Did you know over 17 million Americans have asthma? Or that every year it’s responsible for more than 10 million doctor visits and 1.8 million trips to the emergency room?
Health professionals tell us one of the biggest triggers for an asthma attack is air pollution. “Unhealthy air is hazardous to our families and even can threaten life itself,” according to the American Lung Association’s Healthy Air Campaign.
Wind power reduces these harmful pollutants, and newly released data quantifies just how much it helps us clean our air.
Wind cut a lot of smog-causing pollution last year: an estimated 176,000 metric tons of sulfur dioxide (Sox) and 106,000 metric tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx). These harmful air pollutants contribute to asthma attacks and other respiratory complications. Because of wind energy’s reductions, Americans saved an estimated $7.3 billion in avoided health care costs just last year, based on cost assumptions provided by a Harvard School of Public Health study.
This results in clean, fresh air for our families. It also helps keep our skies clear and smog-free, preserving views of America’s natural landscapes and city skylines.
And more of these savings are on the way, because wind energy is among the leading solutions to climate change and all its expected financial impacts, including to public health.
In 2015, wind energy reduced power sector carbon dioxide emissions by 132 million metric tons. That’s more than 28 million cars put out each year, or as much as eliminating all power sector emissions from Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Colorado last year.
Each wind turbine makes a big difference: a single turbine cuts 900 cars’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions.
When 2016 began, enough wind energy was under construction to reduce another 23 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year once brought online.
Wind power remains the biggest, fastest, cheapest way to comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the country’s first rule designed to combat carbon pollution from existing power plants. Although the Supreme Court recently upheld a temporary stay of the rule, many states and utilities have already said they’ll continue to add low-cost renewable energy because doing so creates jobs and lowers electricity bills. They also recognize carbon reductions are inevitable.
We can continue cleaning our air while building our economy. In 2015, U.S. power sector emissions fell to their lowest level since 1995, according to the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. At the same time, electricity rates are 5.5 percent lower than they were in 2009, when there was far less renewable energy online.
In the years to come, we will realize even greater public health and environmental benefits with wind power. The Department of Energy says wind could produce 20 percent of America’s electricity by 2030, and 35 percent by 2050. By that point, wind could avoid $400 billion in climate change damages, save $108 billion in public health costs through air pollution reductions, and prevent 22,000 premature deaths.
We know clean air transcends dollar amounts. No one wants their children playing in smoggy air. No one wants to see a rise in asthma attacks because of a dirty environment.
We also know how good it feels to see the sun through a clear blue sky, and how restorative a breath of fresh air can feel. Every American has a right to clean air. Now let’s make sure we do what it takes to preserve that right.