The Biden administration’s proposed clean energy standard could enable a swift drop in emissions and save hundreds of thousands of lives between now and 2050, says a new report.
Researchers from Harvard University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Syracuse University found that the new policy standard, which the Biden administration has baked into its latest budget bill, “would be the most effective tool in reaching a White House goal of 80% renewable energy use by 2030,” writes The Guardian.
“The costs are much lower than we expected and the deaths avoided are much higher,” said study co-author Kathy Fallon Lambert, an air quality expert at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “There really is a huge opportunity here to address climate change and air quality.”
The report said the clean energy standard will be far more effective than other measures, such as a carbon tax. Thanks to correspondingly cleaner air, an estimated 317,000 Americans would be spared premature and painful deaths from heart and lung disease in an “immediate, widespread, and substantial” drop in mortality.
While every state in the U.S. would enjoy better air quality as the measure forced utilities, through a combination of carrots and sticks, to green their energy mixes, the major fossil-producing states of Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas would see the greatest improvements, the report added. The Guardian says the benefits would be “most acutely felt by Black people who currently face disproportionate harm from living near highways and power plants.”
While the price tag for this rapid flip to renewables would run to “around US$342 billion until 2050,” with the majority consisting of capital and maintenance expenditures, the “nearly $637 billion” saved by addressing the climate crisis head-on would more than balance those costs. The cleaner air could also free up some $1.13 trillion in health care spending.