According to the new study Pollution from Natural Gas is responsible for more deaths and does greater damage to health than coal in Illinois. The study also highlights another hazard of burning fossil fuels that are scrambling the planet’s climate. This study was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
A team of researchers at Harvard University found that a shift away from coal during the past decade saved thousands of lives and reduced health impacts from breathing particulate matter which is known as soot. The numbers declined slightly for Natural Gas, another fossil fuel that by 2017 accounted for the greatest health risks. Nearly half the deaths from soot exposure that year can be attributed to the state’s reliance on gas to heat homes and businesses, the study found. Coal is more deadly only when used to generate electricity.
These findings raise questions about whether Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed transition to a zero-carbon economy would move fast enough in phasing out the use of gas that is only to blunt the impacts of climate change but also to ensure Illinois breathe clean air.Chicago appears to be locked into a gas-dependent future. Peoples Gas is charging its customers $7.7 billion during the next two decades to replace ageing distribution lines throughout the city, even though an accelerating shift to renewable energy could make the project obsolete before it’s completed.
Illinois is one of 19 states where gas emissions led to more deaths than coal that year. The analysis estimated that soot pollution from burning gas caused as many as 2,100 deaths and triggered up to $24 million in hidden health costs for Illinoisans in 2017.