We have a clean air problem in Arizona. Families are breathing polluted air that causes asthma, chronic lung and heart disease. Over half of Americans live with unhealthy levels of air pollution. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable. According to the American Lung Association, 175,000 children and 500,000 adults suffer from asthma in our state. The highest causes of life threatening heart and lung disease are directly linked to how we produce our electricity. In Arizona, we get more than 40 percent of our electricity from burning coal, yet coal is the biggest air polluter. Arizona also produces electricity from natural gas, another significant climate polluter. Utilities that generate and sell this power do not have to pay for the millions of dollars in health costs. These costs are borne fully by the citizens of Arizona. Hospital care costs from asthma alone have cost Arizonans $650 million or more each year.
We have the tools to fix this problem. Arizona has the greatest U.S. potential for solar energy, our natural resource that is abundant, clean, and cheaper every day. Rooftop solar has been installed on thousands of homes, schools, businesses, and churches, helping clean up how we produce our energy. Solar does not produce the sickening pollutants from burning fossil fuels. Arizonans can directly benefit from reduced costs on their energy bills with more solar power. Not only does solar reduce the need to build more fossil fuel power plants; but the more rooftop solar we generate, the less we need of centralized utility infrastructure. Rooftop solar also increases the efficiency of energy production and solar does not use water like fossil fuels such as coal or gas.
Physicians for Social Responsibility endorses the expanded use of rooftop solar for its health benefits, as well as it economic and carbon reducing benefits. Clean power saves lives and helps stabilize our climate. The Arizona Corporation Commission is currently engaged in a policymaking procedure to determine methods for calculating the benefits and costs that distributed solar energy provides for Arizona. It is important that all of these benefits discussed above are counted appropriately so Arizonans can choose energy options that are best for our health and our climate. Tell all our elected officials how important and cost effective rooftop solar is for everyone.
Dr. Barbara H. Warren is director, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Arizona
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.