BOSTON, June 8 (UPI) -- Creating a carbon standard for power plants in the United States could save the country billions in both energy and health costs, according to recent analysis of three concepts to help reduce dangerous emissions.
Researchers at Harvard University found a carbon standard would have net benefits of $33 billion per year, with costs of $17 billion per year to make changes at power plants, and savings of at least $30 billion per year on health costs and $21 billion for climate benefits.
The study is based on a 2014 proposal by the U.S. Envrionmental Protection Agency, which has a goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 32 percent lower than it was in 2005 by 2020, which has been debated but not moved forward or put into effect.
Although previous studies have examined potential national costs and benefits of such a standard, the researchers say theirs is the first study to break benefits down by sub region of the country -- potentially $1 million in annual benefits for each county in the country.
Costs aside, the potential health benefits for people significantly lower the cost of healthcare attributed to pollution released by power plants.
As big as the benefits could be from a carbon standard, the researchers contend the net benefits would be even larger than expected and outweigh the initiative's costs with a year or two of going into effect.
"Our results suggest that net economic benefits from power plant carbon standards tend to be greatest in highly populated areas near or downwind from coal-fired power plants that experience a shift to cleaner sources with the standards," Dr. Charles Driscoll, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Syracuse University, said in a press release.
For the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Syracuse University, Resources for the Future, and the Harvard Forest, Harvard University reviewed a plan to reduce emissions based on the EPA's Clean Power Plan.
The analysis found the monetized value of health benefits from such a program is more than $17 billion for a subset of health costs, with projected benefits of $29 billion for health and $21 billion for climate benefits.
"We found that the health benefits would outweigh the estimated costs of the carbon standard in our study for 13 out of 14 power sector regions within five years of implementation -- even though we only looked at a subset of the total benefits," said Dr. Jonathan Buonocore, a research associate and program leader at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Chan School of Public Health.