Weaker Apart

Hillary Clinton’s campaign had a simple slogan, just like Trump’s campaign.  It was “Stronger Together”  and I’ve turned it to the negative, “Weaker Apart.”    I am referring to actions by the Trump administration to breach or terminate any multinational agreement which it perceives is not in the best interest of the US.   Trump likes to think of himself as this incredibly skilled negotiator who can be get better deals usually on a bilateral basis.

I don’t see a global approach to problems as an option, but rather as a necessity.   We don’t solve nuclear proliferation, climate change or fair trade (Trump’s biggest concern)  on our own.   Unilateral sanctions on countries whom we have disagreements (Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, to name a few)  are generally failures.

I commented before on how confused Trump’s policies were China, seeking their help in pressuring North Korea to denuclearize and simultaneously attacking them as a currency manipulator and promoting unfair trade practices. Secretary of State last visit to China, failed for exactly these reasons – see New York Times article.

Getting tough on Iran with new sanctions is also backfiring.  It has created a sort of odd unity between EU leaders and Iran, that desperately wants to keep the Iran accords alive as this provides constant monitoring of Iran’s uranium enrichment sites.   Meanwhile Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif,  in an interview with CNN Fareed Zakaria,  is not following Trump’s game plan of high level meetings to work out a new accord.  He rightly says that the accord took years to reach, and was comprehensive covering uranium enrichment, reprocessing, monitoring and sanction relief.   The International Atomic Energy Agency was given full access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and confirmed Iran has been in compliance.   Zarif pointed out there is no sense in sitting down with the US to work out a new agreement, when they are presently in violation of the existing accord.   Having the two leaders meet at this point, would just be a PR “photo shoot.”

Perhaps there is no area that is so clearly a global problem and costly to the US than climate change.   The Paris Accords was,  to most environmentalists, a weak plan as each government could set their own goals to reducing carbon emissions.  But it was an incredible achievement, nevertheless to have each country acknowledge the need for positive action to reduce their carbon emissions.   The proposed rollback of car mileage standards, means more gas will be consumed in each car, and more carbon emissions.   Americans will foot the bill, not only paying more for gasoline but also in health related problems.  This impacts around 25 million asthma suffers.

I have provided a link below on likely battle which will ensue over the EPA rules change on  car emissions.  US car emission standards will be lowered below California’s emission standard, setting off another court challenge.   Republicans, who traditionally support the states in these issues, will suddenly now be on the side of Trump and his business friendly EPA.   See links.

Global warming does not create hot weather, every day of the week.   Instead, it makes extreme weather events more likely.  The hurricanes may not be more frequent with global warming, but they are likely to be more laden with water, and have time to intensity.  In time, storm surge will increase due to rising sea levels.   The result is more flooding,  the really destructive part of hurricanes in terms of human injury and death.

A comment from Christine Whitman, former EPA administrator under George W. Bush.

“There’s not an ideological push here, there’s just, ‘We’re going to do whatever industry wants, and if Obama did anything, it’s bad and we’ll undo it,’” Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA administrator under former President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, said in a phone interview. “I don’t think the president has thought through what used to be a basic principle of Republicans, and that’s states’ rights.”

Christine Whitman is a lifetime Republican,  who recognizes the need for clean air and water is not a political matter.

The efforts of the Trump administration are not making America Great, it is giving in to polluters, and rejecting the international cooperative effort.

So.  why are we weaker apart?   Increase inflation due to trade wars with China,  increase danger of a nuclear  arms in Iran, as a result of our breaking the Accord,  increase gas costs as we attempt to force Iran to the negotiating table, and sadly, more carbon emissions, which we will pay for with cars that get fewer miles to the gallon.

Not great,  In the long term  just dumb.  Regaining our leadership role in the world might have a change in 2020, with a new leader.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Kerry says Trump’s Iran strategy ‘very dangerous and ill-advised’

Iran Widens an Already Huge Rift Between Europe and U.S.

Trump’s Assault On Auto Pollution Rules Is The Latest Salvo In A War On States’ Rights

Trump Fuel Efficiency Proposal Is Attack on Global Climate and States’ Rights, Critics Say

Christine Todd Whitman

Global Warming and Hurricanes

Note:  I believe I’ve correctly summarized their findings.   The article is primarily on Atlantic hurricanes.   Typhoon Mangkhut was a terrible storm, and the death count (~80) will likely increase as recovery efforts are underway.   Many more people die after a typhoon or hurricane than during one.

How climate change could cause more mega-storms like Super Typhoon Mangkhut and Hurricane Florence

Hurricanes. climate change and human health

The old slogan, “If it bleeds it leads” seems to be playing out.  The second one, is “the closer to home the better.”   Tragic losses due to Florence aren’t here yet, but they’re coming.  But the singular focus on Florence kind of makes all the newspapers look about the same.

But, there are the few exceptions, thank God.  You can find them by googling “global warming” and  “hurricanes” and then check News.   Worsening hurricanes is only one horrible affects of global warming.  The more extreme weather events are real, with cyclones in Hawaii and the South Pacific and prolong droughts in Africa. Lives are being lost.

In the prior blog,   I stated the EPA is doing nothing to curb carbon emissions.   Unfortunately, this is a bit of an understatement.   The Trump administration is making things worse- as they  are attempting to eliminate regulations in place, under the Obama administration to reduce our carbon emission.  As reported by the New York Times:

The Trump administration, taking its third major step this year to roll back federal efforts to fight climate change, is preparing to make it significantly easier for energy companies to release methane into the atmosphere.

Methane, which is among the most powerful greenhouse gases, routinely leaks from oil and gas wells, and energy companies have long said that the rules requiring them to test for emissions were costly and burdensome.

The Environmental Protection Agency, perhaps as soon as this week, plans to make public a proposal to weaken an Obama-era requirement that companies monitor and repair methane leaks, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. In a related move, the Interior Department is also expected in coming days to release its final version of a draft rule, proposed in February, that essentially repeals a restriction on the intentional venting and “flaring,” or burning, of methane from drilling operations.

The new rules follow two regulatory rollbacks this year that, taken together, represent the foundation of the United States’ effort to rein in global warming. In July, the E.P.A. proposed weakening a rule on carbon dioxide pollution from vehicle tailpipes. And in August, the agency proposed replacing the rule on carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants with a weaker one that would allow far more global-warming emissions to flow unchecked from the nation’s smokestacks.

The New York Times article is provided in the links below.   The article does not mention that methane is not only a greenhouse gas contributor, in a big way, but also acts to deplete the ozone layer, allowing for more harmful UV sun rays to pass through the upper atmosphere..   Increases in incidences in skin canker can occur.

Unlike EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, I don’t expect Andrew Wheeler to be making public  appearances following hurricane Florence as he follows in Pruitt’s steps of industry friendly policies.

It is crazy to think of carbon emissions and air pollution as a state issue as  some Republicans want to do.   Global warming awareness needs to shift from a focus on political ideology/affiliation or economics, to  real health issues.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Trump Administration Wants to Make It Easier to Release Methane Into Air

NASA (2005):  Methane’s Impacts on Climate Change May Be Twice Previous Estimates

USA Today: Why hurricanes are doing more damage: It’s not the storms. It’s us.

The last article is at least, asking the right questions.    More expensive homes along the shore is a contributing factor.   The article concludes, as I did, that global warming doesn’t increase the number of hurricanes, but makes them more devastating in terms of rainfall.   There is research showing that they are more likely to intensify when there is warming water.

 

 

 

Florence and Climate Change

Florence appears to be a very powerful hurricane.  South Carolina residents on the coastal areas are taking the evacuation orders seriously.   This is very good.   The best way to survive a hurricane is to leave.

I wrote about the relationship between hurricanes and climate change in a prior blog.   It isn’t cause and effect sort of thing.   Warm water makes hurricanes wetter.   Winds can intensify if the hurricane movement slows over warm weather.  But the relationships become pretty complex.

One group of scientists,  the GFDL (Geophysics Fluid Dynamics Laboratory) has studied the history of hurricanes and relationships using computer modeling.   They are apart of the NOAA, responsible for weather research at the federal level.  Their conclusion is the number of hurricanes in the future is not likely to go up due to global warming.  But they will be stronger and more devastating.  Bad news.  Here is their conclusion:

A review of existing studies, including the ones cited above, lead us to conclude that: it is likely that greenhouse warming will cause hurricanes in the coming century to be more intense globally and have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes.

I’ve seen what a force 5 hurricane can do – totally destroy houses, cars and boats.   And it kills people as tears through an area.   More die from flooding,  electrocution and lack of medical facilities, after the hurricane.  Wet hurricanes, like Maria and Katrina caused drownings.

It was a hot topic after  Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and Hurricane Irma destroyed homes on both east and west coasts of South Florida.   Irma was a monster, and I have friends still haggling with insurance companies and trying to rebuild.

The reaction from the former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was unbelievable, when asked about the contribution of global warming after Hurricane Maria.  He shot back saying the question was “insensitive” to the suffering of Puerto Ricans.   The EPA was not involved in  recovery efforts.   The  hurricane season going from June to November  is exactly the right time to bring up the fact that we are doing nothing on climate change, except pretend it doesn’t exist.  I think January to December are all good months to address global warming and hurricanes.

Al Gore referred to the consequences of global warming, 12 years ago as the  “inconvenient truth.”

I honestly feel very sorry for the residents of South Carolina.  I hope they get the hell away from the coastal areas, ASAP.    But, global warming is here, and global warming catastrophes are real and deadly.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Note –  Global warming is no longer part of EPA’s vocabulary.  They are the ones that should be working to curb carbon emissions.  NOAA can only make predictions, not change policy.

NOAA GFDL Website:   Global Warming and Hurricanes

Sun Sentinel:  Now is the right time to talk about climate change

Trump Policies to the Coal Industry – Part 1

(1) Decline in Coal Production

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt used to brag about how much the US was reducing carbon emissions, even while he was denying climate change was a problem and the Paris Climate Change Accords were against the best interests of our country.    One reason for our lower emissions  is the less of our electricity on a percentage basis  comes from dirtiest  fossil fuels- coal.   As shown in the above chart,  US coal shipments from mines were 661 million short tons (mST).   This is the lowest coal shipments since 1983 – wow 35 years!

The above graph shows only coal shipped within the US.  EIA also posted higher total production statistics which includes exports.  For 2017, the preliminary estimate of total production is 774 mST,  a slight improvement over 2016 production of 728 mST.   This slight uptick is probably not going to last as preliminary first quarter production (Jan-Mar 2018) declined by 5.2% over the prior quarter.  The trendline is either flat or down.  See link below for these statistics.

Donald Trump supposedly “digs coal.”  But the electric utilities don’t because it is more expensive.  They have been switching to natural gas during the last 20 years which includes the Bush and Obama administrations.  Particularly hard hit were coal mines on the east cost.     Note: this report was produced by the Energy Information Agency, a part of the Department of Energy, headed by former Texas governor Rick Perry.

There was a short video on one of the cable stations, touting the success of Trump’s policies, as evidence by how many coal filled barges were going down the Mississippi river.   Given  how little coal is transported by river barges, one can see this was pure nonsense.   Just partisan politics dressed up as a news story.

Coal is used primarily to generate electricity.  About 30% of our electricity  comes from coal in 2016.  It was 52% of our electricity  in 1997.   As shown in the graph below,  in the last 66 years, the percentage of electricity generated by coal  has never been this low.

Natural gas began its rise around 1989 with 10% share and never looked back.   Nonhydro renewables, primarily solar and wind have increased since 2005.   Going from 2% to 8% with alternatives  is a 4 fold increase. According to the EIA, wind turbines account for 6% of US electricity generation, leaving only 2% for solar.   I believe the graph below does not include electricity from residential solar panels.

The graph seems to show declining use of hydroelectric power, but this is really the effect of the increase in electrical demand being satisfied by other fuels, as shown below.  If the period from 1975 to 2015 is examined, it shows that hydroelectric supplies between 250 to 350 bKW, with a flat trendline.  For renewable fuels, solar and wind turbines are the big growth areas now and in the future.  Non-renewables account for 84% of the US electricity.  The general trend of increasing renewables can be seen in many countries.  For instance, Germany fossil fuels and nuclear for electricity account for  70%, with coal percentage in decline and natural gas percentage on the increase.

(2) Stream Protection Rule

One of the first actions of newly elected Donald Trump, with the help of Congress was to repeal the Stream Protection Rule, which was a detailed clarification of prior rules for the dumping of debris from new mines into streams.  Hundreds of miles of streams and rivers are lost.    Environmentalists at the time did not think the rule went far enough.   Coal mining in four states (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia) dynamite the top of the mountain (called mountain top removal, or MTR), and the “spoils” or tailings are dumped into river valleys.   The destruction of the environment is pretty terrible, and includes land, water and air pollution.

As correctly pointed out in the VOX article:

Coal mining is a messy business. In parts of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia, mining companies often get at underground coal seams by blowing up the tops of mountains — a process known as mountaintop removal mining. Once that’s done, they’ll dump the debris into the valleys below, which can contaminate streams and waterways with toxic heavy metals.  Appalachian Voices, an environmental group, estimates that coal companies have buried over 2,000 miles of streams in the region through mountaintop removal mining since the 1990s. And there’s growing evidence that when mining debris and waste gets into water supplies, the toxic metals can have dire health impacts for the people and mostly rural communities living nearby.

And  VOX nailed it when they wrote in Feb 2017:

Scrapping the stream protection rule might help boost the bottom lines of some mining companies at the margins, but it’s unlikely to reverse the long inexorable downward trend of mining jobs in Appalachia.

The quarterly statistics show large declines in 2017Q4 to 2018Q1 in anthracite coal in Pennsylvania (-43%),  and coal production declines in   Tennessee (-63%),  Virginia (-9.4%) and Kentucky (-13%),  really undercutting Trump’s claim that the production declines was a result of “Obama’s war on coal.”

(3) Robert Murray,  Murray Coal, the Clean Power Plan and Andrew Wheeler (Scary Stuff)

Robert Murray is the CEO of Murray Coal.   He seems to have the inside track to President Trump on setting energy policies.  His policies seem radical, and only in the best interest of large chemical and mining corporations.   He sent VP Pence an action plan, which included cutting the EPA workforce in half.  This would be around 7,000 employees, back to the number of employees when the agency was first created in 1973.   An extremely important function of the EPA is approval of pesticides used in agriculture.  It would be very scary proposition to revert to pre-Rachel Carson era, when chemical companies could self certify the safety of pesticides.  See link, “How a Coal Baron’s Wish List became President Trump’s To-Do list.”

Robert Murray’s political philosophy seems anchored on the conviction that global warming is non-existent, and the only reason for the decline in coal production is unnecessary government regulation at all levels.  At the very top of the Murray action plan, is the Clean Power Rule,  one of the achievements of the Obama administration, which Murray has claimed is illegal.   The basis for this contention was that the rule was not approved by Congress, and President Obama was overstepping his authority.   In 2016, the Supreme Court halted enforcement of the regulation, pending resolution in the courts.

The EPA under President Obama conducted numerous studies, showing that the primary benefactors of the Plan, were low income or coal miners, who lived close to coal fueled power plants.  Opponents of the Plan claimed that this would raise unemployment in coal mining states and cause power plants to shut down.  There are difference of opinions on the economic impact of the plan.

President Trump is strongly opposed to the Clean Power Plan.  The proposed 2018 budget does not include any funds for enforcement of the Clean Power Plan.   It can not easily be repealed without avoid  court challenges by supporters.    At present,  the acting administrator of the EPA is Andrew Wheeler, who is a former lobbyist for the coal industry.  On June 20, 2018, it was revealed that prior to Wheeler’s appointment at EPA, he worked with Robert Murray and other coal companies, seeking repealing of Obama administration policies.

The documents also show the role played by now-EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who then worked as Murray’s lobbyist, in setting up the meeting, where the coal boss presented Perry with a four-page action plan for repealing environmental regulations viewed as burdensome for the coal industry. During his confirmation hearing for the EPA post, Wheeler told senators that he had briefly seen the document and acknowledged taking part in the meeting.

So, Trump has turned over running the EPA to the lobbyist for a coal baron, Robert Murray.  Murray went one step further with his crusade, and wrote 6 executive orders, for Trump to sign.  Pretty audacious!   The political views of Senator Jim Imhofe (R-OK),  Scott Pruitt (former EPA Administrator, former AG of Oklahoma) and Andrew Wheeler are all pretty similar.  In fact, Wheeler was Imhofe’s legislation aide. See link at bottom “Who is Andrew Wheeler (and why you should be afraid of him).”

To be continued in Part 2.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 Links:

EIA:  2017 Coal Shipments

The link below is pretty long, and not easy to find on the new EPA site (thanks Scott Pruitt):

EIA  First Quarter 2018  and full year 2017 Production

EPA 2003:  Environmental Impact Statement, Mountain Top Removal (during Bush administration)

The article really nailed it, as stating that killing the stream production act was unlikely to reverse the decline in the coal industry.  But Trump owed a favor to Robert Murray.

VOX: Why Trump just killed a rule restricting coal companies from dumping waste in streams

How a Coal Baron’s Wish List Became President Trump’s To-Do List

A Coal Executive’s “Action Plan” For Trump Is Made Public

Bob Murray drafted 6 executive orders for Trump’s signature

Who is Andrew Wheeler?

Newsandviews.net post Coal industry subsidies based on a pretext

Trump Policies to Coal Industry – Part 2

The prior posts (Part 1: Trump’s Policies) showed coal production to still be in decline.  Trump’s elimination of the Stream Protection Act, was easy, because it was not a law.  It was unfortunate because so much time had been devoted to finding a solution to the massive dumping of debris containing toxic heavy metals into stream valleys.   The eastern states of Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee will have to manage the ecological destruction on their own.   Trump is making the Clean Power Plan to be unenforceable through cutting the funding.  EPA will work to dismantle the Plan in a legal manner, under the direction of the new administrator, Andrew Wheeler.   EPA studies showed the end of the program would be most detrimental to low income families who live in close proximity to the mines.  Environmental groups will attempt to keep the plan alive, but this is an uphill battle.

I included in Part 1, the cornerstone of Robert Murray, Senator Jim Imhofe,  and Andrew Wheeler’s policies, is that global warming is either non-existent or the effects are exaggerated.  Scott Pruitt was  defiant to scientists, who opined that the severity of Hurricane Maria may have been affected by warmer waters as a result of global warming.   He stated it was disrespectful to the victims to politicize the damage.   Trump visited Puerto Rico,  and infuriated  residents by downplaying the severity of the damage.

Coal as an energy source has been in decline for years due to the abundance of natural gas.  Ordinarily, this should be viewed as beneficial as  coal burning in power plant is the worst way to generate electricity as it causes many environmental problems beyond global warming.  It is estimated by the EPA that 230 miles of streams and rivers have been eliminated by the dumping of debris as a result of mountain top blasting.

Climate Change Denial and the Paris Accords

Trump campaigned that he would pull out of the Paris Climate Accords.  Legally, the US will not be out of the accord until 2020.   No other country has pulled our of the agreement nor  supported the US decision to withdraw.  Major oil companies supported the Paris Climate Accords, likely because they could see the benefit of power plants switching to natural gas.

The NYT article, “The Year Global Warming turned Model into Menace” reported on the devastating impacts of global warming.  It was predicted that more extreme weather event would result, including extreme cold and hot periods.   The latest extreme events include heat related deaths in Japan, the shutdown of nuclear reactors in Europe because the river water became too warm, agricultural losses in Sweden and El Salvador and forest fires in California.

Clean Coal Technology

Release of byproducts of coal burning can be reduced, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen  oxide and mercury with appropriate technology.  However, carbon dioxide is still released.  The clean coal technology incorporates carbon capture and storage or carbon sequestration.  See link below.    This increases the cost of coal, and would only be for regulatory compliance, as with the Clean Power Plan.  Unfortunately, this Plan appears to be dead under the Trump administration.

Protecting our electrical grid 

For decades, coal was promoted as  vital for reliable,  low cost energy.    To prevent uneconomical coal powered plants from being shut down, coal executives lobbied the Department of Energy to   subsidize their operation.   Secretary of the DOE submitted a proposal to FERC for subsidies.   It was a very creative proposal,  The coal and nuclear industries would be paid to keep a 90 day supply of fuel available, just in case of hurricanes or other natural disasters.  In January 2018, the FERC rejected this proposal, citing a DOE report, as requested by Rick Perry:

“In fact, the Department of Energy’s own recent ‘grid reliability’ study found the current grid is highly reliable, despite an ever decreasing amount of coal-fired generation.”

Bernard McNamee has been nominated to the FERC and there is speculation that the coal bailout plan might be revived.  The opponents of the bailout plan, the first time around, were a strange coalition of the lobbyist organization for oil and gas industry, namely  the American Petroleum Institute,  and environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club.

Conclusion:

Solar energy and wind generated electricity have increased dramatically, however they have a long ways to go to contribute significantly to our energy needs.  Recent trade tariffs against China have resulted in a 30% tariff on solar panels.  The solar industry in the US employs  approximately 250,000 people compared to about 70,000 in the coal industry.  Trade tariffs on imported steel are hurting the oil and gas industry, which is an extensive customer of steel (wells, drilling rigs, production platforms, tankers and storage).

It is indeed fortunate that coal fired plants are being replaced by  plants using natural gas.  The US may reduce its carbon emissions simply through market forces.   Still, Trump has appointed many in government whose don’t really look at the public’s best interests.  If the bailout plan is submitted again, the opponents will be citing the DOE grid study as reasons to reject it.

Stay tuned,

Davew

Links:

Clean Power Plan

Wikipedia:  US withdraws from the Paris Accords

Wikipedia:  Clean Coal Technology

Federal Regulator Rejects Energy Department’s Bid To Prop Up Coal, Nuclear

https://www.npr.org/2017/10/12/557367017/is-this-how-the-trump-administration-might-save-coal

Trump coal bailout plan to have powerful ally if frontrunner for energy agency opening is confirmed
Bernard McNamee is among half a dozen former TPPF officials who hold positions in Trump administration.

A lot of real news is happening, Mr. President

“Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. … What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

This is the talk you might hear from some radical or religious cult.   Turn off the TV, don’t read the paper.  These are your enemies.  You have to be very paranoid to think everyone is lying to you.  But this is exactly what  Trump said at a speech in Kansas City to the VFW annual convention on Tuesday.

My advice is to do just the opposite:  Read, see and think.  Compare opinions, ask questions and do your homework.  Don’t stick with anyone.  A lot is happening.  Trump might not like it, but it is happening.   I don’t know exactly which news story he was referring to:   Scott Pruitt horrible record at the EPA or  Ryan Zinke at the Interior,  and their cozying up lobbyists  instead of protecting the environment, the NATO and Helsinki summit messes or the progress in the Mueller investigation.   Take your pick!

Reading means going beyond CNN.  If fact, I like the BBC for more broad coverage.  And news magazines like Time or Newsweek.  You might find our that Trump is furious about comments made by three former intelligence leaders,  John Brennan (CIA),  Michael Hayden (National Security Agency) and James Clapper (National Intelligence Agency).   Each of these three leaders, with long backgrounds in government service, has written a book, the latest one by James Clapper (Facts and Fears).

You might find out about how the White House barred a CNN journalist from the White House Press press briefing,  and the strong criticism from the head of Fox News, Jay Wallace, for this action.   This is very important, as a whole series of commentator deride the “liberal media,”  at the very top, they understand the importance of media access.    As discussed in the link below, something similar happened in the Obama administration with a Treasury Department press conference, and CNN refused to cover it unless Fox News reporter was allowed to attend.

I would plead with people to detach themselves from a rigid group mentality, so they can absorb ideas and political philosophies from both Republicans and Democrats.   Each party claims to be fiscally responsible, but the track record (really up today) shows that our deficits rise, no matter if it is a Republican or Democrat.

I am not a loyalist to any party or platform.   I spent 5 years working at a research center, which taught me the best researchers are great at asking questions, and thoroughly reading everything available on a topic.  Critical thinking is hard work.  You have to compare multiple sources of information and opinions.

I think the greatest people on this planet, are parents who congratulate their children whenever  they ask questions.   When a child extends questioning to both parents, and teachers, I think it’s time for parents to start a college fund.

I hope Americans read newspapers.  I try to read 3 newspapers, one printed and two on the internet.  I can’t compete with the oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, who reads five newspapers every day, beginning with the Omaha World Herald, which his company acquired in 2011.   I got that tidbit of information from Wikipedia, which seems to be doing a terrific job of providing unbiased and well documented information.

My New York Times just arrived.  Headline news:  “Raging fire turns Yosemite into a ghost town.”  Not fake news.  Front page picture on the Times, is Half Dome at Yosemite, barely visible with all the smoke. .    Also, “US and Europe ease trade feud”, outlining a deal (positive to Trump and EU leaders).   Also, news commentary,  “Cash flowing into Treasury starts to ebb,”  and concern about rising deficits (negative for Trump).   Just finished front page item,  “Promising Alzheimer Drug attacks brain changes and symptoms.” Hope it works.

Real news means going to the source.  In Chicago,  reporter Pam Belluck was there at the Alzheimer’s Association International  Conference to listen and explain in non-technical terms how the new Alzheimer’s drug works,  or really how it is intended to work.  Is Biogen going to soar this morning?  An Associated Press photographer,  Noah Berger, shot the photo of the haze over the 38,000 acre fire obscuring the view of Half Dome

Going past the front page, on to international section.   There is a heat wave in Japan, with peak temperatures going to 106 deg F, and 23,000 people have been hospitalized.  Yes, I’m thinking global warming, and how the acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler should be sent their immediately.  Shucks, there is no mention of global warming,  just the grim facts of how miserable conditions are.   Half the 23,000 people are over 65 years old (my group).

It was awful day in Paksong,  Laos, as flooding and the bursting of a dam caused thousands to flee.  This time, climate change was mentioned, by a group called  International Rivers, which has opposed hydroelectric dams due to the unpredictability of extreme weather events.

Trump would rather people be apathetic and focus on golf and just believe how good he’s doing.  No chance with me.  Sorry, but it’s his pep rallies which are loaded with crap.

Listen, read, and think for yourselves.  Please!

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

The White House Banned a CNN Reporter and Even Fox News Is Crying Foul

Wikipedia: Michael Hayden

Wikipedia: James Clapper

Wikipedia: John Brennan

 

 

 

Scott Pruitt is out – no time to celebrate

This land is your land, this land is my land
From the California to the New York island
From the Redwood Forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

Beautiful words by Woody Guthrie.   Donald Trump has a different definition of “you and me.”

Anyone who believes the Environmental Protection Agency  will change its course, now that Scott Pruitt is out, better think again.  It’s going to get worse under former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler.   The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts provide the necessary authority to establish standards and preserve the environment.  But they don’t go into particulars.   This is left to the rules and regulations of the EPA.   The laws give the EPA authority to enforce their rules, but exactly how vigorously rules are enforced is up to the EPA.

Trump’s agenda is simply to eliminate everything done by Obama.   But, by the time the destruction is done, he’ll roll back rules dating back to the Nixon administration.  Probably the single most harmful one, is the plan rollback car emission standards.   This hurts most people who live in urban areas, the elderly and health impaired individuals.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Andrew Wheeler,  the fossil fuels lobbyist now making (undoing) policies:

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/06/626525274/get-to-know-andrew-wheeler-ex-coal-lobbyist-with-inside-track-to-lead-epa

This land is made for Exxon,  Murray Coal and Dow Chemical.

See link below (it has been updated to July 2018):

 

 

VW Emission Scandal

It was reported on May 3, 2018, that ex-CEO of VW, Martin Winterkorn,  was indicted by a Grand Jury in Michigan for making “false representations to regulators and the public” about the emission levels of VW vehicles.   As reported by the BBC (link provided below), US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the indictment showed that Volkswagen’s scheme to cheat its legal requirements went “all the way to the top.”

Kudos to Sessions, federal prosecutors,  and the US justice system.   But even if found guilty by US authorities, it’s unlikely Mr Winterkorn, who resigned soon after the scandal broke in 2015, will ever see the inside of a US courtroom, much less prison, as Germany does not extradite its citizens. according to the BBC.

It was front page news in 2015, that VW had special coding within their cars’  computer to detect when their cars were being tested by the EPA, and make the necessary changes so the cars would pass the emissions tests.  The problem was the nitrous oxide levels (NOx).   The problem was enormous.   If they made their cars compliant for emission standards, the fuel economy would be substantially lower.  In the US,  it is mandatory to post the fuel mileage on the window of new cars.  It is also an obvious selling point,  as it suggests to an owner of an older model, that they could save on both car repairs and fuel costs by trading their old car for a new one.   It is also obvious, that consumers would select VW over other car manufacturers based on better fuel economy.   So, any attempt to fix emissions, would result in a fraud case, by all consumers based on gas consumption.

The Wikipedia summary is very good, but I have supplemented it with a couple of links, relating nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere with health problems and agricultural crises.   I would have a requirement that all automotive engineers take at least one course in environmental science.

Things go wrong in companies all the time.   I worked for an oil company (Texaco) and fortunately, never was directly involved in  engineering decisions involving deceit or fraud.   But, I knew of a number of cases, where if an engineer did go public with certain information, it would likely result in the engineer getting fired, and the whole matter covered up.   It is a real tough situation.  This is exactly the situation VW engineers faced.

The real documentation of the fraud in  VW case, is  the computer program itself, which is stored in a non-readable binary machine code in every car that is sold.   It isn’t a problem of the code being locked or encrypted, but the form of the code. There is a solution to this, but let’s wait to the end of the story.

Eleven million cars produced by VW, from 2009 to 2014, had the rigged software.   Of the 11 million, 500,000 cars were sold in the US.   These were diesel cars, which are not very popular in the US.  My guess is engineers were told a lie.  If caught, we’ll do a recall and fix the error.  This has become standard operating procedure.   Of course, it wasn’t fixable.   Perhaps, a second lie was also told, “we can’t get caught, because it’s all buried in the unreadable machine code.”

Per Wikipedia, “Engineers had recognized inadequacies in emissions tests, dating back to 1989.   The Washington Post also reported that in the late 1990s, EPA engineers at Virginia Testing Laboratory had built a system called ROVER, designed to test a car’s emissions on the road. The project was shut down in 2001, despite preliminary tests indicating gaps between emissions from lab tests and real world tests of about 10 to 20 percent.”     They didn’t contemplate how “on the road testing could catch cheaters.”

It was completely by chance that VW got caught. Under a $50,000 grant,  in early 2014, two professors and two students began testing emission under road conditions, using a portable emissions measurement system.  Under real-world driving conditions the Jetta exceeded US emissions limits “by a factor of 15 to 35” while the Passat exceeded the limit “by a factor of 5 to 20, according to Wikipedia.

Now, what Michael Winterkorn is charged with, is not the initial crime of cheating the testing, but the later concealment from the consumer,  after he learned  the VW cars had the defeat device.

Cars have computers to fine tune the performance.   It was pretty inconceivable that the engineers would create the defeat device,  but they are encouraged to be “problem solvers” and to innovative to gain  a competitive advantage over the other car makers.  It seems a simple solution has been suggested,  to require only readable and public code  to be used in cars.     Unfortunately,  EPA is pretty dysfunctional with Scott Pruitt at the helm.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia:  VW Emissions Scandal

BBC: Diesel emissions scandal

Nearly half of Michiganders live in unacceptable smog levels, EPA says

Why ozone levels pose a challenge to food security

 

EPA in self destruct mode – Part 2

The prior blog focused on the Trump administration soon to be announced rules changes  on new cars fuel efficiency and exhaust emissions.

There are a lot more of changes going into effect, to make both the Department of the  Interior and the EPA less effective in doing their job – to preserving and protect our environment.   Our environmental science programs at our universities are some of the finest in the world.   Students come from many countries including China, India, the EU and Brazil, to learn how to protect the environment.  Yet,  scientists with the requisite knowledge will not be welcomed in the Trump administration.

It isn’t hard to make an agency less effective, particularly if it is one that requires most policy decisions to ultimately require  regulations or new laws, and additional staff to actively enforce regulations.   To begin the destruction process, you simply bring in politicians to run things at the top, and let the dedicate staff leave as they become discouraged.   The names Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke come to mind.   Then you bring in more people with strong connections to the industries you are supposed to regulate, such as chemical companies,  fossil fuel companies (mining,  hydrocarbon exploration and production, refining and petrochemical) and agriculture related companies. You let them set your agenda.   And finally, you put a muzzle on what is acceptable science.

I commented on how the Love Canal tragedy took decades to be discovered, and the full extent of the harm required nearly another decade.  If this was done during Scott Pruitt’s EPA, he would probably be handing out band aids to children with chemical burns on their feet, and tell their parents the government is doing everything it can.

I think the editorial appearing in yesterday’s New York Times, No studies, No data, No rules.

New York Times Editorial: EPA’s Assault on Science

I fear as the damage done will take years to fix.

Stay tuned,

Dave

I have not included links on this topic, but there are many ones, very similar to the New York Times.

 

EPA in self destruct mode

I’ve commented on this before.  Readers can click on “EPA” to read prior blogs.

Republicans and Democrats drink the same water and breath the same air.  Contaminants in air come from many sources, including car emissions and chemical plants.  Pollutants  discharged into water bodies or the air can travel long distances and  do not know geographic boundaries.  This is the physical reality, requiring  the  federal environmentalists to be involved in preserving the environment beyond our borders.    We are one planet, and environmentalists in Kansas recognize they are affected by decisions in Beijing.     The rising water temperature, aided by increased Chinese carbon emissions and deforestation in Brazil, is a factor in the extreme weather variations as occurring in the northeast of the US now, and the hurricanes in Puerto Rico,  Florida and Texas last year.

I read a recent letter from a former EPA scientist, who made me so sad.  He had lung disease, and needed to live where the air quality was excellent.  Yet, the high standards which he was involved in, were likely not being  enforced by the EPA.

I’ve commented on Scott Pruitt before as the worst EPA Administrator it was created in 1970.   Both Republicans and Democrats have contributed to building the EPA before Pruitt began to destroy it.   One of the best Administrators, was William Rucklehaus,  the first and fifth administrators of the EPA.   He was a Republican, and first nominated to the post by Richard Nixon, and later became the Deputy Attorney General. He was fired by Nixon, for refusing to  firing the Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, but rehired by Reagan to head the EPA again.  Rucklehaus was able to transfer the approval of all regulations of pesticides to the EPA.   Doug Costle ran the EPA under President Carter, and followed a similar path as Rucklehaus.    President Reagan  campaigned against the EPA as an unnecessary government. He brought in Anne Gorsuch Buford to downsize the EPA.    Buford was  held in contempt of Congress when she refused to turn over documents on Superfund expenditures.

Environmental problems are big in the US because every industry has waste that they want to dispose of,  at the lowest cost, and still be within the law.  Only regulatory groups can evaluate the risk potential, using worse case scenarios.    Love Canal disaster should be taught in schools, as a modern lesson of how dumping of chemicals in the 1950’s underground,  can resurface decades later, and be contributing factors to leukemia.  The chemicals were dump in 1953, and Hooker Chemical thought by donating the land to a school, they could get rid of the mess.  Homes were built close to the school.  Parents noticed their children were betting burns  on their feet when playing barefoot. The impenetrable clay layer  seal was likely fractured by the filtration of water, which expanded as it froze in the winter.  Making American great again, is a fantasy,  because when it comes to environmental action, we are not great.  Not in the 1950’s,  not 1970’s and not today.

I’ll leave out most of this history, but you can check the links below, on Love Canal, and Superfund sites.

The number one threat to our environment is at present is  climate change.   The US should be the leader in curbing carbon emissions, but this was before Trump and Pruitt.  Pulling out of the Paris Accords on Climate Change Mitigation was a giant step backwards.   Transportation accounts for 27% of the greenhouse gases emitted (EPA estimate, 2015)  of which 90% are petroleum based.    We emit around 6,800 million metric tons (mtn) of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases, down from a peak of 7,300 mtn in 2007.    According to the EPA (current website, not the Obama archived one)

This decrease was largely driven by a decrease in emissions from fossil fuel combustion, which was a result of multiple factors including substitution from coal to natural gas consumption in the electric power sector; warmer winter conditions that reduced demand for heating fuel in the residential and commercial sectors; and a slight decrease in electricity demand.

The progress, however slight, is an unmistakable downward trend in greenhouse gases, which perhaps will not last much longer.   The lead story in the New York Times on March 30, 2018, reads:

The Trump administration is expected to kick off an effort in coming days to weaken greenhouse gases and fuel economy standards for automobiles, handing a victory to car manufacturers and giving them ammunition potentially to rollback industry standards worldwide.

Car manufacturers and oil companies will be pleased.  It is putting American first only in terms of corporate profits, not its citizens.  California is likely to fight these changes,  with 12 other states expected to follow.  It might end up with 2 sets of standards, one for most of the country, and the second for the California and the allied states.

Regulatory freedom, the right of Americans to choose the gas-guzzlers of their choice, unimpeded by big government will be EPA’s selling points.   Pruitt is expected to make the announcement at a Virginia dealership on Tuesday.   Obama had made auto emissions as strict as California, so auto manufacturers did not have to have two sets of standards for car emissions.

The states allied with California include New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and together account for a third of all car sales, according to the New York Times.  California can legally require high fuel efficiency and lower emission standards based on a waiver granted by the federal government.   Trump can take California to court, to attempt to void the waiver.   He will likely let the car industry know there will be no renewal for the waivers in 2015.

To some extent,  fuel efficiency is likely to improve as gas prices go up because of consumer demand.   Despite all the talk from Washington,  finding new oil is still increasingly more expensive and the rig count has been increasing.   However,  the consumer is not likely to care about tailpipe emissions, well until they have respiratory problems.   Then they are very interested in everyone’s emission.  So,  a newly converted Democrat, is one with breathing problems.

Thus,  a very chaotic situation is about to unfold.    California may win, at least in the short term, as auto manufacturers are not about to produce two sets of cars.   A court battle is inevitable.

It is all about the Trump administration being weak, and caving in to the big auto manufacturers.

“Environmental preservation is our test.  If we pass it, we get to save the planet.”  (ok, I’ve taken a line from Marjory Stoneman Douglas on preserving the Everglades) We can’t expect China, India and the EU to regulate their emissions when we can’t.   It will take a long time to repair Trump’s damage to our standing in the world.

I wanted write more on Pruitt’s new rules on scientific evidence, which rely solely on public information as a way of further weakening the agency.   I’ll leave this for a separate blog.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

NYT:  US Readies a Plan to Blunt Fuel and Emission Rules for Automakers

EPA:  The Love Canal Tragedy

Wikipedia: Love Canal

EPA: Sources of Greenhouse Emissions

Wikipedia:  US Withdraws from the Paris Agreement

The Antidote to Trump

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA,  is systematically weakening the EPA.  We have pulled out of the Paris Climate Change Accords, the Clean Water Rule has been suspended,  and the Clean Power Act is being repealed.   Large areas are being opened to mining and oil exploration with minimal review of potential environmental damage. The EPA budget will be reduced by 31% and 25% of the staff will be fired.

It is a tactic to please the right wing, conservative base of Trump’s administration.  The  harm is increased global warming with more extreme weather conditions, causing loss of lives and destruction of homes.   Global warming does not cause hurricanes, but it can make them more frequent and more intense as a result of warming seas.  Long term effects will be decline in the more fragile ecosystems, in  Florida and the Chesapeake Bay, with profound effects.

While Scott Pruitt is doing everything he can to make the EPA less effective,  Mike Mulvaney is going to extreme measures at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, to make the agency ineffective in defending the consumer – just the opposite of what it was set up to do.   I reported that after Equifax security was breached and information on 146 million Americans was stolen,  Mulvaney is not issuing subpoenas for information.  I’ve reported on the atrocious action in allowing Insurance Bi-Weekly to get back in business (not requesting bond equal to their judgement while it was being appealed).

There is a long list of what Trump is doing wrong.  I happen to like Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, but Trump is always undercutting him, and cutting back on the “soft power” of the US,  by diminishing our role in the UN and not filling diplomatic posts.   I think Jeff Sessions is honest and forthright, not allowing the Mueller investigation to become political.    Trump has criticized Sessions for recusing himself from the Mueller investigation, calling him weak.

At this point, the antidote to this, is to elect Democrats to the Senate and House of Representatives in the Fall to help  repair the damage.  There are very few Republicans with a strong environmental record.  We need responsible government and a president that truly believes in a progressive agenda.   I don’t know who I’ll vote for in the next presidential election, but it won’t be for Trump.  The BS coming from Fox News and other conservative outlets is strong, but people can see their way past this stuff.

The best antidote for what is going on in Washington, is an active and informed electorate.  It’s called critical thinking and taking action primarily at the ballot box.

Stay tuned,

Dave

It’s not about puddles, but keeping our water clean

 

“If you had a puddle in your land, (the EPA) called it a lake for the purposes of environmentals.”  Donald Trump,  CPAC, February 23, 2018.  I’m sure he meant environmentalists.  CPAC is the Conservative Political Action Conference.    This claim is  absurd.

I had also wanted to call this dirty water and dirty politics.  It is the collusion of polluters mainly in agricultural states, who allow runoff from farms into streams and wetlands and conservatives within the Republican party.

Scott Pruitt has suspended enforcement of the Clean Water Rule, as enacted in 2015 as of January 31, 2018.   Another words, he made it more difficult for the EPA to do its job – to ensure the US water bodies are free from pollutants and maintain  thriving ecosystems.   He did not abolish the rule, because this requires a formal process.  He will just ignore the rule.

The Clean Water rule was not easy to enact.  It clarified what is meant by the “nation’s water bodies.”  Per the EPA site during the Obama administration:

“Science shows us the most important waters to protect. In developing the Clean Water Rule, the EPA and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers utilized the latest science, including a report summarizing more than 1,200 peer-reviewed, published scientific studies which showed that small streams and wetlands play an important role in the health of larger downstream waterways like rivers and lakes.”

 

 

The web address as shown above is no longer active.      See EPA archive website: Why clean water rules matter?

The website address is archive.epa.gov

The following is from Wikipedia:

“The rule ensures that Clean Water Act (CWA) programs are more precisely defined and intends to save time and avoid costs and confusion in future implementation of the act. The rule intends to make it is easier to predict what action(s) will be taken by the EPA and what processes companies and other stakeholders may have to undergo for projects and permitting. There are no direct changes to the law under the Clean Water Rule. After analysis, the EPA and Department of the Army found that higher instance of water coverage would produce a 2:1 ratio of benefits to costs in implementation after the final rule. Implementation of the rule will discern any implications for environmental justice communities, though it is clear that “meaningful involvement from minority, low-income, and indigenous populations, as well as other stakeholders, has been a cornerstone of development of the final rule.”

 Specific details that have been clarified by the rule as outlined below.
  • Defines more clearly the tributaries and adjacent waters that are under federal jurisdiction and explains how they are covered

A tributary, or upstream water, must show physical features of flowing water – a bed, bank, and ordinary high water mark – to warrant protection. The rule provides protection for headwaters that have these features and have a significant connection to downstream waters. Adjacent waters are defined by three qualifying circumstances established by the rule. These can include wetlands, ponds, impoundments, and lakes which can impact the chemical, biological or physical integrity of neighboring waters.

  • Carries over existing exclusions from the Clean Water Act

All existing exclusions from longstanding agency practices are officially established for the first time. Waters used in normal agricultural, ranching, or silvicultural activities, as well as certain defined ditches, prior converted cropland, and waste treatment systems continue to be excluded.

  • Reduces categories of waters which are subject to case-by-case analysis

Before the rule, almost any water could be put through an analysis that remained case-specific, even if it would not be covered under CWA. The rule limits use of case-specific analysis by providing certainty and clarity of protected vs non-protected water. Ultimately the rule saves time and avoids further evaluation and the need to take the case to court.

  • Protects US “regional water treasures”

Specific watersheds have been shown to impact downstream water health.  The rule protects Texas coastal prairie wetlands, Carolina and Delmarva bays, western vernal pools in Californiapocosins, and other prairie potholes, when impacting downstream waterways.

This is not the way to make America Great Again.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

EDF Blog on EPA’s Suspension will set a dangerous precedent

EPA Under Obama:  Clean Water Rule: Streams and Wetlands Matter

Wikipedia: Clean Water Act (1972)

Clean Water Rule

 

 

 

South Africa’s turn to experience global warming

 

“Is it [global warming] an existential threat? Is it something that is unsustainable, or what kind of effect or harm is this going to have? I mean, we know that humans have most flourished during times of what? Warming trends,” Pruitt said. “I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing. Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100? In the year 2018? I mean it’s fairly arrogant for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100.”

Scientific predictions are inexact and subject to constant correction.  Pruitt’s attacks on climate change  and other environmental problems are  always to find some weaknesses in scientific studies, exaggerate their effects and then attack anyone who might accept these conclusions as either stupid or arrogant. He spent most of last year identifying why global warming might not be occurring and now seems to be saying that it might be a good thing.

Climate change helps create extreme weather events.   It is never a simple case of cause and effect.  It is more that climate change is a significant contributing factor to catastrophic weather events, like the hurricane Maria that destroyed large parts of Dominica and Puerto Rico and the hurricane Irma that caused destruction on both sides of Florida.   Studies indicated that the  sea water in the Gulf of Mexico was warmer than normal and helped these hurricanes to grow in size and strength.

Climate change is worldwide.   Now it’s Cape Town in South Africa’s turn.  Cape Town is experiencing a “one in 1,000  year” drought.  Scientists believe climate change has contributed to this drought.   Also, increases in population and inadequate funding of other water sources, such as desalination plants, contributed to the crisis.  Americans use about 80 to 100 gallons per day.   In Cape Town, this is a crime.  Water usage as of Feb 1, 2018 is limited to 50 liters, or about 12 gallons per day –   not enough for cooking, showers and toilet flushes.  They don’t know exactly  when the supply of water will go to zero, but it’s real soon.  It was May 11, 2018.  Now it’s July 9.  On Day Zero, peoples’ taps will no longer supply water.  People will stand in line with water containers for hours at designated locations.

Name 3 places Scott Pruitt is unlikely to visit:  Cape Town,  Florida and Puerto Rico.  I could name a dozen more.     The evidence of global warming are everywhere.  Ski resorts in Italy and Switzerland are opening later in the winter and closing earlier.  They increasingly depend on artificial snow making machines.  Islands in the South Pacific are getting smaller as water levels rise.  Residents are abandoning their homes.  Same thing is happening in northern Alaska as the ice melts.

It’s bad and getting worse.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia:  Scott Pruitt

Foundation for Climate Change Orientation

South Africa’s drought-stricken Cape Town pushes back ‘Day Zero’ to July 9

 

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

Climate Change Report Released!

It sure looked like the EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was doing everything in his power to attack the independence of environmental scientists within his Department, when he refuse to allow 3 scientists to make presentations at the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program in Rhode Island.

Then came a breath of fresh air.  In November 3,  the first part of the National Assessment on  Climate Change Effects, was published.   See links at the end of this blog for the report.    They don’t call it Global Warming anymore,  but that still a big part of the overall problems associated with the 5 billion metric tons of carbon emissions the US sends into the atmosphere.   With 5% of the world’s population, we are responsible for nearly 30% of all carbon emissions.  The weather patterns are changing around the planet causing more severe storms and droughts.  The poorer African nations will suffer the most, as there are more famines.

Why didn’t Scott Pruitt block this one?   It was because it did not come directly from the EPA,  but rather a multi-agency scientific group as described in their report below.  Second, the National Assessment had to be done, as a matter of law, and the report provided to Congress and the President.   Trump couldn’t really block it, without creating more publicity for the report.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was established by Presidential initiative in 1989 and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990. Its mandate is to develop and coordinate “a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”

USGCRP comprises 13 Federal agencies that conduct or use research on global change and its impacts on society. It functions under the direction of the Subcommittee on Global Change Research of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability.

USGCRP has three major sets of responsibilities: (a) coordinating global change research across the Federal government, (b) developing and distributing mandated products, and (c) helping to inform decisions.

One of the products mandated by the GCRA is a quadrennial assessment that USGCRP is to prepare and submit to the President and the Congress. This assessment, referred to as the National Climate Assessment (NCA), is directed by the GCRA to:

-Integrate, evaluate, and interpret the findings of the Program and discuss the scientific uncertainties associated with such findings

– Analyze the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity

– Analyze current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and project major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years

Environmental scientists from the EPA participated in the study.  The report is limited to the effects of climate change within the US.  The United Nations studies climate change on a worldwide basis.

This lead agency in preparation of this report is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA),  operating under the Department of Commerce.  Hopefully,  it stays there as if it is moved to the DOE or EPA,   it would be immediately filled with political appointees.  Particularly bad if the EPA someday  takes over NOAA.

The last assessment was done in 2014.  The opening lines from this report were very powerful:

Climate change is happening now. The United States and the world are warming, global sea level is rising, and some types of extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe. These changes have already resulted in a wide range of impacts across every region of the country and many sectors of the economy.

The new assessment is similar to the 2014 report in reporting the consequences of climate change.  It wasn’t blocked by the Trump administration because really they couldn’t block a report that was the result of 13 governmental agencies.   This is where our country excels, in collaborative efforts of experts in the complex area of climate change.  The warming of our seas is a likely contributing factor in causing more intense hurricanes, on the 4 to 5 level scale.  A little bit of information that Scott Pruitt felt was inappropriate to discuss two months ago.  Maybe now is the time.

Links:

Climate Science Special Report – Nov 2017

A Climate Science Report That Changes Minds? Don’t Bet on It 

Washington Post- No alternative explanation

Stay tuned,

Dave