The Week That Was: (October 10, 2015 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
THIS WEEK: By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
Ozone: Writing in American Thinker, physician Charles Battig of the Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment (VA-SEEE) produces an effective critique of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new standards for ground level ozone, which was released on October 1, 2015. The EPA press release states: “Based on extensive scientific evidence on effects that ground-level ozone pollution, or smog, has on public health and welfare, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has strengthened the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone to 70 parts per billion (ppb) from 75 ppb to protect public health. The updated standards will reduce Americans’ exposure to ozone, improving public health protection, particularly for at risk groups including children, older adults, and people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma. Ground-level ozone forms when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the air.”
Dr. Battig’s critique makes clear that the science involved is more imaginary than empirical. The concept of “premature deaths” is speculative and virtually any death can be called premature. He cites studies using real-world patients that do not validate EPA’s claims and states: “Surely smoggy air must be unhealthy. It must be, because it looks so bad. The poster child for such smoggy air is Shanghai, China, where newspaper pictures depict a yellow haze obscuring the visibility of buildings. However, the average lifespan there is 82.5 years, bettering the reported lifespan in any major U.S. city.” [Note that Chinese lifespans are based on statistics from China, and the differences may be cultural as well as based on exposure.]
Battig also emphasizes that EPA’s claims of health benefits in reduced asthma deaths are not substantiated and the root cause of asthma is not known. If frequency of diagnosis demonstrates cause, then cleaner air is causing asthma. Similarly, the dollar amounts placed on the benefits from these regulations cannot be substantiated.
It continues to appear that the Administration is indifferent to the credibility of the EPA that was established, in part, by dedicated civil servants in the past. See links under The Administration’s Plan, and The Administration’s Plan – Independent Analysis.
Ozone & Oil and Natural Gas: In an analysis prior to EPA’s announcement of new ozone standards, Mr. James McCarthy of the Congressional Research Service may have identified a motivation for the new standards. Using 2011-2013 data, which is spotty, 358 counties of the roughly 3,000 US counties will go out of compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. Exactly how many oil and gas producing areas will become out of compliance with the 70 parts per billion rule remains to be determined.
Note: The EPA analysis also states that: “the Supreme Court held in a unanimous 2001 (Whitman v. American Trucking Assns.) decision that cost and technological feasibility are not to be considered by EPA when setting primary NAAQS standards. The agency and the states may consider cost, however, in determining how they will meet the standards.” See links under The Administration’s Plan – Independent Analysis.
Quote of the Week: “The thing that doesn’t fit is the thing that’s the most interesting: the part that doesn’t go according to what you expected.” Richard P. Feynman
Number of the Week: $8,938,547 per Bird?
“Clean Power” and Efficient Power: Word has reached some members of Congress that the most efficient use of thermal power plants is using the waste heat from power plants for office and residential heating. Of course, this has been known for over 100 years when John Insull, and others, began to electrify urban areas such as Chicago. Apparently, believing it a new idea, some members of Congress have introduced the Efficiency and Resiliency Act (POWER Act) to give 30 percent tax credits for the installation of combined heat and power (CHP) and waste heat to power (WHP) facilities. But, tax credits will not create power plants in urban areas, where the waste heat can be effectively used, or in the South where the heat is not needed for most of the year.
Assume proposing building a new power plant in an urban area. Many urban areas are out of compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards for reasons other than ozone, triggering stringent regulatory demands. Further, any new power plant in an urban area will be condemned by local citizens. Articles supporting the idea cite a few, limited examples where the combined facilities work, based on expansion of existing facilities. But, the concept is not a major energy breakthrough. See link under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Energy – Other.
Sierra Club: The Sierra Club is opposed to coal-fired power plants and has received over $20 million from the former head of Chesapeake Energy, a natural gas firm. Now, the Club is a leader in opposing natural gas, which is replacing coal as the leading fuel source for electricity. In a hearing, Senator Ted Cruz addressed some clear questions to the president of the Sierra Club, particularly regarding global warming based on temperature trends from satellite data base, the most comprehensive data source for global temperatures. Politely, one can say that Mr. Aaron Mair, the president of the Sierra Club, was confused about global temperature trends, which provide the basis of claims that carbon dioxide from fossil fuels endanger human health and welfare.
Near the end, Mr. Mair resorted to reciting statements that “97% of scientists …” Based on the papers SEPP has reviewed in establishing the 97%, it is a reflection of the biases of those writing the papers and 97% should be regarded as a slogan, not science. See links under Environmental Industry.
“Unprecedented” Floods: Another term that has become more a slogan than meaningful is the use of “unprecedented” when describing significant weather events, such as the recent floods in South Carolina, or France. With weather events, often a record set in one location is not a record in a nearby location. Thus, those who use “unprecedented” in describing the general area commit the logical fallacy of a hasty generalization.
Fortunately, some bloggers, such as Paul Homewood in the UK, take the time to examine past records. Often, they find specific examples where the new “record” was exceeded in the past, if not for that location, then nearby. No doubt, the heavy recent rains in South Carolina were very damaging, but much of eastern South and North Carolina and Georgia is very flat. Eastern South Carolina was settled largely for rice farming and is called “low country” for a reason (with adjoining North Carolina and Georgia). It was not until the 1930s to 60s that federal government programs encouraged damming rivers and draining much of the bogs and swamps, which were a health hazard (including malaria). The general slope of the land was not significantly changed; thus, heavy rains drain poorly. See links under Changing Weather.
BP Settlement: British Petroleum and the federal government have reached a $20.8 billion dollar settlement over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A consent decree was filed in federal court in New Orleans Monday morning outlining the settlement terms. According to reports, the $20.8 billion is the biggest pollution penalty in U.S. history. The settlement resolves all federal and state claims against BP for the accident. The agreement is separate from the $4 billion settlement of a federal criminal probe stemming from the disaster.
This does not resolve the pending civil suits against BP, including securities fraud. BP stated that it does not incur any new obligations under the settlement. See Article # 3 and links under Oil Spills, Gas Leaks & Consequences.
Microbes: Lost in the publicity surrounding the BP oil spill was the role of microbes in cleaning up the spill, which some analysists were predicting would last for many months, if not years. Yet, in less than two months the oil was largely gone from the Gulf of Mexico, except along some shoreline. New research indicates that photosynthetic bacteria (including cyanobacteria) produce millions of tons of hydrocarbons annually. Other bacteria consume the hydrocarbons.
In the Gulf spill, it appears that the naturally occurring consuming microbes multiplied rapidly, and, aided by dispersants, quickly consumed the oil remaining after the well was plugged. This disappearance was not particularly surprising to SEPP, thanks to the evidence that oil slicks routinely occurred in the Gulf in the days of sailing ships, before any drilling for oil. This could be a productive area of research for addressing oil spills. See links under: Oil and Natural Gas – the Future or the Past?
Technological Leaps: Miniaturization of electronics has led to great advances in technology, to include sensors for data collection in drilling heads. The ability to hit the BP blown well with a relief well and stop the flow of oil was a significant engineering accomplishment. This feat by a companion well 2.5 miles below the sea floor further sealing the blown well with mud and cement, These illustrate the technological leaps in drilling due to miniaturization of electronics and sensors.
Recent accomplishments of precise, horizontal drilling and collecting of data of the vast, flat, US shale deposits are another example.
However, too many commentators assume such technological accomplishments in miniaturization of electronics are transferable to commercial storage of electricity. They are not. Yet, writers on wind and solar, which are unreliable sources of electricity, assume that technology is on the horizon – as it has been for over 100 years. The writers commit the logical fallacy of a hasty generalization. See links under Communicating Better to the Public – Make things up.
David Evans: Jo Nova’s web site continues to present criticisms of the IPCC models by mathematician and electrical engineer David Evans. As stated previously, TWTW will refrain from detailed comments until the entire presentation is complete. Many of those skeptical of the global climate models would agree that the models have failed to successfully describe clouds. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Additions and Corrections: The Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona, is north and east of the Grand Canyon. Last week’s TWTW said it was south and west. As with the Four Corners power station in New Mexico, for it to be causing haze in the Grand Canyon would require the emissions to travel against the prevailing winds. As stated in the October 3 TWTW, the summer haze in the Grand Canyon appears to be the result of natural VOC (isoprene), not power plants as claimed by environmental groups. Also, recent research indicates that oceans generate isoprene as well – a new target for EPA regulations?
Number of the Week: $8,938,547 per Bird? The BP settlement with federal, state, and local governments came to $20.8 Billion, which does not include civil law suits and the previous settlement for possible crimes. Almost immediately after the blow-out occurred, the US Fish and Wildlife Service began advertising for and collecting injured or dead animals. The April 23, 2011 TWTW reported that the total number of “dead animals with visible oil” collected by the Fish and Wildlife Service along the Gulf Coast for the year following the Gulf spill (as of April 14, 2011) were 2303 birds; 18 sea turtles, 10 mammals; and 0 other reptiles This does not imply that the animals died from the oil. For example, autopsies of sea turtles indicated that some, at least, died of suffocation, possibly while trapped in the nets of fishing trawlers.
Assume all the dead animals are attributable to the spill. Using bureaucratic techniques of animal units, count a dead reptile as one unit, a dead bird as two units, and a dead mammal as three units. The total animal units is 4654, with the pollution penalties amounting to $4,469,274 per animal unit, or $4,469,274 per reptile, $8,938,547 per bird, and $13,407,821 per mammal. Would those who calculate the contrived social cost of carbon use such numbers to calculate the social cost of wind farms, which kill soaring birds and bats (mammals)? See