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New Study: US Shale Revolution Is Saving Tens Of Thousands Of Lives Every Year

Mark Perry, AEI Carpe Diem

The American shale gas revolution has contributed to a 53% decrease in natural gas prices which has helped to save tens of thousands of deaths every year, new paper finds

Here’s the abstract of the March 2019 NBER paper “Inexpensive Heating Reduces Winter Mortality“:

This paper examines how the price of home heating affects mortality in the US. Exposure to cold is one reason that mortality peaks in winter, and a higher heating price increases exposure to cold by reducing heating use. It also raises energy bills, which could affect health by decreasing other health-promoting spending. Our empirical approach combines spatial variation in the energy source used for home heating and temporal variation in the national prices of natural gas versus electricity. We find that a lower heating price reduces winter mortality, driven mostly by cardiovascular and respiratory causes.

And here’s the conclusion (emphasis added):

This paper finds that winter mortality is lower when the price of heating is lower. To put the estimated elasticity of all-cause mortality with respect to the price of heating of 0.03 in context, the price of natural gas relative to electricity fell by 42% between 2005 to 2010. Our findings imply that this price decline caused a 1.6% decrease in the winter mortality rate for households using natural gas for heating. Given that 58% of American households use natural gas for heating, the drop in natural gas prices lowered the US winter mortality rate by 0.9%, or, equivalently, the annual mortality rate by 0.4%. This represents more than 11,000 deaths per year.

This effect size is large enough that it should not be ignored when assessing the net health effects of shale production of natural gas. The findings also highlight the health benefits of other policies to reduce home energy costs, particularly for low-income households.

Bottom Line: The American shale gas revolution illustrated above by the 57% increase in natural gas production in the US since 2006, which contributed to a 53% decrease in natural gas prices has helped to save tens of thousands of deaths every year. Likewise, any increase in average winter temperatures would similarly reduce winter mortality in the US and around the world. In contrast, how many lives would be lost if the Green New Deal was implemented and energy prices from inefficient windwills and solar panels dramatically increased?

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