Turkey’s use of natural gas, instead of coal, can have a positive effect on air quality. Improved air quality results in healthier infants in the region, according to a recent study published in The Economic Journal by AU School of Public Affairs Professor Erdal Tekin.
Tekin and his colleagues analyzed investments made by the Turkish government since the 1980s to build a natural gas infrastructure, which by 2011 had provided access to natural gas in 61 of the 81 provinces in the country. Their findings indicate that this led to improvements in air quality by reducing emissions from coal, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide.
The study shows that a one percentage point increase in the rate of natural gas services results in a four percent decline in infant mortality rate. The research accounted for the differences in the health services of the provinces, the type of economy, and the number of births. In 2011 alone, they calculate that the switch to natural gas directly resulted in saving 348 infant lives.
Tekin and his colleagues Resul Cesur, of the University of Connecticut, and Aydogan Ulker, of Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, point out that the adoption of more environmentally-friendly energy policies can have benefits, without negative impacts on economic growth.
The researchers also suggest that, while natural gas is a viable bridge to more sustainable energy sources, there may still be health trade-offs. More research is needed to assess the environmental consequences of the natural gas extraction, called hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking.’ Although fracking can help replace coal with natural gas, there are potential negative environmental impacts.