Comparing health benefit calculations for alternative energy futures

Abstract

Emissions from energy production, conversion, and use are associated with adverse effects on human health and climate. We use the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model and the Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP) to quantify effects of three potential emission abatement policies in the USA. The policies impose emission fees designed to internalize externalities associated with ozone and particulate matter (PM) pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. A business as usual case is compared to policies in which fees are applied to energy sector emissions of health impacting pollutants: NOx, SO2, PM10, PM2.5, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and/or greenhouse gases: CO2 and CH4. Net policy benefits are calculated by summing the health and climate benefits and subtracting the increased energy system cost. For comparison with the detailed model results, benefits are also estimated by the simplified approach of multiplying emission changes by fixed estimates of health damages per ton of emissions. Annual net benefits in 2045 are $173 billion with health-related fees and $116 billion with climate-based fees. A combined policy, with fees on emissions of both greenhouse gases (GHG) and health impacting pollutants, has annual net benefits of $189 billion in 2045. Co-benefits are unevenly distributed. Health benefits of GHG fees are only 40% as large as health benefits from air quality fees. Climate benefits of health fees are 87% as large as those from climate-based fees. Thus, each policy has comparable climate benefits, but air quality and corresponding health improvements are smaller when not specifically targeted.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Matt Turner and Shannon Capps for advice and discussion during early stages of this project. We would also like to thank Kirk Baker for assistance in the modeling efforts.

Funding

This work was supported by the NASA Applied Sciences Program (grant no. NNX11AI54G).

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Brown, K.E., Henze, D.K. & Milford, J.B. Comparing health benefit calculations for alternative energy futures. Air Qual Atmos Health 13, 773–787 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11869-020-00840-8

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Keywords

  • Health benefits
  • Air quality
  • Energy
  • Damages