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.

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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.

Ignorance is bliss

“So long as I know it not, it hurteth mee not.”

I like the original proverb, by G. Pettie in 1576 than today’s  version, “What I don’t know can’t hurt me.”   Unfortunately, what we don’t know, does hurt us.   From our ignorance we just don’t know the best way to respond to problems.

The Environmental Protection Agency cancelled the participation of three of their scientists in the Narragansett  Bay Estuary Program’s workshop.  One scientist was prohibited from giving a keynote address at the workshop.  The other two scientists removed from the program were to speak about “The Present and Future Biological Implications of Climate Change.”

See Links:

The EPA Stopped Three Agency Scientists From Talking About Climate Change at a Conference

Even Fox Business News reported the story:

EPA cancels appearance by scientists at climate change conference

An  estuary is   where fresh outflows come in contact with the salt water from bays or oceans. They are particular sensitive ecosystems.  Fresh water inflows may contain contaminants harmful to the more saline water in the estuary and depend on plants and other material  to act as to keep the ecosystem in balance.   See link:

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/estuaries/estuaries03_ecosystem.html

EPA Director Scott Pruitt clearly put politics ahead of science.  Climate change is harmful to estuaries.  See link below:

NOAA report highlights climate change threats to nation’s estuaries

Fortunately,  NOAA is under the US Department of Commerce, out of the reach of Pruitt.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Hurricanes and Global Warming

I try to avoid certain topics which the media has covered in excruciating detail such as the current series of  hurricanes.   The Russian probe and chaos in the White House would also be included in this group.

However,  I wanted to add a bit more on the topic of  the recent series of hurricanes and global warming which deserves repeating.  There is a connection as there is ocean warming as well as average air temperature warming.   It was an early conclusion of scientists that global warming would result in more extreme weather events.   Certainly, the images of the immense hurricane Irma followed by Jose in the Atlantic ocean and Katia in the Gulf of Mexico would suggest that something way out of the ordinary is going on.

Saying that global warming caused Hurricane Harvey or Irma is way too simplistic.  The severity of a hurricane depends on where it lands.   If Harvey had dumped tons of water in the Gulf of Mexico instead of Houston or Irma had taken just a slightly less turn to the north and missed Florida,  nobody would have cared.  Warm Caribbean waters are an essential element for the formation of catastrophic hurricanes, and is a trend associated with global warming.  Perhaps scientists are a bit reluctant to make  more definitive statements on this relationship because there are so many other impacts of global warming such as increasing sea levels which are directly linked to global warming.

See link:

Hurricanes and Global Warming

The denial of global warming by the White House is truly a sad situation.  My heart goes out for the residents in the Caribbean islands.   I suggest everyone consider making a donation to charity organizations helping them to rebuild.

Stay tuned,

Dave

How much of Trump’s speech on exiting the Paris Accords was true?

It was an amazing concoction of false statements and misleading or invalid statistics.   Of course, this is Trump’s style.  The transcript of the speech is shown below:

Transcript of the speech

In fact, it is hard to find anything remotely honest in the entire speech.  All the dire economic consequences of the Accords were from an outside consulting study (NERA)  based on  highly unrealistic set of assumptions. The NERA study had other scenarios with more realistic assumptions.  It was produced in March 2017 and paid for by a conservative political organization.    None of the economic projections were  based on EPA studies.  Other studies  have repeatedly shown many positives to our economy, including  investments in clean energy will  create many high paying jobs.

It would have been a simple  2 minute speech if it were a honest one, as it would read, “Steve Bannon and the extreme conservatives don’t like the accord, because like the UN itself, we spend money to help solve the world’s problem.  Plus, global warming isn’t like crime in the streets; it doesn’t make big headlines in the news.”

Trump began his speech by mentioning the  casino attack in the Philippines as  a terrorist attack.  It was a botched robbery according to police.  But, at the time of the speech, ISIS had claimed responsibility, as they are prone to do with almost  any mass killings.  So, Trump has as supporting evidence, only ISIS.

Trump mentioned a long list of achievements, which really overlap with the Obama administration.    The job increase was really inline with gains in employment seen from about October 2016 until now.  Nothing remarkable.

The word “Global Warming” was not in Trump’s speech, nor is there any admission of a problem of our carbon emission.  His line, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh not Paris” received applause from those gathered in the Rose Garden.   The Paris Accord is a world agreement of 193 counties which could have been agreed upon in Pittsburgh.

It is a voluntary agreement, where each country makes pledges or commitments to reduce their own emissions.  Some environmentalists were disappointed at how low the targets were, but at least there were these basic elements (1) Admission that a global problem exists (2) Carbon emissions by the 193 countries can be monitored and reported to the United Nations (3) Each country is free to determine how they will reduce their emissions and (4) Developed countries will each set up a “Green Fund” to assist undeveloped countries in developing technology and programs to produce clean energy.

The citizens of Pittsburgh will pay more for food,  along with the rest of the US, as flooding and violent storms increases due to global warming. To keep our farms functioning,  taxpayers will continue to subsidize crop insurance, right now about 26 billion dollars.  It’s going to get a whole lot worse.  Sea levels will rise and places like Florida will have a difficult time with their fresh water supply.

With the dismantling of the Clean Power Act, solar energy investments will slow and jobs will be lost.  Coal employment (~60,000 employees) is not going to recover because power plants will use natural gas.   A good example is Cloud Peak Energy, which had a market cap of 500 million on November 7, 2016, now is reduced in half to 250 million.   Peabody Coal came out of bankruptcy on April 10, 2017 and so far has lost about 10% in market value  (market cap losses = 235 million dollars).

I saw on the news last night, a wonderful woman from West Virginia saying, “I’m not a climate change denier.”

Now the fact checking:

Factcheck.org

Politifact.com

The  economic statistics were generated in March 2017 by a consulting firm, which Trump pulled some statistics based on some extreme assumptions.

The Paris Accords were terribly miss  characterized by Trump.  Each country has pledged targets for carbon emissions and it is up to each country to develop programs or technologies to achieve these goals. Some countries are doing well in achieving their target goals.

I like how Politifact.com described the economic statistics:

Trump cited a number of negative statistics about the predicted economic impact from the climate deal, including a $3 trillion drop in gross domestic product, 6.5 million industrial sector jobs lost and 86 percent reduction in coal production, all by 2040.

Take these statistics with a grain of salt.

It’s just more BS, to be honest.

Politifact.com  and factcheck.org  websites found very similar dishonest statements.

Economic statistics:  Based on a flawed study

The statement, “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. But, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement.”  is not in the agreement.

Statement, “At 3-4% growth, as I expect, we will need all forms of American energy, or our country will be at grave risk of brownouts and blackouts.”

A growth rate of 3 to 4% hasn’t happened in the last 12 years.  The red hot economy of 2005 ended with the collapse of housing market in 2007, and the recession lasting through 2009.  What seems immensely absent in the speech, is that fossil fuels are non-renewable fuels. Their extraction is becoming more expensive not because of regulation, but because we have used up so much of the easy to extract fossil fuels.

Global warming needs carbon emissions monitoring and goal setting.  Obama set this in motion.  Trump just denies the problem exists.  Trump is not making the country great.  He is making China great by sacrificing our technological leadership in clean energy.   June 1, 2017 was a disgraceful day, as we exited the world accord on global warming with a speech with a rapid fire series of flawed statistics and dishonest conclusions.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paris Climate Agreement

This international agreement was signed in April 2016, by President Obama.   A short summary of the agreement is given in Wikipedia as follows:

Paris Climate Agreement

Critics immediately charged that the agreement is really a treaty and requires 2/3 vote from the Senate to become binding.   IF what  the conservative Heartland Institute said was true, then Obama should have been impeached:

“It is an absolute disgrace that President Obama would assume powers found nowhere in our Constitution to sign a treaty that has never been considered by our Congress — which would reject it if given the opportunity,” said Jay Lehr, science director with the outspoken free-market group Heartland Institute. “To take such a hollow and illegal step as he ends his presidency should tarnish his legacy forever as a man who thought himself king, not president.”

So, President Trump can declare this Agreement to be a Treaty,  and send it to the Senate for approval.   But, he would be opting for a quiet burial in the Senate and that would be pretty obvious.

But,  Trump likes Executive Orders and the agreement seems really to fall into this category because the agreement does not legally compel the US to cut back carbon emissions.

The real zinger is that three of the major coal companies (Arch, Cloud Peak, and Peabody)  want the US to stay in the agreement, as they see the advantage of having  a major pro-coal power  “at the table.”  Otherwise, European leaders will lead the show, not good for the international interests of US companies.

Pulling out of the accord will not go over well with Chinese leaders, who are aggressively cutting their own emissions.  The smoke from coal burning has created a real health concern in many Chinese cities.  We need Chinese cooperation desperately to reign in North Korea’s nuclear program.

Right now, our new Secretary of Energy seems most content with cleaning house, removing any global warming believers as possible.  With the new, ineffective DOE, a policy change to do nothing, seems likely.  I believe Trump has said he is studying the options on climate change and our commitment to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Paris Agreement.

The smaller countries who have signed the agreement, are likely looking to the US to help them with alternative energy sources.  This doesn’t mesh well with Trump’s hyper nationalistic themes.

A meeting is scheduled for May 18, 2017 in Bonn.   Four top polluters, China, India, US Japan and the EU have ratified the accord.    Russia looks like the major climate change denier as it has not ratified the agreement,

   List of carbon emissions by country 

Does Trump really want to join Russia and be the world’s second climate change denier?

Stay tuned,

Dave

A Seat at the Table for the Devil

The Paris Climate Agreement was considered a major breakthrough by most environmentalists.  The US was e in a leadership role recognizing  carbon emissions reductions requires international agreements, particularly from Brazil, India and China.

Trump vigorously campaigned against the Paris  Climate Agreement.   He said repeatedly the Agreement  was against our national interest, and was a job killing/ coal industry destruction plan.  The Democrats were trying to put the coal industry out of business.

Now, two of the largest coal companies,  Peabody and Cloud Peak are urging Trump to break his promises and stay in the Paris Climate Agreement.     Murray Energy,  a private company which bills itself as America’s largest coal company, wants Trump to pull out.  Robert Murray was at the signing of the Executive Orders to rescind the Clean Power regulations.

The reasons to stay in, is to keep EU leaders from taking control and setting tight international  environmental standards on the burning of coal.    This would hurt US export of coal, which declined by 23% in 2015.  The 2016 figures have not yet been released, but I don’t expect any better numbers. Our exports are around 74 million short tons.  Major declines in exports were from UK, Italy and South Korea in 2015.

It is also quoted in the article below that pulling out of the Accords might affect World Bank funding for international coal projects, which would hurt only the very large coal companies. Most of the coal companies operate only in the US.   Peabody coal owns coal  mines in Australia.  It may be there is concern with World Bank financing new coal generating plants.  Being part of the Accords can give the major platform to promote “clean coal technology.”

US Coal Companies ask Trump to stick with Paris Climate Deal

Trump’s campaign rode on Republican rhetoric and the highly simplistic theme of  America First.   The most pro-coal industry president we ever had, may end up doing more harm than good to his supporters.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

Coal Companies and Jobs

For those who watch Jim Cramer’s Mad Money show, one might thing the coal producers would be the perfect “Trump stock” as the EPA is set to reverse course on air pollution standard regulations, enacted during the Obama era.

But coal stocks are not doing well at least in the last 3 months.  Since the beginning of 2017, Arch Coal (ARCH) is down 16% and Cloud Peak Energy (CLD) is down 27%.

We have plenty of coal resources, but declining demand.  See prior post, “Coal Craziness” for more details with links.   The decline in employment over the last 70 years or so, is due to a high level of mechanization in the mines as well as less demand for coal.  The electric producers will use the lowest cost fuel, and natural gas is a very competitive alternative to coal.

I suggested in my last post, that coal miners might be able to retrain for the more lucrative area of the manufacturing of  solar energy photo-voltaic panels.  A recent university study suggests this is possible, and the benefits would be enormous:

Coal to solar transition

The coal industry is not disappearing (sorry Al Gore) but the solar energy industry is likely to be booming in the next 5 to 10 years.

Investing in solar energy has been a bumpy ride.   I would never think “green energy” and Trump policies go together.  But based on  year to date, investing in a solar power fund  (KWT)  would have made about 10%, better than the market average of 6%.    Pulling out the international agreements to reduce fossil fuel emissions, and subsidies for the solar industry are among the worst plans of the Trump administration.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Clean Power Plan

I’m afraid under Gov Rick Perry as head of Department of Energy and Scott Pruitt as head of EPA, the Clean Power Plan will soon to become history.    It is a real shame.  The Clean water and Air Acts were signed into law by Richard Nixon, and stood strong through Reagan, Bush (H.W.),  Bush (W), and 16 years of democratic party  presidents.

Scott Pruitt is a horrible choice.   The mantra of Republicans is regulation is bad for business and business will make America great again.  However, it is  a giant step backwards for international cooperation for environmental needs.

We can not expect other countries around the world to work with us in curbing carbon emissions, if we are not doing our part.

China and the US produce the most CO2, accounting for 45% of emissions:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions

The top ten producers, include India and the EU, and account for 68% of carbon emissions.

Carbon emissions cause global warming, and serious breathing problems, particularly with those suffering from asthma.

The Republicans don’t have a plan- except if you consider downplaying the problem and delaying any real solutions as a plan.  Energy generated by coal typically generates twice the carbon emissions than natural gas.  Cleaning  up of CO2 emissions from coal fired plants increases costs.  The decline in coal usage has occurred as more operators prefer natural gas (also a polluter).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_Power_Plan

The Clean Power Plan isn’t perfect.  Critics abound who can tell you the flaws in the program in an instant.  However,  the alternative (see Republican Plan) is horrible, so going from a horrible situation to a flawed one, is a step in the right direction.

Without a real US plan,  we likely lose support from China, India, EU countries, Japan and Russia.

Stay tuned,

Dave