ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY AND SAFETY ISSUES

The use of coal, oil, and natural gas—involving exploration, extraction, transportation, processing (e.g., cleaning and refining), combustion, and recycling or disposal of petrochemical materials—has always produced environmental impacts.33 They include air and water pollution that escape pollution controls in place today on vehicles, refineries, factories, and power plants, as well as discharges from sources without pervasive pollution controls, such as residences. The impacts also include changes to the landscape and ecosystem that remain after surface-mine reclamation, as well as ecosystem changes resulting from oil tanker spills. Because all of these impacts have been extensively reviewed, because Chapter 6 on renewable energy includes life-cycle analyses that have been carried out on fossil-generated electricity (particularly with respect to emissions), and because the National Research Council has released a report on energy externalities,34 the AEF Committee does not repeat this work here.

From time to time, the well-studied impacts and the regulations under which they fall are summarized—e.g., in the environmental sections of the Encyclopedia of Energy (2004). But regulations, as well as results from environmental science, change every year. Up-to-date reports and statistics are more likely to be found on the websites of regulatory agencies,35 government research laboratories and

33

At each stage, the air and water pollution produced has the potential to impair human health. And in addition to effects such as stresses on wildlife, wildlife habitats, vegetation, and biota in rivers and streams, fossil-fuel-generated haze can also reduce visibility.

34

Hidden Cost of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use. Available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12794.

35

Examples include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) websites on air (www.epa.gov/oar/), water (www.epa.gov/OW/), and wastes (www.epa.gov/swerrims/); the Minerals Management Service (MMS) website on environmental assessment and regulation of offshore facilities (www.mms.gov/eppd/index.htm); the Department of the Interior’s website on surface mine reclamation (www.osmre.gov/osm.htm); the website of the Council on Environmental Quality, which coordinates policy on environmental impact statements and assessments (www.nepa.gov/nepa/nepanet.htm); the website of the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (coastalmanagement.noaa.gov/); and the Fish and Wildlife Service’s website on the endangered species program (www.fws.gov/endangered/).



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