Archive for the ‘Pollution’ Category
This video is worth spreading. The reason there has not been widespread outrage over the BP oil spill is that the imagery has not been graphic enough. The following YT video shows the toxic sludge underneath the surface:
Don’t forget that fish swimming through the sludge will not only be covered, they will be breathing it. There will undoubtedly be toxic buildup in the wildlife, if not immediate death. Don’t plan on eating seafood from the Gulf of Mexico any time in the foreseeable future.
I will first state for the record that I believe there is no such thing as clean coal. I would be incredibly happy if there were no new coal fired powered plants ever built. Even if I believed it were true, which I don’t, I would still believe that investing in Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) is worthwhile. In an ideal world, not only would no new coal fired power plants be built, existing plants would be shut down.
However, we do not live in an ideal world, and we need to do something productive until we get there. There are still many problems with CCS, including expense and lack of storage locations large enough. Despite the fact that renewable technologies are the best choice for new development, it will be a very long time until there will be enough production or the necessary infrastructure changes will be in place to support it. There are so many hurdles to wide scale renewable adoption, it would be in our best interest to invest in parallel efforts to reduce the impact of current technologies, even if only temporary.
The belief of many is that coal fired power plants will continue to be a widely used energy source until the renewable alternatives are cheaper per kilowatt hour overall. My personal belief is that it will take decades for renewable energy to be cheaper than coal on its own. However, subsidy of renewable energy technologies, coupled with legislation requiring coal companies cover the external costs to society of burning coal, then there may be cost parity sooner. Even if production became cheaper than coal tomorrow, the necessary changes to the grid would take years to implement, not to mention the time it would take to build the generation capacity necessary to meet current demand.
Coal has so many problems, but the sad fact is that we are stuck with it for the foreseeable future. While CCS is only a transition technology, embracing its development is not the same thing as abandoning the belief that coal is extremely bad. Some may say that adoption of CCS may lead to the use of coal for longer, but that’s a separate discussion.
“Clean Coal” is still not clean. Even when everything is scrubbed from the air, the pollutants have to go somewhere. Pollutants from coal fired power plants usually get put in pools, which eventually leak and get into the waterway. Repeat after me, “there is no such thing as clean coal.”
In a letter issued last week, the Environmental Protection Agency “moved toward revoking the largest mountaintop-removal permit in West Virginia history.” Citing “clear evidence” of likely damage, the EPA has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “suspend, revoke or modify” the permit it granted in 2007 to Arch Coal to dig a 2,278-acre coal stripmine and fill six valleys and 43,000 linear feet of streams with the toxic debris.
This one has been around a while, but I thought it would be worth another post since the coal companies have brought out the “clean coal” greenwashing again because of the Climate Bill:
In a recent House session, Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) expressed her objections to the the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (Climate Bill). Her main objection is that by 2020, Wyoming would lose up to “15,000 high paying jobs” that can’t be replaced by green energy jobs if the bill were passed, as the nation moves away from coal fired power plants. That’s an average of about 1500 jobs a year lost, and she apparently believes that the jobs in her district are more important than the health and lives of the rest of the country.
If the bill passes, Wyoming jobs would be particularly hit hard because there are a disproportionately large number of jobs dependent upon coal. Coal mines in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana produce more coal than any other area of the country, even the entire Appalachian region. Compared to the rest of the country, Wyoming does not have to burn as much coal because it is not a population center, and that means health effects from emissions are disproportionately low.
In the rest of the country from power plant emissions *every year*, there are more than 23,000 deaths, 21,000 hospital admissions, 26,000 emergency room visits for asthma, 38,000 heart attacks, 16,000 cases of chronic bronchitis, 554,000 asthma attacks, and 3,186,000 lost work days (Source: Harvard Environmental Management, pdf p23).
I have not heard Rep. Lummis speak about responsibility, but I did hear Steven Leer, Chairman and CEO of Arch Coal speak about their mining operations in the Powder River Basin. It was clear that the people that mine coal, but do not burn it, completely abdicate themselves of any responsibility for coal fired power plant emissions. We cannot let the deliberate distortion of the truth and intentional omissions continue to cause problems for the rest of us.
Rep. Lummis wants you to feel bad for the 1500+ workers and their families that will lose their jobs each year because of the Climate bill. Apparently, she does not want you to feel bad for the 23,000+ people that die every year, or their families, because she feels it’s not the mining that’s responsible.
The last post about Cap and Trade got some comments on various sites asking if it’s a tax, then why not just impose a Carbon Tax? I agree that a Carbon Tax is a better approach than Cap and Trade. Unfortunately, messaging and political image can be more important than effectiveness when evaluating legislation. Calling anything a tax is a surefire way of killing legislation. No politician wants to be responsible for increasing taxes, they would rather be seen supporting capitalism and ”letting the free market” solve the problem.
One of the major problems with Cap and Trade is that baselines need to be established, which are usually through political processes, not scientific processes. With so much political support for coal and oil production, there is not much that can stop politicians from pushing for overly generous baseline emissions. As the dirtiest emitters implement the cheapest fixes and drop below their artificially high baselines, they can sell their carbon credits for additional profit. There is financial incentive to reduce emissions, but as the technology to reduce emissions gets more expensive than earned credits, the incentive goes away completely.
When a Carbon Tax is in place, there is always a financial incentive to reduce emissions, with no opportunity to profit from being a polluter. Similarly, the incentives go away when the technology gets more expensive than emitting. An additional argument against a Carbon Tax is that the money goes into the hands of the government, rather than the market. I’m not a fan of government efficiency, but if legislation is structured properly, then it can go directly to environmental programs. When the Superfund was first established, the tax on controlled chemicals went directly into the Superfund until legislation expired. After it expired, taxes (and stimulus money) went to the cleanup.
With taxes on bad practices in place, which are directly paid by the ones emitting, the bill can still be passed onto consumers. However, they have the choice to reduce consumption or opt for other alternatives, and directly reduce what they pay. Without programs in place to tax bad practices, the same consumers are forced to pay through taxes and have no way to opt out.
I’m no fan of big government, but there are areas where the free market cannot succeed and government needs to step in. Carbon emissions, and general pollution, are areas where the financial impact is spread over thousands or millions of people, rather than the people responsible for the problems. Cap and Trade is the carrot because you get paid for doing good. Carbon Tax is the stick because you pay for doing bad. In this case, I believe the stick would be more effective than the carrot. However, if politicians continue to be too cowardly to implement a Carbon Tax, Cap and Trade is better than nothing at all.
The environmental impact and energy balance of a biofuel are important to its market viability for a few reasons. If the end goal is to reduce anthropogenic environmental impact, use of biofuel would not be worth the effort if the result would be trading one problem for another. If the end goal is investment in profitable production and the environmental impact is a net negative, disposing of the byproducts and consumption of resources can be expensive. Additional expense leads to higher market prices, and lower profit. In addition to other motives, regulations relating to environmental impact, such as EPA emissions standards, have indirectly affected the production of BD.