Social Implications of Energy Development

Choices related to energy development strategies are arguably among the most important decisions modern economies face. Along with the use of hydrocarbons, as the main approach to producing worldwide energy during the 20th century, there have been increasing concerns regarding the emissions of pollutants associated with the consumption of fossil fuels. In the past decades, the production of energy from renewable sources has arisen as potential clean alternatives, but there are both technical and economic tradeoffs. Renewable energy may reduce the impact of energy on the environment, but may be limited in scale and can be associated with higher production costs. On the flip side, energy from fossil fuels continues to be developed in an economically feasible way, but we know that there are potential negative environmental and health impacts.

As technology improves, economies around the world are developing energy transition plans. Energy policies have important economy-wide consequences both in the short and long run, and it is imperative for policymakers to understand the various possible social tradeoffs related to nonrenewable vs renewable approaches. Examples include learning about what society’s choices tell us about the relationship between wealth and health, or about choices between employment and environmental quality.

The goal of the proposed project is to build on this body of knowledge and investigate socioeconomic impacts of energy development. We are currently engaged in a comprehensive analysis of coal mining and its potential impacts on human health in Alberta. Our research team has built relationships with a variety of partners that are leading us to assemble a rich dataset to empirically investigate potential water pollution impacts on health outcomes of individuals residing near coal mines.