In its attempt to restrict use of fossil fuels, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new rules to reduce the amount of mercury in effluents from coal-fired power plants. Of course, one might question the sense of these EPA rules when at the same time the EPA is endorsing use of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) for lighting to reduce carbon dioxide emissions; because CFLs consume one-fifth the energy of conventional incandescent light bulbs. By Congressional mandate, incandescent light bulbs are to be phased out starting in 2012.
Paul Driessen, senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality, recently published an article “And the beat-down goes on” which showed “proposed EPA rules will do more harm than good for human health, especially for minorities.” This article said the total mercury emissions from all United States power plants is 41 ton annually, dispersed globally. At the same time total emissions globally by man and Mother Nature is 9100 tons, most due to nature.
CFLs contain about 4 milligrams of mercury and when you factor in over one billion CFLs in use today and fast growing, you have a vast potential for mercury contamination directly inside homes from bulb breakage and improper disposal. When the four billion light sockets in homes are filled with CFLs(18 tons of mercury), considerations of mercury contamination from coal-burning power plants may look silly. Humans occupy less than one-tenth percent of the United States’ land area for living space; so inside mercury contaminations per square foot can be large.
Tom Fanning, President of Southern Company, recently testified before Congress the new EPA rules would cost the company $3 billion in new expenses that may requires a rate hike to electricity users of twenty-five percent. Is poverty a bigger health hazard than fixing non-existent environmental problems?
Adding more light about problems of mercury contamination is the article “Disconnected Dots in The Mercury Debate” by Professor R. Harold Brown posted June 16, 2006 on the Georgia Public Policy Foundation website. University of Georgia Professor Emeritus R. Harold Brown is the author of the well-know book “The Greening of Georgia: The Improvement of the Environment in the Twentieth Century.”
Disconnected Dots in the Mercury Debate
By Harold Brown
Children can produce a remarkable horse drawing from a numbered, connect-the-dot outline, but confusion reigns when dots are missing or numbers are missing. Watching the efforts of activists to link mercury from electric power plants to danger to unborn babies of pregnant mothers is much like watching a confused young “artist” try to make sense of unnumbered dots.
Try connecting the dots between coal-burning plants and mercury deposition. Power plants in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana burned 75 percent more coal, averaging 53 million tons per state per year in 2002-04 than those in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, which averaged 30 million tons per state. The Northern plants emitted nearly twice as much mercury as the Southern states. But mercury deposited in rain averaged 61.6 pounds per 1,000 square miles in the Northern states, 29 percent less than in the Southern states.