The Other Bombardment of Baltimore

IMG_0428 by Shan Gordon.
Just beyond the spot where Francis Scott Key wrote of the bombardment of Ft. McHenry in 1814 (stars and stripes marker on the bottom right) another bombardment continues, this one 24 hours a day, every day with white plumes of pollution instead of the rockets red glare. Pollution from coal fired power plants in Maryland has killed more people than the Battle of Baltimore. A lot more.

A recent study from MIT estimates that pollution from coal fired power plants kill 1885 people a year in Maryland. In Baltimore, the study estimates that we dig 475 early graves each year for those who succumb to pollution from coal plants. Oh, say, the number of Americans killed during the Battle of Baltimore? 28. So where is our song for the 475 who lose their fight against coal plant pollution every year? In a city where we are grieving 182 murders, these 475 silent deaths go unseen, with no sirens, no blue lights, no detectives searching for the culprits. The cause of death or hospitalization will be listed as pulmonary failure, stroke, asthma, heart attack. The smoke plumes waving in the distance are unquestioned. The costs of care and suffering falls upon those who are unable to withstand the pollution, not to those who created it.

Remember how states took cigarette companies to court to reclaim medical costs due to cancer? If King Tobacco was required to pay for the damage it wreaks, why are aging, highly polluting coal burning plants still polluting for free? Why are we choosing to give a competitive advantage to plants which don’t purchase and use pollution controls over ones that do? Or over renewable energy sources which don’t pollute? What kind of capitalism is that?

Sure we need to meet our energy needs, but subsidizing inefficient and highly polluting power plants with our health and environment is unethical and unproductive. Here are some better ideas:

The Maryland Public Service Commission recently set a goal of saving 1.2 million megawatt hours of electricity per year. According to Mike Tidwell at Chesapeake Climate Action Network, meeting these goals would eliminated the need for a 460 megawatt coal fired power plant every two years.
Helping businesses and homeowners conserve energy enables us to reduce pollution while reducing energy bills for businesses and consumers.
Increasing renewable sources of energy like solar, wind and geothermal further reduce pollution while meeting our energy goals. Maryland needs to move quickly to escape it’s dependency on highly polluting coal fired power plants so we can improve the health of our citizens, our environment and our economy.

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