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Burning Questions: An Evidence-based Review of Alberta “Phase-out Coal” Campaign

The Alberta phase-out coal campaign is based on the Pembina Institute’s (March 2013) report “A Costly Diagnosis…”- but a Friends of Science review of the relevant literature and statistics demonstrates that the ‘phase-out coal’ campaign claims are not supported by the evidence. The Pembina report uses a faulty health model (that was tested and shown to predict that more people die of air pollution than die in total) and exaggerates the fine particulate emissions of coal-fired plants by 15 fold.

Benefits of Coal-fired Power Plants Outweigh Nominal Health Risk

Phasing out coal-fired electric power plants would cost Alberta $11.4 billion. Coal-fired plants emit only 0.4 per cent of human-made emissions of particulate matter under 2.5 microns (PM2.5) each year not counting wildfires. PM2.5 emissions are blamed for exacerbating asthma. By contrast, wildfires emitted 1,000 times the PM2.5 of coal-fired power plants in 2011; wildfire smoke is full of toxic chemicals. Alberta’s affordable power from coal is literally your lifeline.

Doctors in the Dark on Energy and Air Pollution

Recently two Alberta doctors made sweeping claims in an op-ed to the Calgary Herald that coal-fired power is causing millions of dollars in health costs and many deaths annually – referring to a report from last year by the Pembina Institute. Their claims were based on computer models and they dismissed critics, like me, who state that models are inaccurate. Policy decisions should be made based on evidence, not erroneous computer models. Dr. Ross McKitrick found it implausible that Pembina’s math would end up attributing half the deaths of Albertans to fine particulate matter. Early closure of Alberta’s coal-fired power plants will damage human health and impose a crushing burden on healthcare.

Power. Full Benefits

The case for conventional power in Alberta, Canada. This report by Friends of Science counters a recent Pembina Institute report that was pushing for a renewable energy in Alberta. The cover shows an image of a billboard in Alberta that proclaims “Global Warming Stopped Naturally 16+ Years Ago.” The case for current forms of renewable energy is rapidly dwindling as new climate evidence shows there has been no global warming in 16+ years despite a rise in CO2. Wind is not so clean, green or cost-efficient, nor does it reduce CO2, or decrease medical costs.

Energy Abundance & Economic Growth

Economic growth in the modern world is fueled by energy. Although the total size of the economy tends to grow faster than total energy consumption, the two nonetheless trend together over the long run. This Fraser Institute study by McKitrick & Aliakbari shows that in Canada, real per-capita income is constrained by policies that restrict energy availability and/or increase energy costs, and growth in energy abundance leads to growth in GDP per capita. Policies that deliberately limit energy availability will likely have negative macroeconomic consequences.

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