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Affirming The Necessity of a Secure, Sustainable and Health Protective Energy Policy

  • Date: Nov 09 2004
  • Policy Number: 20046

Key Words: Energy


Recognizing that the impact of America's heavy dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power is one of the greatest contemporary threats to human health; and Noting that this impact includes air pollution, radiological waste, climate change, and global competition for energy resources; and

Understanding that fossil fuels and nuclear power are currently the most significant sources of energy used in the United States, accounting for 85 percent and 8 percent of current U.S. energy consumption, respectively;1 and

Noting the positive correlation between air pollution created by the burning of fossil fuels and human health impacts including cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, asthma, reduced lung function, lung cancer and premature death; 2 and

Noting also that air pollution resulting from the burning of fossil fuels includes greenhouse gases, such as CO2, which accumulate in the atmosphere and contribute significantly to increasing global mean temperatures and global climate change, and that levels of several important greenhouse gases have increased by about 25 percent since large-scale industrialization began around 150 years ago, and that, during the past 20 years, about three-quarters of human-made carbon dioxide emissions were from burning fossil fuels;3 and

Noting the position of APHA on the variety of negative health impacts of global climate change4 and the broad, worldwide scientific consensus regarding the potential or probable ecological and public health impacts of climate change, along with new and mounting evidence that these impacts are rapidly becoming manifest;5,6,7,8 and

Acknowledging that the secondary impacts of global climate change, which include food insecurity and population displacement due to increased incidence of extreme weather events and other climatic changes,9 may result in social and economic disruption,10 increasing susceptibility to political unrest and violent conflict; and

Recognizing that oil dependence and competition for access to fossil fuels has escalated violence and war,11,12 and that U.S. foreign policy is influenced by the institutional pressure to assure secure access to oil resources;13 and

Recognizing further that energy infrastructure and the extraction of oil and other fossil fuels exacts heavy environmental and public health impacts, and has traditionally been a target for attack and sabotage throughout the world, resulting in oil spills, habitat destruction, and human casualties, and that the United States' energy infrastructure remains vulnerable to such attacks;14,15 and

Understanding that the production of energy by nuclear power plants also creates numerous environmental health and security vulnerabilities that remain unresolved,16 including the hazardous disposal of radioactive waste, proliferation concerns, and the threat of nuclear accidents, terrorist attack and other acts of sabotage,17,18,19 and that an accident or attack at a nuclear power plant could result in a release of radiation, leading to radiation sickness, genetic mutation and cancer, and the contamination of large tracts of land; and

Noting that previous APHA policy statements consider of health impacts of energy policy, but do not fully address rapidly increasing fossil fuel consumption, the security threats associated with climate change, attacks by states or terrorists against energy infrastructure, or other emerging energy-related threats;

Noting that a sustainable energy strategy will protect public health and the environment, promote global stability and security, and create jobs and stimulate the economy; 20,21 and

Concluding, that public health is adversely affected by the threats to global security and the environment created by a nuclear- and fossil fuel-based energy policy;

Therefore, the American Public Health Association:

  1. Supplants previous APHA policies that advocate similar strategies but do not account for current and future energy concerns, including 7112: Toward an Energy Policy; 7307: Man's Health and the Conservation of Energy; 7410: The Energy Crisis vs. Air Quality Standards; 7414: Energy and the Environment; 7613: Energy Development and Use; and 
  2. Builds upon the 1978 APHA Energy Task Force recommendations as expressed in 7845(PP): The Public Health Impact of Energy Policy; and 
  3. Advocates a deliberate, multinational, multiphase transition to a global energy strategy that includes the promotion of energy conservation, including the adoption of responsible fuel-economy standards; improvements in energy efficiency; the development of renewable fuel sources for energy production; strengthened controls for greenhouse gas emissions and air hazardous pollutants; and the expedited institution of safe and renewable energy sources; and 
  4. Supports immediate legislative and regulatory efforts to reduce adverse health impacts and to mitigate global climate change, particularly through multi-pollutant control strategies that include health-protective limits on emissions of hazardous air pollutants, including carbon dioxide and other industrial greenhouse gases, in manufacturing, transportation, energy production, and where feasible, other emitting sectors;
  5. Calls on the U.S. government to assume a leadership role in a collaborative, international process to promote a secure, sustainable energy system, taking into account the growing energy needs of developing economies; and
  6. Supports increased resources for research, development, and deployment of renewable energy technologies and other energy alternatives; and
  7. Pledges its participation in coalitions with other groups sharing common goals, principles, and objectives to ensure a public health perspective is represented in new energy policy proposals; and
  8. Resolves to collaborate with workers and unions to ensure that a secure, sustainable energy policy provides adequate protections for workers in energy-related sectors and transition assistance to mitigate any adverse interim economic effects; and
  9. Recommends the development of educational opportunities for the public to learn more about the environmental health and global security effects of energy policy through content in curricula in schools and programs of public health and continuing education programs.


  1. Energy Information Administration. Energy Overview 1949-2002. October 2003.
  2. Epstein P, Selber J, eds. Oil: A Life Cycle Analysis of its Health and Environmental Impacts. Cambridge, MA: The Center for Health and the Global Environment, 2002. 36.
  4. APHA Policy Statement No. 9510: Global Climate Change.
  5. McMichael AJ, et al. United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Human Health. Chapter in: The United Nations IPCC Climate Change Assessment -2001. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  6. McMichael AJ, Campbell-Lendrum DH, Corvalan CF, Ebi KL, Scheraga JD, Woodward A (eds). Climate Change and Human Health: Risks and Responses. Geneva: WHO, 2003.
  7. Patz JA, McGeehin MA, Bernard SM, Ebi KL, Epstein PR, Grambsch A, Gubler DJ, Reiter P, Romieu I, Rose JB, Samet JM, Trtanj J. The potential health impacts of climate variability and change for the United States: executive summary of the report of the health sector of the U.S. National Assessment. Environ Health Perspect 2000; 108: 367-376.
  8. Christopher Murray et al., The World Health Report. Geneva: WHO, 2002 at 72.
  9. McMichael AJ, et al, 2003.
  10. Epstein and Selber. 49.
  11. Klare MT. Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict. New York: Henry Holt and Company. 2001.
  12. Ross ML. Does Oil Hinder Democracy? World Bank. 2001.
  13. APHA Policy Statement 2002-11: Opposing War in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.
  14. Lovins AB, Lovins LH. Brittle Power: Energy Strategy for National Security. Andover, MA: Brick House Publishing Co., 1982.
  15. Federal Emergency Management Agency. Dispersed, Decentralized, and Renewable Energy Sources: Alternatives to National Vulnerability and War. 1980.
  16. APHA Resolution 7909: Nuclear Power
  17. Lovins and Lovins 1982.
  18. FEMA 1980.
  19. Makhijani A. Securing the Future of the United States: Oil, Nuclear, and Electricity Vulnerabilities and a Post-September 11, 2001 Roadmap for Action. Tacoma Park, MD: Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, 2001.
  20. Apollo Alliance. New Energy For America: The Apollo Jobs Report: Good Jobs and Energy Independence. 2004.
  21. Cassidy A, Morrison K. Generating Solutions: How Clean, Renewable Energy is Boosting Local Economies and Saving Consumers Money. Washington, DC: U.S. PIRG Education Fund, 2003.

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