NASA Satellites Reveal Decline in U.S. Coal Pollution

nasa coal pollution satelliteNASA /Public Domain

NASA's satellite imaging systems are good for analyzing all sorts of environmental stuff: mapping sea ice extent, revealing the impact of mountaintop removal mining, tracking oil spills, and, now, examining air pollution emitted from coal plants. As you're likely aware, coal-fired power plants emit some seriously nasty pollutants (mercury, sulfur, etc) in addition to hefty amounts of carbon dioxide.

And, according to research completed with the aid of some new NASA satellite images, at least one of those pollutants, sulfur dioxide, has registered a steep decline in recent years. Which is good news, seeing as how it happens to cause acid rain and myriad respiratory woes.

See the before and after images below:

nasa satellite coal pollution NASA/Public Domain

Nice, right? And something that everyone can agree upon: Less acid rain, less health risk for the public, cleaner air. So what lead these coal plants to reduce their SO2 emissions? Turns out it was a terrifying, job-killing, freedom-obliterating cap and trade system!

Science Daily reports:

The scientists attribute the decline in sulfur dioxide to the Clean Air Interstate Rule, a rule passed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2005 that called for deep cuts in sulfur dioxide emissions. In response to that rule, many power plants in the United States have installed desulfurization devices and taken other steps that limit the release of sulfur dioxide. The rule put a cap on emissions, but left it up to power companies to determine how to reduce emissions and allowed companies to trade pollution credits.
And lo and behold: the CAI rule, enacted in the thick of Bush's presidency, did not lead to mass joblessness or the lights going out across the nation. In fact, workers had to install those desulfurization devices, which probably resulted in a net job gain. And afterward, less acid rain and respiratory illness!

This is, on a smaller scale, what would happen if cap and trade were enacted to curb carbon emissions: Economically, very little. But we'd quietly and effectively begin to reduce the carbon pollution that's causing global climate change. Let this be a lesson to us all ... but especially to conservatives who mistakenly believe that anything cap and trade touches will turn into tax hikes and economic ruin.

Tags: Air Pollution | Nasa


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