You might not have realized, but the Trump administration really digs coal. Even as much of the world turns its back on the infamously dirty (but still frustratingly cheap) source of power, the White House is determined to find out how to use even the most obscure federal powers to intervene in the energy market and apply the defibrillator.
It’s not yet clear if or when any kind of coal bailout would happen, but a new working paper by the non-profit Resources for the Future (RFF) has looked at the version that would keep nuclear and coal power plants from shutting down for two additional years. Spoiler alert: it’s a terrible, no good, very bad idea.
Putting aside the fact that it would boost America’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions equivalent to putting 4.3 million more cars on the road per year, it would also cause 353 to 815 premature deaths in 2019-2020 – and that, like all values in the paper, is a conservative estimate.
The plan – which we’ll poetically refer to as the Coal Floater Initiative (CFI) – doesn’t even do the thing it’s supposed to do: create jobs and boost the economy. According to the study, although it would support a staggeringly low number of coal-mining jobs (about 790), it is also “likely to reduce economy-wide employment” due to the knock-on effect on other sectors.
That’s not the standout part of the study, though. The statistic that really sticks with you is this: for every 2 to 4.5 extra coal sector jobs added, a person somewhere in the US will die as a result of the extra air pollution those jobs will be helping to generate. Most of these will be caused by sulfur dioxide emissions, which already help to kill 4.5 million people per year around the globe by attacking the lining of their lungs.
This comes with an economic cost too. Dealing with the negative health effects of this marginally boosted coal sector will cost between $4 and $9 billion. Altogether then, this plan is about as good an idea as broken glass-topped pineapple pizza.