The Norman Transcript

Opinion

May 26, 2014

Preventive Health Care for the Planet

NORMAN — As the U.S. experiments with providing greater health care coverage to the public, we need to acknowledge the looming but under-reported health care costs that result from the burning of fossils fuels. Here in Oklahoma, many citizens living near coal-fired power plants already pay the greatest personal costs of dirty energy in the forms of cancer, asthma, and other respiratory diseases, which yearly result in 23,600 premature deaths nationwide. Because natural gas is essentially free of air-borne particulates associated with coal and produces less CO2/BTU than burning oil, it is touted as a ‘clean’ energy source. However, gas, coal, and oil are all ‘dirty fuels’ because they dump CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change, which the international medical journal, The Lancet, recently identified as “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”.

Harvard public health expert Epstein outlines the health risks associated with climate change in the book, Changing Climate, Changing Health (Epstein & Farber, 2011). Increasing temperatures expand the range of vector-borne insects, exposing us to greater risk of diseases like Dengue fever, West Nile Virus and malaria. Major floods, heat waves, and droughts are expected to increase in frequency, increasing the risks of water-borne diseases, crop failures, and malnutrition. The 2-week heat wave in California in 2006 caused 655 deaths, 1,620 hospitalizations, and over 16,000 excess emergency room visits, at a price tag of $5.4 billion dollars. Over a 7-year. period, from 2002-09, the estimated excess in health care costs due to climate change totaled nearly $15 billion (Health Affairs, Nov. 2011). The burden that climate change is imposing on an increasingly sick planet is a bitter pill for US taxpayers, whose per capita health expenditure is already the world’s highest.

Preventive care for the planet is the most efficient prescription to mitigate rising costs. Conservative economists Art Laffer, Glenn Hubbard, and George Schultz agree that a fee on carbon at its source would be the least expensive way for the US to reduce its deadly reliance on CO2-producing fossil fuels and transition to clean, sustainable energy. A market-driven solution will level the playing field and spur major innovations in clean energy and economic growth (http://www.realclearpolicy.com/video/2013/06/27/think_tanks_debate_carbon_tax.html). Oklahoma Congressmen Cole, Inhofe, and Coburn advocate for a smaller, more efficient government with fewer intrusive regulations. We agree, and urge them to join with other Republicans to support a revenue neutral bill to put a price on carbon. Placing a fair price on carbon that compensates for external costs associated with burning of fossil fuels, costs which are currently borne only by tax-payers, is only fair. If these ‘‘externalities’ were factored into the price of fuels, alternative energy sources, such as wind, geothermal and solar, whose external costs to public and environmental health are relatively low, would soon become more competitive than fossil fuels.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Improving children’s lives

    Social service organizations that have long-term debt for their headquarters and operating needs often spend much of their fundraising efforts meeting those obligations....

    July 29, 2014

  • Nutritional article should be accurate

    I read with interest the July 13 article “Are low-carb diets really healthy?” by Cassidie Day. Unfortunately, a number of statements in this article were incorrect. The first problematic statement was, “Carbs are an essential nutrient ...

    July 29, 2014

  • Hospital story headline was too sensationalized

    Editor, The Transcript: On July 18, The Transcript ran a front page article with the headline “Lawsuit filed against Norman Regional — Civil suit alleges improper billing practices by NRH and contracted physicians groups.” As a first page ...

    July 29, 2014

  • Congress should close gaps

    Of all of Edward Snowden’s revelations about electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency, the most unsettling was that the government was accumulating vast numbers of records about the telephone calls of American citizens. In ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Border obsession overlooks trade

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry made headlines recently by ordering 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. This bravado comes at a price: $12 million a month. Perry plans to send the bill the federal government. That’s one way to finance your ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Intercession badly needed in this world

    Yesterday was my feast day, or as the Italians call it, my “onomastico.” Since I live in the United States, it went completely unnoticed. If I lived in Italy, however, I would have been showered with cards and phone calls. That’s because ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Help better than commentary

    For the last seven years, I have helped run Hands Helping Paws, an animal welfare and rescue group that fosters Norman’s abandoned animals and advocates for spay and neuter initiatives to reduce our community’s problems with stray and ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Stick to the sports

    Editor, The Transcript: Why must we, especially us nice conservatives, be subjected to political commentary in a sports column? I hear/view Fox News routinely and find their coverage quite acceptable. I also hear/view CNN and MSNBC. I ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Corporation Commission should should evaluate quakes, fracturing

    Editor, The Transcript: Is your house at risk of being damaged in an earthquake because of fracking? Maybe. We’ve seen more earthquakes and tremors in Oklahoma seven months into 2014 than in the two previous years combined. At the same ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Norman can stop fracking before it escalates

    Editor, The Transcript: There are 163 fracked wells within Norman city limits. With growing attention to health and safety concerns, the city is considering changes to the existing oil and gas ordinance....

    July 27, 2014