WASHINGTON-On June 1, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that President Trump had ordered Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to prepare immediate steps toward preventing the retirement of coal and nuclear power plants. On the preceding day, Bloomberg News disclosed a memo that discusses a plan for the Department of Energy to do so for two years. Today, Resources for the Future (RFF) posted a new simulation study focusing on the proposal's effects on emissions, mortality from those emissions, and coal-mine jobs.
The analysis examines the effects of the policy in the years 2019 and 2020, assuming that the policy is in effect for at least those two years and delays most previously announced retirements of US coal and nuclear power plants until at least the end of 2020. Under this assumption, the policy would, on average over the two years, be delaying the retirement of 7.8 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generation capacity and 1.1 GW of nuclear generation capacity. These represent about 3% of US coal generation capacity and 1% of US nuclear generation capacity.
The simulation results enabled estimates of the emission, mortality, and coal-mine job effects. First, the policy would cause between 353 and 815 additional premature deaths in the United States from power plant sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions over the two-year period, and would increase carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 22 million short tons. This is the amount of CO2 that 4.3 million average US cars emit in a year.
Second, on average over the two years, the policy would support 1,580 coal mining jobs, though it might reduce economy-wide employment because of its effects in other sectors.
'Our simulation results indicate that, each year, one American would die from air pollution for every 2 to 4.5 coal mining jobs supported by the policy,' wrote authors RFF Visiting Fellow Daniel Shawhan and RFF Research Assistant Paul Picciano in the study.
Third, stopping the retirement of nuclear generators only would prevent an estimated 24 to 53 premature deaths, and an estimated 9 million tons of CO2 emissions.
Read the full study: Retirements and Funerals: The Emission, Mortality, and Coal-Mine Job Effects of a Two-Year Delay in Coal and Nuclear Power Plant Retirements.
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