I am indebted to Bruce Nilles of the Sierra Club for pointing us to the web site that chronicles the death of coal in the United States. It’s here: http://www.sierraclub.org/environmentallaw/coal/plantlist.aspx It’s remarkable to contemplate, but had even half of those plants been built and the coal fleet turned over as it should have, the air would be even cleaner than it is today. C’est la vie. (Or, perhaps “c’est la gere” would be more apropos?)
Will windmills replace coal instead? Nope. DOE data shows that the average wind farm operates at a capacity factor of less than 20%. In other words, when you build a 100 megawatts worth of wind, you get less than 20 megawatts back – on average. That’s one way of illustrating how unreliable wind power really is. It’s also part of the reason that wind power is more expensive than conventional forms of power, which is why the industry is so dependent on subsidies and tax breaks that far exceed what other sources of power receive. Finally, wind increases reserve requirements in the grid, meaning that you need more back up sources (usually in the form of gas turbines) for every megawatt of wind, which drives up the cost of electricity as well. Wind and solar will play a part – and an expensive part – in power generation but both will never be anything more than niche players at best. Coal, nukes and gas will continue to bear the brunt of generating base load power.
Anyway, Bruce takes me to task on a number of things, claiming that I am “misleading” readers of this here blog. I beg to differ. Unfortunately, proving the points requires presenting relevant data, which makes the average readers eyes glaze over. But, bear with me. I’ll try to keep it entertaining and I’ll even give you a bunch of pictures to mull over. Let’s begin.
First there is the claim that over 100 million people live in areas that violate National Ambient Air Quality Standards. True? Yeah, but…
The only pollutant that fits in with the above statement is ozone. EPA data does indeed tell us that over 100 million American’s live in areas that exceed the current ozone standard. Note that I used the word “current” here. No American lives in an area that violates the original ozone standard of 120 part per billion (1 hour average). That was lowered to 80 parts per billion under the Clinton administration and again to 75 parts per billion under the Bush administration. Having redefined “clean” when it comes to ozone three times, we went from this map:
To this one:
And that’s fine. Let us accept the enviro-activist argument that it was necessary to move the goalposts three times so that what was once clean is now dirty. What’s causing the “problem”? Well, ozone is formed when two pollutants react in the atmosphere: volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. When the weather is hot and winds are relatively calm, this reaction can create the pesky pollutant in amounts that violate the current standard. So now we need to take a look at where those two pollutants come from. Here’s where volatile organic compounds come from, according to EPA data:
No doubt you’re wondering, why 2002? Because that’s the most up to date emissions inventory EPA has published. Rest assured that the industrial portion of that total has gone down even more since then, thanks to the regulatory focus on industry. You can add up the numbers yourself and you’ll see that industrial sources are no longer particularly important sources of this half of ozone-forming pollutants. How about nitrogen oxides though? Surely industry is overwhelmingly responsible for those!
Yeah, industry is a bigger deal on the nitrogen oxides side than on the VOC side, but it’s not as much as the shrill environmentalist would have us believe. Today, less than 40% of all nitrogen oxides are generated from industrial sources and that number continues to drop.
By the by, the biggest drop in industrial nitrogen oxides emissions during the George W. Bush administration, which just goes to show how the EPA cranks along, reducing pollution no matter who’s in the White House – though I’ve yet to hear an environmental activist admit that. Was our environment cleaner under Bush than it was under Clinton? Damn straight and the data show it, but the activists perpetuate the myth that Clinton was pro-environment and Bush was anti-environment. Hogwash!
But that’s enough for today folks. Tomorrow: we’ll tackle the evils of particulate matter.