Editorial in recent Wall Street Journal: 'Brushing Back a Lawless EPA'

Posted on January 08, 2016
Posted By: Stephen Heins
 
This is a brief editorial on the recent Wall Street Journal: 'Brushing Back a Lawless EPA'.

While it may be said that calling the EPA "lawless" seems a bit extreme, there are some of us who see many basic flaws in the EPA's Clean Power Plan:

(1) The medical computation of indirect health benefits from the reduction of PM 2.5 (or fine particulate matter) have never been well demonstrated;

(2) The use of several studies are likely examples of "study-bias;"

(3) The complete faith in the advancement of technology responding to political dictates instead of the marketplace;

(4) The lack of a full accounting of the costs of stranding electrical assets and the large investment in new infrastructure which essentially just replicates old distribution assets;

(5) the Clean Power Plan wasn't ever vetted or formulated by a state or national political mandate;

(6) the fact 27 states have officially challenged the legality of the Clean Power Plan;

(7) President Obama and Secretary McCarthy are likely to be in the rear view mirror by the time it is fully implemented;

(8) The CPP has been sold to the American public with a current administration PR effort indistinguishable from a political campaign;

(9) and, the biggest flaw of all is the fact the Clean Power Plan hasn't withstood any of the constitutional challenges in the Supreme Court

What is your take?

 
 
Authored By:
Stephen Heins, aka “The Blizzard of One,” is an energy consultant and nationally-published writer who has gained some attention for his expertise in energy, federal regulations, environmental and broadband policy issues.Heins promotes economic development, energy efficiency and emission reductions at the local, state and national levels. He has published more than 70 articles and op-ed pieces on energy, energy policy, utility industry and environmental issues for newspapers, energy and trade
 

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Comments

January, 09 2016

Davis Swan says

It is possible that the CPP will be overturned in the courts or its implementation could be delayed primarily due to the cost and technical difficulties of eliminating coal-fired plants from the generation fleet.

However, there is a broad consensus among the general population and within the scientific community that CO2 emissions are leading to global warming, now re-branded as Climate Change and that such changes are not only bad but quite possibly apocalyptic. It doesn't matter whether or not the scientific basis for this global fear proves to be correct or not. There is so much emotional and political investment in this position that I personally believe it would be extremely difficult to reverse.

Given that the threat of extinction of all life or at the very least the permanent flooding of many major U.S. cities could result from Climate Change the ultimate cost of the CPP will not be a barrier over the long term. So it will go forward in some form or another and similar initiatives will take place in many countries.

There are many negative consequences associated with the exploration for, extraction, processing and delivery of fossil fuels; everything from black lung to the DeepWater Horizon oil spill to the Exxon Valdez to the threat of groundwater contamination and seismic instability caused by fracking. If we can do a bit less of that stuff it would not be a bad thing. But there will be a price to pay initially and that is something the economies of the world will have to deal with. I also believe that the choices being made regarding the development of renewables are not optimal. I have outlined what I believe should be the priorities in this effort http://www.theblackswanblog.com/blog1/?p=152

January, 10 2016

Malcolm Rawlingson says

I find the title "Clean Power Plan" quite fascinating. It is not clean, it will not produce enough power to replace coal and there is no plan....just wishful thinking. Let me elaborate. Clean - for whom may I ask. Rare earth metals are used extensively in solar receptor panels and wind turbines and the extraction and manufacture of those metals into usable parts for wind turbines and solar panels is about as far from "clean" as one could possibly get. Of course they are made mostly in China (who incidentally control 90% of rare earth production) so clean - perhaps for the USA - but environmentally disastrous for the areas in China that produce it. But the EPA is not concerned about the world environment - just that of the USA. Political hypocrosy at its finest. Power - there is no possible way wind and solar combined can replace coal fired generation in the USA. The Sun as most observers will note...does not shine at night but our society expects power delivered 24 hours a day 7 days a week. You can install all the solar capacity you like it will all collectively produce zero electricity half the time. Wind also is intermittent with capacity factors in the laughable range of 20 25% at the most windy sites. Coal plants operate anytime day or night whatever the wind is doing. Trying to replace all coal with wind and solar is never going to work. One has only to look to Germany to see what will be the result.Skyrocketing electricity costs with business fast becoming non-competitive. So what is the Plan. Lots of talk but no real idea how this will work. It has all the hallmarks of a political experiment. There are very few hydroelectric sites available in the USA which is a sensible source of "clean" power if one ignores the fact that vast land areas are drowned in the process. The only viable clean alternative is nuclear power but with only 5 plants under construction (V.C Summer 1 & 2, Vogtle 1 & 2 and Watts Bar 2) I see no signs nuclear power will be able to replace coal any time soon. A clean power plan that actual has clear engineering milestones and timelines put together by people that understand the challenges involved would be better than more Obamaesque bluster on the world stage that in fact means absolutely nothing and will change absolutely nothing. Chine is doing far more to reduce CO2 emissions than the USA and by 2025 will have more nuclear power plants operating than the states. This will make a real difference to the air quality in China and reduce their dependence on coal. The CPP of the USA will do none of the above. Malcolm

January, 25 2016

Richard Vesel says

Malcolm,

The materials you cite as being "dirty" when used as part of the composition of solar equipment or wind power equipment are "straw man" arguments, as EVERYTHING mankind manufactures, if not 100% plant-based, contains "dirty" components.

But the one-time use of a few thousands of pounds of the materials you cite, as compared to the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of tonnes of toxic coal ash solid waste generated annually, is an absolutely absurd comparison. These materials, which had been sequestered by nature millions of years ago, in a less concentrated form, are concentrated by the combustion process, and then released into the surface environment to interact with air and water.

"Depending on where the coal was mined, coal ash typically contains heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and selenium, as well as aluminum, antimony, barium, beryllium, boron, chlorine, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, thallium, vanadium, and zinc."

Sadly, much of this material could be recaptured for industrial use, but it is treated in its entirety as a waste stream. Use of fly ash in concrete is solely based upon carbon content, not toxic metal content, and when found suitable from a carbon-free standpoint (less than 5% residual carbon, for the sake of COLOR!), then fly ash is use in the mix of concrete, and distributed for use in roadbeds, etc. where these materials can leach or erode back into the surface environments.

So lets look at the BIG picture when making comparisons, not the little microfact pictures of straw man arguments.

Coal generation is being retired as it strives to compete with wind and gas-fired power. Gas-fired power is 40 to 70% lower in CO2 emissions, per MWhr, than coal - 40% lower in a boiler or simple cycle GT, and 70% lower in a CCGT. The CCP will encourage more of this kind of replacement.

Coal-fired generation has outlived the better part of its beneficial life, and is now seen as more of a general hazard, outweighing its remaining benefits. Think of it as an aging football player. A superstar in his youth, a reliable producer in late career, but now an injury-prone and lackluster performer. It's the picture of an end-of-career scenario, and there are youngsters with equal or greater potential sitting on the sidelines ready to take the field.

I do agree that nuclear must be given a bigger role in the US, and the implementation of the CPP will provide a market force that may (I use that word carefully) provide an impetus for further nuclear development. However, many of the US nukes are feeling the competition from gas and wind generation. The CPP includes a provision where the bid stacks within the ISOs must use CO2 emissions as a gauge for establishing the next day generation mix, and this in itself encourages the use of nuclear generation.

So, I differ with the view that the CPP will not encourage a much cleaner energy picture. I believe the opposite is true, and the numbers have already begun to bear this out, as the industry has anticipated the problem and plan, in spite of their whiny rhetoric. Old coal plants have been shuttered by the dozens, and more will follow as the fleet continues to age out.

RWV

January, 25 2016

Richard Vesel says

For the clean and dirty aspects of solar photovoltaics, here is a reasonably "fair and balanced" article:

http://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/solar/solar-energy-isnt-always-as-green-as-you-think

RWV

January, 25 2016

Richard Vesel says

To the author, as a specific rebuttal to your item (3)

Virtually ALL major advancements in technology have come first from government sponsored drives, investigations, research, or programs. Pick any 19th, 20th or 21st century technological advancement you like, and I will go back and find its roots in a government-sponsored or driven program (with at least 95% confidence that I will be able to do that. (Pharmaceuticals may be an exception, unless you go way back to the roots of mass production of real medicines to address problems brought about by governments and war (penicillin & sulfas), or mass immunizations to wipe out polio, smallpox, AIDS, etc.)

There were no market drivers that sent us into space originally, it was political competition, and certainly that put us on the moon nearly 50 years ago. Yet that specific program drove multiple incipient technologies into the mainstream, and spawned the development of hundreds more. Solar photovoltaics were first manufactured in quantity to provide power for satellites and space stations. Older devices resulted from academic examinations of physical phenomena, but were only laboratory curiosities until the space program made use of the concepts and took the next steps forward.

I do not believe in the power of the marketplace to do much beyond the ability to exploit the financial advantages of a good technology. But if you want to get something really new and unique out into that marketplace, you first need to create the idea and the demonstration of it, very often from a non-commercial pursuit. Even our oft-vaunted nuclear power industry came about as a well-planned and financed insertion of the militarily developed reactor technology into the commercial power production arena. Hydropower, same thing. Large government projects made this a reality, not commercial investment.

The "marketplace" goes for "quick and dirty" to maximize exploitation and quick profits, and fights its hardest to AVOID paying for any of the unintended or ignored consequences and damages, and if it owns a successful technology, it will also fight as hard as it is able to in the political arena to avoid competition, displacement, and eventual irrelevance.

RWV

February, 08 2016

Richard Vesel says

Perhaps the author would like to comment on the lawlessness of the EPA with regards to the Flint Michigan water poisoning issue?

This is the kind of problem one can expect when allowing "local regulators" and "local authorities" to make decisions regarding environmental issues. They become subject to the political whims of those folks, rather than the good sense and ethical behavior that should govern the management of environmental policies and actions.

RWV

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