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While campaigning in San Francisco during the Democrat Party primaries in January 2008, Presidential Candidate Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
Upon election, President Obama tried to keep his promise by way of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also know as the Waxman-Markey Bill, that narrowly passed the House June 26, 2009, by a vote of 219 to 212. Among the many features of this bill was cap-and-trade on carbon dioxide emissions. This would put a price on carbon dioxide emissions and gradually reduce emissions allowed until they were reduced to 17 percent the 2005 level by 2050. Per capita carbon dioxide emissions would be at the level during the Civil War.
There was considered outcry against the Waxman-Markey Bill when the House recessed that August and leaders of the Senate decided not to consider the bill. After the November 2010 election losses, briefings by Democrat Senate leaders for President Obama were cap-and-trade was dead. President Obama exclaimed “cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat.” From that point the cat was slowly skinned by regulations from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit emissions from electric power plants such as mercury. The cat was totally skinned by the press release from the EPA March 27, 2012.
On the morning of March 27, 2012, the EPA published a press release announcing its proposed First Carbon Pollution Standards for Future Power Plants. This is an attempt to limit carbon dioxide releases from future electricity generating plants due to the EPA’s misguided attempts to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant.
Carbon dioxide is a natural occurring gas essential for sustaining life on this planet. All annual sources of emitted carbon dioxide exceed 800 billion tons. Carbon dioxide emitted by U. S. power plants is less than 3 billion tons.
Carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased from 280 parts per million in 1800 to 395 parts per million in 2012. Past history has shown carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere as high as 6000 parts per million. Those who work in agriculture can tell you increased atmospheric carbon dioxide the past 60 years has increased plant growth and resistance to water shortages.
A five-page summary of the EPA’s First Proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for Future Power Plants is given by the following url:
Noteworthy of this standard is no new power plants with a capacity exceeding 25 MW can produce more than one pound of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour produced. This makes coal no longer an option as a fuel without carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). To date CCS has not been accomplished on a large scale. If it is done, electricity costs would dramatically increase with a waste of coal use and storage of an important material to support life.
Natural gas can be used as a fuel with this standard with the provision conversion of energy from burning methane to electricity must be 47 percent. Combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) can achieve these efficiencies. CCGT is burning methane as a fuel for gas turbines and then taking hot turbine exhaust gases to produce steam for steam turbines. This is routinely done with large natural gas-fueled power plants.
The same problem using natural gas for electricity generation also applies to use of oil for electricity generation; however, the efficiency has to increase to 53 percent.
A question arises how this new pollution standard interacts with implementation of solar and wind electric facilities. Both renewable energy forms have almost instantaneous rises and falls in power generation due to passing clouds, morning and evening changes in solar output, and wind variability. Fast responding backup electricity sources are needed to keep electricity generation uniform. Gas turbines kept in rotating standby operation match these changes. However, gas turbines alone come nowhere close to meeting EPA carbon pollution standards. Using CCGT power plants for renewable energy backup may not meet EPA requirements.
The environmental movement asked its members to support this standard by sending e-mails of support to the EPA. One organization, Interfaith Power & Light, sent an e-mail to its members April 18, 2012 with the following information:
“I’m writing to ask you to join me in sending a comment to the EPA in support of their historic carbon pollution safeguards for new power plants. Fossil-fuel burning power plants currently emit more than two billion tons of carbon pollution and other toxic pollutants into the air each year. This pollution fuels global warming and increases the number of unhealthy air days, resulting in more respiratory ailments, heart attacks, asthma attacks, and other harmful health effects.
This is why we need your help. Please send in your comment of support to the EPA today.
Interfaith Power & Light, together with our allies in the environmental and public health communities, are collecting an unprecedented two million comments, like yours, to ensure the new standards take effect as soon as possible. Let us leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that people of faith stand on the side of God’s Creation, human health, and climate safety.”
At the bottom of the e-mail is a postscript, “P.S. This new safeguard will affect only new power plants not yet built. The EPA is expected to act soon to limit industrial carbon pollution from existing plants. We will keep you posted.” The postscript implies Interfaith Power & Light may have advance notice of EPA intentions to tighten up this standard at a later date to include all existing fossil fuel-power plants. Applying the rule to existing power plants eliminates use of all fossil-fueled power plants except combined-cycle plants.
Due to prior EPA requirements, utilities have been shedding use of coal for electricity generation. Four years ago 50 percent of our electricity came from coal use. At the end of 2011, this use had fallen to 40 percent. With this new EPA requirement the use of coal will be phased out completely by 2050.
Natural gas will be the major replacement as an energy source and this will cause the price of natural gas to increase and also increase rate of depletion of this valuable resource. Coal is useful for generating electricity. Natural gas has better uses in heating, water heating, cooking, transportation, and producing chemicals.
Most of the country has no idea what is taking place with this new EPA pollution requirement that is a start to phasing out use of fossil fuels. This rule alone will cause future dramatic increases in electricity costs and great hardships for our poorer citizens presently struggling to pay electricity bills. All businesses will be affected and many will leave the country to relocate to areas with more reasonable electricity costs.
The country’s economy is somewhat fragile at this time. Great hope for the future lies in the abundant fossil fuel resources recently found and being developed. It is almost laughable the new EPA pollution standards will render much of these new energy resources unusable.
This EPA carbon pollution standard is the first standard. If this standard prevails, more will follow until all burning of fossil fuels is prohibited. All is needed is reduce the one pound of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour produced to 0.7 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour produced to eliminate fossil fuels for electricity generation. After fossil fuels are eliminated, the next energy source to be eliminated is nuclear power. With solar, wind, and biofuels as energy resources; the United States will be reduced to an economy and lifestyle similar to the early twentieth century.
The American people should not accept this tyranny by regulation. The proposing of this regulation is an insult to our intelligence. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent trying to overturn the regulation which I would think be successful. This financial loss should not be allowed. Provide EPA with millions of complaints and stop this foolishness.
If we go back in time four score years, public apathy allowed the Third Reich arise from a minor political party to governing Germany by 1933. At the end of the war, an anti-Nazi survivor Pastor Martin Niemoller was asked how those past events could happen. He is reported to have said these immortal words that describe the rewards of complacency.
“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
In our present times Pastor Niemoller might have said the following about EPA pollution rules:
First they closed the coal mines, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a miner.
Then they stopped oil and gas drilling, and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t work in oil fields.
Then they shut down nuclear power plants, and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t work at nuclear power plants.
Then they shut off all my electricity and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Heed these words of the past. The EPA is working on a path to destroy the United States economy.
James H. Rust is a retired nuclear engineering professor from Georgia Tech. He is a policy adviser for the Heartland Institute, where he actively lectures on energy policy and climate change. Dr. Rust has more than fifty year experience in areas related to energy technology and related public policy