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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The True Cost of Fossil Fuels

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Fossil fuels would be a lot more expensive if their damage to the environment and the resulting socio-economic costs were included in the price at which they are sold.

In a recent study, Drew Shindell, Professor of Climate Sciences at Duke University, found that given its environmental impact, diesel should cost an additional $4.80 per gallon (one gallon is 3.70 liters) and gasoline an additional $3.80 per gallon.

Also, Shindell found that thermal power should cost an extra $0.24 per kWh as part of its social costs of air pollution and its associated health impacts. That would increase the price of coal power by around 500%, making it much more expensive than clean alternatives, such as solar or wind power.

In fact, per ton, carbon pollution rakes up a cost of $32 in damages to the climate, and an additional $45 in (unaccounted for) impacts, such as malnutrition.

The cost of emitting the pollutants SO2 and NOx is much steeper still, at $42,000 and $67,000 per ton respectively. Luckily, the these two are not emitted in nearly the same quantities as CO2. While SO2 and NOx are primarily causing local air pollution, carbon emissions drive global climate change.

Moving Away From Fossil Fuels?

The good news is that 2014 was first year on record when the global economy expanded without a corresponding rise in carbon emissions. We seem to be getting more efficient in using energy and cleaner in our energy choices. The last three times carbon emissions dipped was on account of economic contraction (in the 1980s after the 1979 oil shock, in 1992 and in 2009).

This might signal a long awaited and essential “decoupling” of global economic growth from carbon emissions, which would be great news in our fight against climate change.

And with renewables fast outpacing traditional forms of energy economically as well as technically, our planet might see better, brighter days ahead. Whether that transition is fast enough, remains to be seen. You can contribute to it in many ways. Going solar is one of them.

To read more about the hidden costs of fossil fuels, click here

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