Coal industry subsidies based on a pretext

I could hardly believe this story when I first read it in the New York Times.  It just seemed too bizarre to be true.  A  DOE proposal which subsidizes  coal usage  in power plants, whose extra cost  will be passed on to consumers in electric bills.  Bob Murray of Murray Coal must be very happy with this one, as his investment in Trump is paying off big time.

Per the NYT EdOp:

 Mr. Perry’s proposal could add around $11 billion a year to the cost of electricity, depending on how the rule is interpreted, according to four separate research reports. Yet it would do little to improve the electrical grid. That’s because less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of power failures between 2012 and 2016 were caused by fuel supply emergencies, according to the Rhodium Group, a research firm.

Aren’t the Republicans known for opposing bailouts of any kind?  This one is based on a pretext, that we have fuel supply emergencies causing power failure outages.  Or we will have in the future.   As stated in the New York Times:

During Hurricane Harvey in Texas, where Mr. Perry was once governor, coal-fired power plants had to switch to natural gas because their fuel became too wet to be moved.

Here are the facts.    About 66% of our electricity comes from the burning of two fossil fuels, natural gas and coal.   The rest comes from nuclear (~19%), hydroelectric (~6%)  and alternative sources (solar and wind).    What has hurt the coal industry is competition from natural gas.  Employment in coal mining jobs has dropped due to automation of the mines.   Environmental air quality regulations have made coal fueled plants more expensive, encouraging a switch to natural gas.

Here is why it is so bizarre.  Opposition comes from environmental groups which would be normal, as the proposal will increase coal consumption.  But, allied with the environmental groups are the big oil and gas companies,  who would be hurt by reduced natural gas demand.   So,  the new regulations are bad for the consumer, the environment and big oil and gas companies (which support Trump on many issues).

The DOE has fast tracked the proposal through the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) with 5 members.   Hopefully, they will not approve the DOE proposal.

Please read the New York Times article.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

The Trump Administration’s Coal Bailout

Electricity Customers in 31 States Could Foot the Bill for Perry’s Coal Bailout

Rick Perry’s plan to subsidize coal and nuclear plants is bonkers

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EPA Worst Adminstrator Ever: Scott Pruitt

The EPA has existed for 47 years.   It was created by Richard Nixon in 1970, by Executive Order.    Richard Nixon also signed into law, the Clean Air (1970) and Clean Water Acts (as amended 1972).   The first line of the  Clean Water Act states:

The objective of this Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.

This first sentence is powerful, as the act directs the federal government in conjunction with state agencies to RESTORE  the quality of the  nation’s waters.   Thus, there was an acknowledgement of a problem.   Thus, the creation of the agency was direct the government to take a leadership role in the restoration of  our water and air resources.  Nixon being from California,  likely understood this, as the Colorado watershed encompasses 7 states in the US and 2 states in Mexico.   California is downstream to all pollutants discharged into the Colorado River in the US.

Scott Pruitt may like to see environmental policy run from the state and local level,  mainly for political reasons, but it is the geographical reality which makes so many of our environmental problems, a national problem, requiring federal action.   The pollutants  from the coal burning plants goes to the upper atmosphere,  where there are no signs saying “You are entering Massachusetts” or even, “You are entering Canada.”

Scott Pruitt is an attorney of law.   He has done nothing to restore or improve air or water quality in his home state of Oklahoma, as Attorney General.   Instead, he accepted contributions from Tyson foods, who were being sued for polluting the Illinois River that flows through Oklahoma.

Oklahoma AG and EPA Pick Pruitt Stalled Pollution Lawsuit After Contributions From Poultry Industry

His track record as AG was to attack EPA actions, initiating 13 lawsuits against the EPA.

Now as administrator of the EPA, his actions run counter the core mission of the EPA, to preserve the water, land and air natural resources of the US for future generations to enjoy.   His perspective is one of an advocate for individuals to pollute as much as they want, so long as they don’t endanger the health and safety of general population.   Individual liberties may sound good, but in result can be extremely harmful.

I have posted numerous blogs on the actions of the EPA under the Trump administration, including the most recent one on banning EPA scientists from making presentations at a scientific meeting on the Narraganset Bay estuary.   I was please to see Steven Colbert, the late night show host,   really tearing into Scott Pruitt’s policies, noting that until he pulled the 3 scientists from the meeting, it is likely few people knew about this estuary, or even what an estuary was.

Scott Pruitt latest attack on the agency he runs is to remove as many of the independent and dedicated environmental scientists in the advisory groups in the EPA and replace them with people of his own choosing.   This tactic in this case is to bar anyone who is receiving funding from the EPA from participating in the advisory groups.

Citing The Bible, The EPA Just ChangedAdvisers Its Rules For Science 

In support of his drastic actions,  Scott Pruitt relies on the pretext that scientists receiving funds from the EPA might have a conflict of interest.  However, this was quickly countered by numerous organizations,  noting there was already strict disclosure rules in place, the prevent conflict of interest.    Dr. Tiech from George Washington University stated the following:

” Disqualifying the very people who know the most about a subject from serving as advisors makes no sense.”

More succinctly, he wrote, “Frankly,  this directive is nuts.”   Others voiced similar opinions, as follows:

The change calls into question EPA’s ability to protect the country, according to Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “We question whether the EPA can continue to pursue its core mission to protect human health and the environment,” Holt said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Scott Pruitt battled the EPA through lawsuits as Attorney General of Oklahoma.  Now,  he must battle the organization he heads.

Stay tuned,

Dave

PS.  I’ve posted numerous blogs on the EPA and the Trump administration’s indifference to environmental issues.   See the various categories such as Environment, Global Warming. Coal, or Chloropyrisfos.  Also you can search under EPA  or Scott Pruitt.

The leaked DOE Report

The Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, issued a memorandum on April 14, 2017 directing  preparation of a study that examines whether recent problems associated with baseload power plants may be putting the nations’s energy security and reliability at risk.

It was to be a 3 month study.   A June 26, 2017 draft was leaked and posted to the internet.  The leaked draft report is provided below. It is long detailed technical analysis.

353980477-DOE-Reliability-and-Baseload-Report-Draft-June-26

Many fear that the report would try to blame the government subsidies for alternative energy sources, including wind and solar,  for the decline in the coal use.  The study clearly points out that fossil fuel and nuclear plants also benefit from government subsidies.

Oil is generally not used as a fuel for power plants.  The main fuels are natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar and wind power, with the latter 3 considered renewables.

What will be interesting, is whether the Secretary will accept the findings of his Department, or attempt to reformulate the report.  It is due to be released next week, so we will know for sure, if the official study is much different from this draft.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

How we poison ourselves

We do it slowly, in subtle ways.   And we do it, with knowledge of some of the best scientific institutions in the world.  We do it for the love of money. Retired folks who are tired of the noise and pollution of the cities, may feel they have found paradise in rural America, but the dangers of paradise are real and likely to grow worse.   Sending toddlers off to be with grandma and grandpa down on their little piece of tranquility during the summer months may no longer be so good.

The intent of a pesticide is to destroy the specific agricultural pests, without causing harm to the general animal population, which includes fish and bees.  Of course, the agricultural pesticide must also be safe for the human population, which includes people who live near farms and farm workers.

There was strong evidence that the chemical, Chloropyrifos, was  unsafe for agricultural use.  The Administrator  of the EPA, Scott Pruitt is making America great again, only if America can be considered the conglomeration of agricultural interests and agrichemical and fossil fuel companies.

I will say it again- it is a subtle threat.  People don’t know what  they are ingesting.  If a car manufacturer produces a car with faulty air bags, then consumer can sue them.  But only if they survive the accident!  But, if there is slow buildup of harmful neurotoxins as a result of the air we breath or the fish we eat, it may be decades before the full effects are discovered.    We are losing one of the most vital parts of our ecosystem,  bees, which pollinators of  plants.  Without them,  we can’t grow much- see below:

Scott Pruitt

Bees as Pollinators

Organophosphates contain neurotoxins.   The Obama administration proposed regulations on one particular pesticide,  chlorpyrifos, which is particularly harmful to children living near farms as it can effect their brain development.

Pesticides must be approved for use by the EPA.  Once approved, chemical companies invest millions of dollars to produce and market the chemicals worldwide. If there are health risks discovered after approval,  then the chemical companies have the option of withdrawing the pesticide from the market, fearing they might be sued, or continue to produce the pesticide and live with the legal consequences.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

NYT,  March 20, 2017:  E.P.A. Chief, Rejecting Agency’s Science, Chooses Not to Ban Insecticide