The Blog

It’s True: Green Energy Helps the Poor

i Aug 10th No Comments by

This is letter to the editor in response to this Detroit News column:


The borderline Orwellian August 4 column “How Green Energy Hurts the Poor” struggles to make the ridiculous claim that burning coal is better for low-income communities than clean, renewable energy.

The dangerous and deadly consequences of burning coal have been well documented by scientists and health professionals for decades. Michael Jensen and William Shughart’s column is clearly paid propaganda from an industry stuck in the past, and their claims would be laughable if they weren’t so irresponsible.

Health professionals all agree: Pollution from burning coal is a serious public health threat to low-income communities.

Sixty-eight percent of African Americans in the United States live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant according to the Energy Justice Network. Children and communities of color are most vulnerable to air pollution from coal plants according to research by Environmental Health Perspectives.

Burning coal has been linked to premature death, higher risk of life-threatening asthma attacks and other respiratory diseases, according to the American Lung Association. Our state’s asthma rate is 10 percent higher than the national average, according to the Asthma Initiative of Michigan. Furthermore, the pollution generated by Michigan’s coal-fired power plants is responsible for 68,000 asthma attacks and 180 premature deaths each year.

In Michigan, we generate nearly half of our electricity from coal-fired power plants and import 100 percent of that coal from other states.

Here’s something else the coal industry does not want us to know: Prices for renewable energy are at an all-time low, and renewable sources like wind and solar are now cheaper than coal and even natural gas, according to a recent Lazard report. That means increasing our use of clean energy could reduce electricity bills for tens of thousands of families in low-income communities.

Low-income communities can also benefit from the jobs that clean energy industries create. Michigan’s clean energy sector supports nearly 87,000 jobs and pumps $5 billion into our state’s economy annually.

Continuing to turn coal is dangerous and deadly for low-income communities. That’s a fact. The authors of this column should be ashamed for peddling such irresponsible claims to protect a dying industry that desperately clings to the past.