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Why Using Coal Plants as the Scapegoat for Death and Illness in Ontario is a ridiculous argument

(Editor’s Note:  Another repost at a time when we need to remind people of how McGuinty has destroyed rural Ontario)

Whenever I get into a debate with someone over wind turbines, they always haul out that old dated nugget about coal plants.  No matter whether I’m debating someone online or in person, they play the ‘coal kills’ card every time.  It’s a ridiculous argument, but one that environmentalists love to rely on.  Well, let’s blow that whole issue out of the water right now.  — Donna Quixote

(Per a report by Dr. Ross McKittrick — using both Federal and Provincial statistics as a basis)  

The Failure of the Green Energy Act

According to Environment Canada’s emissions inventory, Ontario’s coal-fired power plants released 699 tonnes of PM2.5 in 2009. Is that a lot?

One way to tell is to compare it with another source nobody worries about: residential wood fireplaces. According to the same Environment Canada emissions inventory, Ontario residential wood-burning fireplaces released 1,150 tonnes of PM2.5 in 2009, 65% more than all the coal-fired electricity generation together.

That does not mean Ontario has a crisis of air pollution from wood fires. It means PM2.5 emissions from coal-fired power plants are at levels well below what is considered not a problem when coming from other, more picturesque sources.

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance has published claims that Ontario’s coal-fired power plants cause 316 deaths, 440 hospital admissions, 522 emergency room visits and 158,000 minor illnesses each year. Its numbers are based on a 2005 simulation study for the provincial government that focused almost entirely on the effects of PM2.5.

How plausible are these claims? If correct, they imply that wood-burning fireplaces cause 520 deaths per year, etc. But that is nothing compared with the implied effects from people driving on unpaved roads. According to Environment Canada, dust from unpaved roads in Ontario puts a whopping 90,116 tonnes of PM2.5 into our air each year, nearly 130 times the amount from coal-fired power generation.

Using the Clean Air Alliance method for computing deaths, particulates from country-road usage kills 40,739 people per year, quite the massacre considering there are only about 90,000 deaths from all causes in Ontario each year. Who knew? That quiet drive up back country roads to the cottage for a weekend of barbecues, cozy fires and marshmallow roasts is a form of genocide.

Of course such a conclusion is absurd, but it follows from the screwy way numbers are used in this debate. If we are going to say that 699 tonnes of PM2.5 from power generation kills 316 people, then 90,116 tonnes of PM2.5 from unpaved roads must kill a proportionately much larger number. Likewise, paving just eight-10ths of 1% of Ontario’s dirt roads would cut annual PM2.5 emissions by an amount equivalent to shutting down all Ontario coal-fired power plant units. And then Ontario wouldn’t need to shut them down, and the province could have inexpensive, reliable electricity from them for many years to come.


So, to recap

According to Environmentalists:

Coal plant emissions = 316 deaths, 440 hospital admissions, 522 emergency room visits and 158,000 minor illnesses each year.

Therefore, using THEIR logic the following must be true:

Fireplace and woodstove emissions =  521 deaths, 726 hospital admissions, 861 emergency room visits and 260,700 minor illnesses each year

And the biggest killer and illness creator of all…the dreaded DIRT ROADS!!!!

Dirt Road emissions =   40,739  deaths,  93,581 hospital admissions, 111,930 emergency room visits and 33,891,000 (that’s almost 34 million) minor illnesses each year

Well no wonder our health system is over-taxed.  It’s those damned dirt roads!!! — Donna Quixote

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