“President Obama tends to lecture the wealthy about how they spend their money — how they spend their money. This $4 million vacation, though, is an example of how he is spending our money.” – BRYAN PRESTON
EPA mercury rules for electricity generating units are based on false science and economics
The Environmental Protection Agency clams its “final proposed” Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rules will eliminate toxic pollution from electrical generating units, bring up to $140 billion in annual health benefits, and prevent thousands of premature deaths yearly – all for “only” $11 billion a year in compliance costs.
This may be true in the virtual reality of EPA computer models, linear extrapolations, cherry-picked health studies and statistics, government press releases and agency-generated public comments. However, in the real world inhabited by families, employers and other energy users, the new rules will bring few benefits, but will impose extensive costs that the agency chose to minimize or ignore in its analysis.
Emissions of mercury and other air toxics from power plants have been declining steadily for decades, as older generating units have been replaced with more efficient, less polluting systems or retrofitted with better pollution control technologies. While a few older plants still violate EPA’s draconian proposed rules – the new rules are not based on credible scientific and epidemiological studies.
As independent natural scientist Dr. Willie Soon and CFACT policy advisor Paul Driessen pointed out in their Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily articles, and in Dr. Soon’s 85-page critique of EPA’s draft rules, US power plants account for only 0.5% of the mercury in US air. Thus, even if EPA’s new rules eventually do eliminate 90% of mercury from power plant emission streams, that’s still only 90% of 0.5% – ie, almost zero reduction. The rest of the mercury in US air comes from natural and foreign sources, such as forest fires, Chinese power plants and the cremation of human remains (from tooth fillings that contain mercury and silver).
EPA fails to recognize that mercury is abundant in the earth’s crust. It is absorbed by trees through their roots – and released into the atmosphere when the trees are burned in forest fires, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. In fact, US forest fires annually emit as much mercury as all US coal-burning electrical power plants. Mercury and other “pollutants” are also released by geysers, volcanoes and subsea vents, which tap directly into subsurface rock formations containing these substances.
The agency compounds these errors by claiming fish contain dangerous levels of mercury that threatens the health and mental acuity of babies and children. In making this claim, the agency commits four more grievous errors. First, it ignores the fact that selenium in fish tissue is strongly attracted to mercury molecules and thus protects people against buildups of methylmercury, mercury’s more toxic form.
Second, EPA based its toxicity claims on a study of Faroe Islanders, who eat few fruits and vegetables, but feast on pilot whale meat and blubber that is high in mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) – but very low in selenium. Third, it ignored a 17-year Seychelles Islands evaluation, which found “no measurable cognitive or behavioral effects” in children who eat five to twelve servings of fish per week.
Fourth, it used computer models to generate linear extrapolations from known or assumed toxic levels down to much lower levels. Not only is this method contrary to sound science and epidemiology; it resulted in politicized “safety” levels that are twice as restrictive as Canadian and World Health Organization mercury standards, three times more restrictive than US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and four times tougher than US Food and Drug Administration recommendations. No wonder the Centers for Disease Control says blood mercury levels in US women and children are already well below excessively “safe” levels set by EPA.
Simply put, EPA grossly exaggerated the health benefits of its proposed mercury rules – and then claimed additional mercury benefits based on double counting of reductions in particulate matter. It also ignored the adverse effects that its rules will inflict. Not only is EPA’s anti-mercury campaign scaring mothers and children into not eating nutritious fish that is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. It is also raising electricity heating, air conditioning and food costs, impairing electrical reliability, costing jobs, and thereby harming the health and welfare of countless Americans.
Energy analyst Roger Bezdek has calculated that utilities will have to spend $130 billion to retrofit older plants – and another $30 billion a year to operate, maintain and power the energy-intensive pollution control equipment they will be forced to install. Moreover, under its MACT rules, EPA intends to micromanage every aspect of power plant operations. It will now cite companies for violations even if emissions fully comply with air quality standards, if operators merely deviate from new agency “work practice standards” and “operational guidelines,” even under unusual weather conditions or equipment malfunctions that are beyond the operators’ control.
While it is true that older power plants are more significant sources of toxic air emissions, those plants are mostly in key manufacturing states that burn coal to generate 48-98% of their electricity. Many utility companies cannot justify those huge costs – and thus plan to close dozens of units, representing tens of thousands of megawatts – enough to electrify tens of millions of homes and small businesses. Illinois alone will lose nearly 3,500 MW of reliable, affordable, baseload electricity – with little to replace it.
Electricity consumers could pay at least 20% more in many states within a few years. According to the Chicago Tribune, Illinois families and businesses will pay 40-60% more. That will severely affect business investment, production and hiring – and family plans to repair cars and homes, save for college and retirement, take vacations, or have health physicals or surgery.
Chicago public schools will have to pay an additional $2.7 million annually for electricity by 2014, says the Tribune. Hospitals, factories and other major electricity users will also be hard hit.
Many poor and minority families will find it increasingly hard to afford proper heating and air conditioning. Further job losses and economic stress will lead to further reductions in living standards and nutrition, more foreclosures and homelessness, and additional drug, alcohol, spousal and child abuse.
The very reliability of America’s electricity grid could be at risk, if multiple power plants shut down. Brownouts, blackouts and power interruptions will affect factory production lines, hospital, school, farm and office operations, employment, and the quality of food, products and services.
The impact on people’s health and welfare is patently obvious. But EPA considered none of this.
EPA insists there was strong public support for its rules. However, its rules were clearly based on false, biased or even fraudulent information. Furthermore, EPA itself generated much of that public support.
The agency recruited, guided and financed activist groups that promoted its rulemaking. Over the past decade, it gave nearly $4 billion to the American Lung Association and other advocacy organizations and various “environmental justice” groups, according to a Heritage Foundation study. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and members of her staff also visited historically black and other colleges – giving speeches about “toxic emissions,” providing templates for scare-mongering posters and postcards, and making it easy for students to send pro-rulemaking comments via click-and-submit buttons on websites.
This EPA action does nothing to improve environmental quality or human health. In fact, by advancing President Obama’s goal of shutting down power plants and raising electricity costs, it impairs job creation, economic recovery, and public health and welfare. It is intrusive government at its worst.
It is a massive power grab that threatens to give EPA nearly unfettered power over the electrical power we need to support our livelihoods and living standards.
Congress, states, utility companies, affected industries, school districts and hospitals, and families and citizen groups should immediately take action to postpone the MACT rules’ implementation.
Otherwise, their harmful impacts will be felt long and hard in states that depend on coal for their electricity.
Craig Rucker is CEO of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.
There’s something profoundly tragic about the failed presidency of Barack Obama. He was supposed to be a new kind of president, a man who embodied hope and would transcend petty politics and even race. Instead, we’re left with a downgraded America that is stagnating under the weight of its bloated government. As tragic as that alone is, even this is but a mere symptom of Mr. Obama’s larger fundamental failure: He simply does not trust the Americans who entrusted him with the presidency.
Most presidents, we believe, ascend to the Oval Office, but for the 44th president, the reverse seems true. Whatever majesty the White House can muster must rise to the grandiosity of Barack Obama. “We are the ones we have been waiting for,” said the man who writes autobiographies and later would claim to control the rise of the oceans.
As recently as this month, the food-stamp president of 13 million unemployed Americans declared himself the fourth-most-accomplished president in the history of the United States, eclipsing, in his own mind, President Reagan and even our nation’s father, George Washington. That in only three years. Barack the Magnificent won’t allow trivialities like $15 trillion debts or historic national credit downgrades dissuade him.
Mr. Obama may care deeply for America, but he believes in only one thing: Barack Obama. And you are not Barack Obama.
SideBear: From the comment line:
We have probably had narcissists as president before but never a malignant one whose behavior rises to the level of a true mental condition that is evident in his behavior and what he says. 0bama has come this || close to openly asking Americans to worship him. Note that this columnist is also 0bama’s cousin. – Unknown
President Obama has had the worst year of his presidency. Or, to be more precise, his performance this year has been the worst of his presidency. Pundits and pollsters will say that his “numbers are up,” but let’s look at what he’s done or not done.
If you can recall, back in February his State of the Union address was a bore-a-thon stocked with spending ideas (on everything from light rail to salmon), with only glancing reference to the debt. His grand proposal: Freeze discretionary spending at the astronomically high level he had presided over in his first two years.
The next few months were spent bashing the only man to author a serious budget plan and put real Medicare reform on the table. He not only rebuffed Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposals but invited him to a speech, put him in the first row and then delivered a hyper-partisan attack, accusing the Republicans of taking Pell grants from college kids so fat cats could get a break on corporate jets.
Pandering will sink us, will weaken our foundations and our unique culture; a culture of tolerance yet of logic, of equality but also of independence.
It is our behavior (and not our thoughts) that should be the real issue. How we treat each other, whether we abuse or respect each other, whether we acknowledge all people with equality and fairness. That is the American way.
It is not the American way to become more like Saudi Arabia or Iran. There they have public dress codes, Shariah law and other niceties like stonings, beheadings and honor killings. Ours is a modern society based on humanistic behavior, on accommodating the individual – not serving the Sheik, the Imam, the police or local thugs.
Here we protect and nurture the individual, not subvert our freedoms in the service of the “greater good” as defined by Allah’s unblemished representatives here on earth, or by a dictator’s goons, as the case may be.
When the Irish, the Jews, the Indians and the Hindus applied for jobs, they chose their workplace and accommodated to the rules accordingly. When was the last time a Hasidic Jew with full length black coat and fur hat demonstrated outside Miami City Hall for the right to wear their preferred dress in any job of their choosing? When did Hindus demand new cafeterias to accommodate their dietary needs? When did Mormons require separate prayer facilities or Buddhists their temples? What of vegetarians, anorexics, Rastafarians?
Now Disney must accommodate the Hijab. And what if these Hijabs morph into the Taliban style Burkas? Why do the needs of the wearer, to hide all but the eyes, trump the sensitivities of the paying public, the understandable focus of the employer? Why does the Islamic disdain of certain Minnesota taxis for dogs and alcohol take precedence over the cab rider’s normal and standard needs? Why install at our universities footbaths, Shariah compliant toilets, Hallal cafeterias and private prayer areas for a vociferous minority when every other minority (and there are many indeed) managed for decades in peace and mutual tolerance without demonstrations or violence? How many businesses can afford 5 prayer breaks a day? The religious Jew prays comfortably before and after work. Christians, Bahai, Buddist and the majority of Muslims meld rather than seek to dominate or separate?
I suspect the difference is either insecure or exaggerated victimization or possibly an imperialistic belief in religious and cultural domination. The truth is that whether a Muslim is a radical fanatic or merely strongly Shariah compliant and traditionally observant, many committed Muslims today would prefer Sharia law to have a stronger role in our laws, our mores and our social structures. They would prefer Islam to become the dominant or the sole World religion, for the Muslim Caliphate to once again reign supreme. They believe, as their dominant version of the Koran is clearly interpreted across the Muslim world, that their God is the only God, that their way is the only way and that domination is their right and their goal, whether by creeping Shariah, by internal change of their adopted country or by violent Jihadism. This is not personal conjecture – this is the current predominant Wahabi view as exported by much of the mosques and madrassas worldwide, courtesy of our Saudi friends who have spent more than 2 billion dollars annually on their outreach program. Ahmadinejad’s version of his own Shia caliphate (world domination) is not difficult to discern. This essential difference of our time is not well understood by the West. In the past, various cultures and religious expressions were happy to share the world with all others, a certain “live and let live” tolerance, where multiple paths lead to God, many lifestyles to happiness. Just honor my boundaries and I will in turn honor yours. No longer.
The new imperialism is no longer British riflemen marching into the Punjab, or Catholic missionaries and Spain’s armies devastating the Indians of the South and Central Americas. No, the new imperialism is as insidious as it is subtle. It uses our laws, our freedoms, our delicate tolerances and passionate fair play to open our societies to all, to endlessly accommodate all, even those who would subvert, dominate and abuse our world and all its largely moderate citizens.
We should draw a line in the sand and say, enough. Why allow our hard earned freedoms and unrivalled refinements to be subverted by the fundamentalisms of the 7th century Middle East? For those who love and respect our freedoms we welcome you, members of all faiths, all religions, all cultures – for those who wish to push us back into the Dark Ages, we invite you to return to those dozens of countries, those nonexistent democracies, that practice these inanities, that specialize in the subjugation of women, the subversion of the individual.
We have freedoms worth fighting for, worth preserving. And many, hopefully more with time, are prepared likewise to do so. We should be a beacon for all the unfree, the abused, the disenfranchised. We already have a surfeit of tolerance in the West – we need to ensure our privileges are preserved and then shared more freely, more visibly amongst all those countries where freedom remains just a distant mirage.