to your like-minded friends.

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10 ways to combat asthma (in honor of Asthma Awareness Month and World Asthma Day)

Asthma has been on my mind lately, because a child in my extended family was recently diagnosed with it after going to the hospital for respiratory problems. The chronic disease is one of the leading causes of hospitalization in children.

In addition, at least 20 million American adults are estimated to have asthma.

Today is World Asthma Day, in connection with Asthma Awareness Month.

Join me after the jump to read about five policies our society should implement, as well as five steps individuals can take, to reduce the incidence and severity of asthma in our households and across the country.

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Trees in cities correlated with lower asthma rates in children

A new study should give city officials new incentive to plant and preserve more trees in urban areas:

Children who live in tree-lined streets have lower rates of asthma, a New York-based study suggests.

Columbia University researchers found that asthma rates among children aged four and five fell by 25% for every extra 343 trees per square kilometre.

They believe more trees may aid air quality or simply encourage children to play outside, although they say the true reason for the finding is unclear.

The study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Hat tip to Natasha Chart, who put up a link to this article at Open Left.

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