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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new peer-reviewed study finds substantial health benefits in Rust Belt states when utilities are required to supply escalating amounts of renewable power. The researchers modeled existing mandates and what happens if they're made more stringent.

Why it matters: The paper in Environmental Research Letters explores the regional effects of energy policies that reduce fine particulates — which cause cardiovascular ailments — in the air by displacing coal-fired power.

  • It arrives amid a focus on state-level policy at a time when the Trump administration is rolling back Obama-era federal initiatives.
  • It also comes just weeks after Ohio's GOP Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation that weakens the state's renewables requirements.

What they did: MIT researchers compared costs and benefits of state policies called renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and other states — and the effects of making them tougher.

  • They modeled maintaining renewables policies in the 10-state Rust Belt region, which creates an average renewables requirement of 13% of generation in 2030.
  • They then modeled two other scenarios; one would boost that overall share to 20% and another would double it to 26%.

What they found: Maintaining the requirements would bring health benefits of $4.7 billion in 2030 compared to costs of $3.5 billion in their central scenario.

  • Strengthening mandates to 20% provides estimated health benefits of $13.5 billion against $5.8 billion in costs.
  • Doubling the average required renewables share of the power mix to 26% brings health benefits of $20 billion against $9 billion in costs.

The intrigue: The study also provides new comparisons to carbon pricing.

  • Even very low CO2 prices would provide greater health gains than the RPS requirements by prompting aggressive displacement of coal with gas.
  • On the climate side, avoided CO2 emissions in 2030 are the same as doubling the average RPS requirement.

What they're saying: Leah Stokes of the University of California, Santa Barbara called the linkage of economic modeling with atmospheric chemistry an important contribution: "That allows for a much richer understanding of how energy decisions affect public health."

  • She noted that the paper models increases in renewables requirements in a region where the existing mandates are not aggressive.
  • "The targets that they are shooting for in this paper are not overly ambitious," she told Axios.
  • "They are showing that even doing these piecemeal things would be an improvement for the Rust Belt."

But, but, but: That comparison to CO2 pricing has big caveats. Among them...

  • Looking further ahead, the paper notes that increased gas reliance is not a pathway for deeply decarbonizing electricity.
  • Climate and health estimates from CO2 pricing don't weigh the "full environmental externalities" of gas extraction.
  • Renewables mandates, now in place in 29 states, have proven more politically viable than CO2 pricing.

Go deeper: Everything's deadlier in the South

Go deeper

Updated 29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."