Monday, October 24, 2016
Memo to Florida Voters: Your AC Bill Just Went Up
I have just been talking to a refrigeration expert who for his own reasons supports the ban on HFCs as refrigerants. I put it to him that all the possible replacement gases have problems with toxicity, flammability etc. We agreed that flammability is going to be the most likely problem to arise but he said that the probability of the gases igniting is very low. He made the point that we often do things that have a much higher likelihood of harming us -- driving a car, for instance.
While that is an intelligible argument, it ignores the reality that what we are moving away from is a zero-risk situation. Say that there will in future be only three occasions worldwide where an AC unit explodes and kills someone. ALL THREE of those occasions were fully avoidable by retaining HFCs. We may ordinarily take risks but how often do we deliberately heighten our risks? Sensation-seekers aside, I think we do not. So the latest Greenie mandate will kill some people -- entirely as a result of that mandate
We’ve warned for some time that Big Government is coming for your air conditioner in the name of saving the planet. Well, on Saturday, nearly 200 countries, including China, agreed to take action in the next eight years on reducing the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used in AC units and refrigerators. The legally binding deal was spearheaded by John Kerry, who thinks HFCs pose as great a threat to national security as jihadis do. But EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was equally involved. “In a nutshell, these HFCs cool our homes and chill our food, but they are turning up the temperature of our planet,” lectured McCarthy. “World leaders took a giant leap forward by agreeing to a global phase-down of these harmful gases.”
What do we get in exchange for this regulatory bonanza? The Washington Examiner reports, “Secretary of State John Kerry said the deal … would put the planet on track to stop the Earth’s temperature from rising a half of a degree Celsius over the next two decades.” That goal is unprovable. No matter how much the temperature changes, these folks will say it would be half a degree Celsius worse had it not been for their intrepid work.
Furthermore, air conditioners were more efficient with the already-banned CFCs than they are with HFCs, and these regulations threaten to make that even worse. Stephen Yurek, the head of the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, says, “After two phases of research, the most promising alternatives are currently classified as mildly flammable or flammable.” That sounds fun. So when our AC doesn’t work as well without HFCs, we’ll all be hotter, which has the advantage of “proving” the alarmists right about global warming.
McCarthy also crowed, “While we have seen many significant successes under President Obama’s leadership in fighting climate change, this day will unquestionably be remembered as one of the most important in our effort to save the one planet we have.” And you can bet that “important effort” — just like every other Obama regulation to that end — is going to cost you dearly
Solar panels ineffective in UK’s climate, says report from Adam Smith Institute
SOLAR panels are “highly ineffective” in the UK climate and although solar power produced more energy than coal between April and September, a free market think-tank claims we should not expect that to last.
In a paper published today called Solar Power in Britain, the Adam Smith Institute and the Scientific Alliance use 10 years’ worth of weather data to analyse the technology’s capabilities – and find it wanting.
It says solar panels are highly ineffective in UK climates and generate less than a tenth of their possible output annually – producing nothing for more than 30 weeks of the year, and only managing 50 per cent of their generation capability for eight days.
On claims that a combination of wind and solar power could smooth out this seasonal intermittency, the report says that even combined they would only exceed 60 per cent of their capability for a day-and-a-half each year, and would be below 20 per cent for more than half of the year – meaning they would have to be supplemented by more reliable sources.
The solar fleet produces less than 2.5 per cent of UK electricity generation says the report, the problem being that there is insufficient storage for energy generated in the summer to provide in winter. It adds the lifetime output of a 5MW solar park could be matched in 36 hours by a nuclear power plant taking up 50 times less ground space.
Two effective storage options that could make solar power feasible are addressed – pumped storage and battery storage, but it says these “highly expensive and environmentally damaging solutions are unworkable”. Instead, solar energy should focus on providing for local customers’ domestic water and heating until a more realistic storage system can be manufactured.
Ben Southwood, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, said: “We know that UK solar panels only generate electricity at nine per cent of capacity, but our paper shows that even this average level is a mirage. Power comes in stops and spurts and not when we want it.
“If we had ways to store large amounts of energy cheaply then it wouldn’t matter when the sun shines, we could just save up what we’ve generated in batteries.
“In the future, cheaper and more efficient generation and storage will solve the problem, but for now there is no way of squaring the circle. Relying on solar and wind will force us to back up the supply with dirty fossil fuels, or the lights will go out.”
Court rules against EPA in case over coal job losses
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not properly estimated the potential job losses in the coal and other industries affected by its regulations, a federal judge ruled Monday.
Judge John Preston Bailey of the District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia ruled in favor of coal mining company Murray Energy Corp. saying the Clean Air Act gives the EPA administrator a “non-discretionary duty” to track the potential job losses and shifts in employment from regulations written under the act.
The decision is a largely symbolic win for energy sectors hurt by EPA regulations, however, because there is no guarantee that job loss analyses would change the policies at issue.
Bailey, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, used his ruling to repeatedly admonish the EPA for arguing that its duty to track job losses is “discretionary" and that its current reviews are sufficient.
“With specific statutory provisions like Section 321(a), Congress unmistakably intended to track and monitor the effects of the Clean Air Act and its implementing regulations on employment in order to improve the legislative and regulatory processes,” Bailey wrote.
“The most EPA does is ‘conduct proactive analysis of the employment effects of our rulemaking actions,’ which is simply not what S 321(a) is about,” he said, quoting the agency’s argument.
“EPA cannot redefine statutes to avoid complying with them. Nor can EPA render them superfluous or contrary to their original purpose by simply defining them to be,” Bailey concluded.
Murray and the coal industry cheered the ruling.
“This is a great day for coal miners in the United States, and for all citizens who rely on low-cost electricity in America,” Bob Murray, the company’s president and an outspoken opponent of President Obama, said in a statement.
“We will continue to vigorously pursue this lawsuit, and all of our litigation initiatives, in order to protect the lives and livelihoods of coal miners and their families, to defend the rule of law, and to preserve reliable and low cost electricity in our country.”
The National Mining Association called it a major rebuke of the EPA.
“America’s coal miners scored an important victory today when a federal court told EPA that it could no longer ignore its ongoing responsibility under the Clean Air Act to evaluate the job losses arising from its stream of regulatory actions,” Hal Quinn, the group’s president, said in a statement.
The legal provision at issue states that the EPA “shall conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment which may result from the administration or enforcement of the provision of this chapter.”
It was enacted out of concern for industries like coal that could be hurt by environmental rules, with the expectation that lawmakers or regulators might use the data to inform their decisions. The court found that for at least 10 years after the 1977 law was passed, the EPA did conduct specific research to comply.
Job losses are usually part of the EPA’s normal rulemaking process. But Bailey found that to be insufficient.
Bailey ordered the EPA to prepare a timetable for the court in which it could write the job-loss predictions it should have completed under the law.
The litigation proceedings took about two and a half years.
Last year, Bailey granted Murray’s request to sit EPA head Gina McCarthy down for a sworn deposition as part of the lawsuit. But the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned the decision.
The EPA can appeal Bailey’s ruling to the federal 4th Circuit.
The chemicals anxiety machine
Candidates, Civil Rights Commission and greens use phony health threats to scare voters
Rank politics and baseless health scares are driving anxiety, North Carolina election campaigns, civil rights claims and plans for class action lawsuits, all of which could bring electricity rate hikes that will cause real job, health and civil rights problems for families – for no health or environmental benefits.
As I noted in an earlier article, North Carolina state toxicologist Ken Rudo has publicly disagreed with the US Environmental Protection Agency and other NC “tox” experts, who say levels of chromium-6 detected in some NC waters are safe. The contaminant comes from coal ash deposits and other sources.
Not surprisingly, Erin Brockovich has sided with Dr. Rudo. She became rich and famous by promoting “toxic chromium” scares, co-authored a recent letter with the radical Environmental Working Group raising Cr-6 alarms, and will speak on election eve at Catawba College in NC to stir things up still further.
The issue is also playing prominently in the NC gubernatorial campaign. Democrat candidate Roy Cooper says well water is unsafe and is hammering the Duke Energy power company for creating the deposits and sitting Governor Pat McCrory (who once worked for Duke) for rescinding a “do not drink” order.
Not to be outdone, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) claims chromium-6 is seeping out of ash deposits, contaminating drinking water supplies and “disproportionately affecting” minority families. Communities near “waste disposal” and “industrial” facilities have “extremely high” rates of cancer, heart and other health issues, a Commission report asserts, lumping those facilities in with coal ash sites.
The contaminants get into well water, drinking water, and even “recreational waters” that are “heavily used for fishing, boating and swimming,” the Commission report states. The problem “extends for miles” around communities near coal ash deposits, which are “disproportionately located in low-income and minority communities,” making this a civil rights issue that government must address.
The USCCR wants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and NC Department of Environmental Quality to examine the civil rights implications, classify coal ash as a “hazardous waste,” force utility companies to relocate deposits, and compensate people for healthcare expenses and land devaluations.
A persuasive and well-documented dissent by Commissioner Gail Heriot (pages 113-142 of the report) demolishes the USCCR assertions. Her analysis deserves widespread attention both on environmental and civil rights matters, and on how some people deliberately use these issues to generate racial animosity.
No one on the Commission, she notes, has any expertise in waste disposal, toxicology, epidemiology or medicine, and thus had no business issuing pronouncements on coal ash toxicity. There is “strong” evidence that coal ash facilities “are not disproportionately located” near racial minorities. Lumping coal ash together with other facilities that involve dangerous chemicals, and then blaming coal ash, is invalid.
Ms. Heriot is also perturbed that USCCR Chairman Martin Castro suggested that NC communities are bring “victimized by environmental racism.” These kinds of “incendiary allegations” are inappropriate, she says; they “fan the flames of racial resentment” based on insufficient or false information.
Interestingly, tests in 2014 consistently found Cr-6 in city water supplies above 0.07 parts per billion, unnecessarily triggering “do not drink” advisories to some well water users, the Greensboro News & Record reported. However, May 2016 tests could not even detect the chemical, the paper noted.
The 0.07 ppb standard is equivalent to 7 seconds in 3,300 years. The EPA and NCDEQ safety standard for Cr-6 in drinking water is 100 ppb, and a 2012 scientific paper in the Journal of Applied Toxicology concluded that regularly drinking water with 210 ppb poses no health or cancer risks. That safe, non-carcinogenic 210 ppb level is 3,000 times higher than the 0.07 ppb “trigger warning” level.
There is no evidence that Cr-6 levels found in U.S. drinking water cause any of the laundry list of health problems presented by the USCCR. For the EWG to say barely detectable 0.02 ppb levels are dangerous and carcinogenic in water that 218 million Americans drink every day is disingenuous and incendiary. Moreover, coal ash is mostly inert, with most metallic components in tiny amounts and/or bonded tightly in crystalline (glassy) sand particles. Very little leaches out. Moreover, chromium-6 occurs naturally in rocks and soils throughout the USA. It is not solely a byproduct of coal burning or industrial processes.
Saying grave health concerns arise from such minimal Cr-6 levels as 0.02 or 0.07 ppb in drinking water is groundless; saying health impacts arise from its its presence in recreational waters is absurd. Indeed, Ohio’s EPA director dismisses the EWG claims as “scare tactics” to raise money.
All this suggests that the USCCR and EWG claims are just part of the campaign to eliminate coal-fired power plants and the reliable, affordable electricity they generate. The claims could also be setting the stage for more collusive sue-and-settle lawsuits between the USEPA and environmentalist groups – with those who will be most affected having no opportunity to testify and no voice in the outcome.
Forcing utility companies to spend billions relocating huge ash deposits to “lined, watertight landfills” (in someone else’s backyard) will bring no health or environmental benefits. But it will bankrupt companies, send electricity prices soaring, reverberate through our economy, and raise true civil rights issues. As Ms. Heriot notes, “driving up the cost of power has its own disparate impact” on minority families.
Black and Hispanic families spend a 10-50% greater share of their income than white families on heating, air conditioning, lights and other electrical costs, National Black Chamber of Commerce president Harry Alford points out. They are also more likely to suffer still lower living standards and even lose their jobs, as employers respond to higher electricity prices by laying more people off.
If rates nearly double from current costs in coal-reliant states like North Carolina and Virginia (9 cents per kilowatt-hour) to those in anti-coal New York (16 cents) or Connecticut (17 cents), poor families will have to pay $500-1,000 more annually for electricity. Hospitals, school districts, factories and businesses will have to spend additional thousands, tens of thousands or millions. Where will that cash come from?
Will businesses have to lay off dozens or hundreds of employees, or close their doors? If they pass costs on to customers, where will families find that extra cash? If hospitals cut services or raise fees, how will that affect patient costs and care? Might the EWG and USCCR provide financial assistance? Fat chance.
By necessity, hospitals are energy intensive. The average U.S. hospital uses 31 kilowatt-hours of electricity per square foot per year. For facilities like the 665,000-square-foot Inova Fairfax Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Northern Virginia, that translates into $1,855,000 per year at 9 cents/kWh, but $3,505,000 at 17 cents. That’s a $1.6-million difference.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Center in Winston-Salem, NC is 530,600 square feet. That’s $1,480,000/year at 9 cents/kWh or $2,796,000/year at 17 cents: a $1.5-million gap.
Ohio State University’s James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute in Columbus is1.1 million square feet. That’s $3,069,000/year at 9¢/kWh versus $5,797,000 at 17 cents: a $2.7 million shortfall!
Those cost increases would result in lost jobs and reduced patient care. Now try to imagine the impacts on schools, factories, churches, grocery stores, malls and thousands of other major electricity users – to address health problems that exist only in the fertile minds of a few activists and regulators.
The war on coal, petroleum, nuclear and hydroelectric power is an eco-imperialist war on reliable, affordable electricity – and on poor and minority families. Policies that drive energy prices up drive people out of jobs, drive companies out of business, drive families into green energy poverty.
An yet these fundamental “civil rights” and “environmental justice” issues are rarely mentioned by the USCCR, EWG, EPA, NAACP, Democratic Party or self-appointed “civil rights leaders.” Too many of them also oppose charter schools for minority kids who are getting shortchanged by public schools, and regulatory reforms to spur job creation in minority communities. Will common sense ever prevail?
"Green" power company to get a NY State bailout
Exelon was just on the wrong end of a U.S. tax court decision – and has been ordered to pay the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) $1.45 billion in back taxes, penalties, and interest.
What is Exelon? A New York state power company. A very successful New York state power company. Net profits in 2015? $2.2 billion. And they’ve been solidly profitable for years. $1.72 billion in 2013, $1.16 billion in 2012. And $2.7 billion each year all the way back in 2008 and 2009.
So they should have no problem paying their (back) taxes. We should all have a problem with New York’s state government writing them a check – for possibly up to $7 billion.
As with all things government, the big corporation gets a check – and we little people pick up the tab. The bailout will add $2.3 billion to the energy bills of New York residents – many of whom are Exelon customers.
Get that? Exelon gets government money – Exelon customers get higher energy bills.
Exelon has spent nearly $300,000 on lobbying and lobbying-esque activities in Albany since 2014. It has obviously paid quick, exponentially inflated dividends. Hillary Clinton’s cattle futures are jealous.
This Exelon nonsense is a small part of Governor Cuomo’s huge “green energy” nonsense. Without benefit of the state legislature, Governor Cuomo’s Public Service Commission (PSC) in late July issued a fiat mandating that by 2030 half of New York’s energy needs must be met by renewable methods.
Small problem: “As of 2015, New York only generated 11% of its energy via renewables. A tally it has taken them decades – and tens of billions of subsidy dollars – to attain. And now they have mandated a nearly 500% increase – in only fifteen years. Predicated, again, upon energy sources that require massive, ongoing government cash infusions – and in most instances take more energy to produce than they provide. The New York State mandate is a VERY expensive proposition.…”
For which New Yorkers will be paying. And paying. And….
It can not be said enough: most “green energy” is neither green nor energy. Wind, solar and biofuels are actually awful for the environment – not at all green. And they are so prohibitively expensive – they make zero sense as energy.
New York’s government can’t pay for its huge new mandate – without first taking it from New Yorkers. Who will be paying, and paying, and….
Nuclear is actually a clean, viable energy source. As demonstrated by Exelon’s very tidy profits each and every year for at least a decade.
So why on Earth are they too set to get a multi-billion-dollar government check?
It makes zero sense – in a Governor Cuomo plan filled to the brim with things that make zero sense.
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.
Preserving the graphics: Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere. But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases. After that they no longer come up. From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site. See here or here
Posted by JR at 1:32 AM