Clean Coal by Wire

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Clean Coal Project (Photo credit: Travis S.)

Guest post by Viv Forbes

There is a persistent green myth that coal-fired power generation causes city smogs. It does not.

City air pollution is nothing new. King Edward I complained about London pollution in 1306, as did Queen Elizabeth I in 1578, long before the first steam engine operated.

Let’s look at the causes of some famous smogs – London/Pittsburgh, Los Angeles/Santiago, the Dust Bowls and the Asian Smogs.

The London smogs were caused by open-air combustion of newspapers, wood and cheap high-sulphur unwashed coal in domestic fires, stoves and boilers; by coal-burning blacksmiths, brewers and ironworkers in smoky forges, furnaces and coke plants; and by many smoky steam locomotives; all with inefficient combustion and no pollution controls. The smog was slowly eliminated by clean air regulations and by changing to “clean coal by pipe” (town gas) and “clean coal by wire” (electricity).

The Los Angeles smogs were caused mainly by backyard incinerators, vehicle exhausts and natural air inversions. They were reduced by using cleaner fuels, better engines and compulsory pollution-control equipment. Santiago has undergone a similar clean-up.

The Dust Bowl conditions of the Great Plains in USA were caused by drought and wind erosion of newly cultivated soils. Gobi Desert storms produced the Yellow River and the Yellow Sea and contribute to the Asian Brown Cloud today.

Today’s Asian smogs have many sources – forest fires in Indonesia; open air cremations in India; dust from volcanic eruptions and desert storms; soot, ash and other pollutants from millions of domestic rubbish fires, mosquito fires, cooking fires and heaters using anything combustible – cow dung, wood, paper, cardboard, plastic or cheap unwashed coal; and soot and unburnt hydro-carbons from millions of vehicles, many with engines needing maintenance and no pollution controls. Beijing today combines the 1950’s problems of both London and Los Angeles.

The Asian smog is NOT caused by producing electricity in modern power stations with closed boilers, pollution controls and using high-quality washed coal such as exported by Australia to Asia. The “power station pollution” pictured so eagerly in ABC and Green propaganda is actually steam from the cooling towers.

The main products released by modern coal-fired power stations are water vapour and carbon dioxide – both are essential life supporters. Neither one is dangerous. Both make our climate more liveable, but the contribution of carbon dioxide to climate is tiny. And the carbon dioxide produced by burning coal has done more to encourage the growth of plants and the greening of planet Earth than Greenpeace will ever do.

“Clean coal by wire” into every home is the one thing that could solve much of the Asian air pollution.

Viv Forbes,

Rosewood Qld Australia
forbes@carbon-sense.com

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56 thoughts on “Clean Coal by Wire

  1. Viv Forbes – You need to provide links to supporting information, otherwise we have no simple way of checking your claims.

  2. Agree with Mike.
    Where are those clean coal stations?
    How do their emissions stack up compared to other power stations with different fuels (Gas, Oil, etc.)?

  3. Happy to agree with you Viv – if you need references I can supply a lot from my PhD written in 1993 on Urban Air pollution in London.

  4. It is accurate that if you burn coal without any pollution controls — as happened in London in 1952 for residential heating and is happening in China today for both residential and industrial uses, you get a nasty combination of pollutants, the most harmful of which are the partially combusted black carbon “soot” that contains many biologically active and harmful chemicals. There is no question than when an inversion settled over London in winter 1952, and there was no wind to clear away the pollution, several thousand people died before their time. It was simple to compare the “normal” daily death rate with the much elevated rates during the inversion. Make no mistake: partly burned solid or liquid hydrocarbons without pollution controls can be deadly, and is more deadly the greater the concentration.

    It is also accurate that if you have almost complete combustion as well as modern pollution controls — which all coal fired power plants have today in the US and Europe — you get very little pollution and virtually no “soot.” About 99.7% of the particles emitted into the stack are captured by different methods within the stack — these particles are almost all “coal fly ash,” which is mostly aluminum oxides, some calcium, some silicates. The main non-CO2 emissions from power plants today are sulfur and nitrogen oxides. “Scrubbers” remove the great majority of sulfur oxides in the US, so that electric utility emissions of SO2 is currently about 1/5 of what such emissions were at their peak in the early 1970s, before scrubbers were introduced. Over half of nitrogen oxide emissions are also now controlled, a big change from 15 years ago.

    Do yourself a favor and go look at what comes out of the stack of a coal fired power plant near where you live, if you live near one. If it isn’t a cold day, favorable to creating steam, you will see almost nothing emerging.

    That is why any TV or newspaper article about pollution from coal plants in the US today has to have steam as the emission (they play it up by backlighting at dusk, so that the white color of steam becomes black). It isn’t “fautography” — that was the word used to describe Reuters publishing photoshopped pictures in Lebanon after Hezbollah launched missiles at Israel and Israel retaliated. But to use photographs chosen to misrepresent to your audience what emissions actually look like coming from power plants with modern pollution controls is pretty much the same thing as “fauxtography.”

    More on the London Killer Fog:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=873954

    Look at the graphics for the increase in daily mortality for the roughly four days of such high pollution.

  5. Just as air quality Knoxville, Tn and other cities in the Tennessee River Valley were cleaned up dramatically once TVA built large coal power plants and vertually eliminated the use of coal stoves in individual homes…that’s an easy one to get data from the web…just google…

  6. Lord Galleywood says:
    April 29, 2013 at 3:59 pm
    Oh dear…. Nature deniers are above.

    Indeed. Apparently, the first coal plant came online in 1150 BC during the Shang Dynasty.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_Dust

    While some of the contributors are peppering in the Anthropogenic Pollution, the obvious source of the Gobi remains the real problem. I love it when they show a “fog day” photo and some nature denier shouts about the pollution.

  7. Otter Andy
    Certainly, Coal fired power plants will generally be dirtier than Gas or Oil Plants but they are cleaner than all the Neolithic era technology still in wide spread use world wide. Viv is in all probability absolutely correct in his summation.
    Could it be better? yes
    Was it worse in the past? often
    Will it be worse in the future? Doesn’t have to be

  8. This is an excellent article. Thanks, Viv. There was a recent article here on WUWT showing that smog is coming back to places where people have returned to burning wood and whatever else they can find because they can’t afford the hiked up electricity prices due to carbon taxes. People should be reminded that it is not modern society that causes problems, it’s current backward thinking of the greens aka watermelons (maybe we could call them “smogs”).

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/01/02/law-of-unintended-consequences-fuel-tax-designed-to-lower-air-pollution-actually-creates-more-air-pollution/

  9. We have done a great job cleaning up our coal power plant emissions, reducing nearly all heavy metals by 95-99% or better. Now the EPA wants MUCH better such that the emissions are to be cleaner than sea air. That’s prohibitive. They have the attitude that we HAVE to do better than nature.

    China is building many coal-fired power plants and they are also not stupid. WHile building these plants they are then going back and working on the emissions equipment. Give them a few year and they will get it under control. They know what they need and are trying to play catchup for their people.

  10. I was in Puerto Vallarta recently. Very nice place. However, in the morning from the hotel on the beach you could see thousands of pillars of smoke rising from the cooking fires in the homes. These rose in the air until they hit the inversion layer a few hundred feet above the city, and from there they spread horizontally into a reasonably thick smog that covered the entire town.

    This shows what it would be like WITHOUT a power plant, when electricity is still not the most common source of fuel. All too often the assumption is that if we stop using power plants then there will be no pollution, but that is a wrong assumption. People will in general always take the EASIEST possible method to stay alive.

    If you make coal expensive, they will burn the forests long before they will buy solar panels, because the energy in one small piece of wood far exceeds what a solar panel will produce, for a lot less cost. And where there all no trees, the people are already too poor to afford anything else. The only reason we have forests today is because coal was cheaper to burn than wood and is found almost everywhere.

    You can never make solar panel and windmills work until they are cheaper than ALL alternatives – which includes dead trees in the forest. In BC we have millions of acres of dead pines. And every wood pile is full of dead pines. While BC pays the highest carbon taxes in the world, not one cent of this tax is paid on firewood. So, no one but no one in BC installs solar panels or windmills to heat their homes. Not even David Suzuki. Burn baby burn.

  11. I am having a hard time understanding how all the pollution from burning coal in old London is proof that coal doesn’t cause pollution.

    Just because you don’t SEE pollution doesn’t mean there isn’t any there. The trees dead on Mount Mitchell from acid rain say “hello”….

  12. Matt, coal certainly did cause terrible pollution in London in 1952, when the inversion kept all the pollution in one place for several days. If you have no technology for removing the pollution by products, and if you burn it very inefficiently (as in residential heating, much less complete burning than in a power plant), then coal is a terrible polluter.

    When coal is burned in highly efficient power plants, with pollution controls, pollution is far less. It isn’t zero, but it is not too far from negligible.

    Yes, acid rain was a problem, it comes from conversion of SO2 to sulfate in the atmosphere. SO2 emissions from power plants are now about 1/5 of what they were in the early 1970s. As a result, acid rain in the US is pretty much a problem of the past at this point. Please see more complete post above (4:26 PM).

  13. The AGW nut cases who don’t like fossil fuels should consider what happens in African homes when the people living there burn biomass for fuel, as Obama so smarmily said they should.. If the biomass is shit (pardon my directness, but “dung” just doesn’t quite get the point across), the people are exposed to all manner of disease germs and parasites; if it’s what left of the local vegetation (assuming it hasn’t long since been stripped away to nothing), it may well emit poisons like polycyclic hydrocarbons or even cyanide.

    The air quality inside these people’s huts could make London 1952 look positively pristine by
    comparison. GREEN IS MASS MURDER!!!!

  14. Yes, there are still several TVA plants without scrubbers. Despite that, coal burning utility emissions of SO2 are about 1/5 of what they were in the early 1970s. Partly that is because the plants that DO have scrubbers typically remove 95% or so of the SO2 produced, and it is partly because many plants that don’t have scrubbers burn lower sulfur coal than previously.

    The pollution control scheme for controlling SO2 — in the US only, not internationally — is that each plant has to meet a certain reduction, but they can do so by purchasing reductions from other companies if they wish. This reduced costs of compliance and allowed more reduction for a given amount of money. A smaller plant where it might be difficult or costly to retrofit a scrubber might buy SO2 reductions from plants that put scrubbers on larger plants (where the scrubber is more economical).

    EPA did an analysis two decades ago which found that the pattern of SO2 emissions and sulfate deposition didn’t change much between two options: all plants had to meet a certain reduction requirement, vs. the trading scheme just described, which is current law. EPA found that the patters were little different between the two options, mainly because the great majority of US coal plants are in about a dozen contiguous midwestern and southern states.

  15. I lived through the London smogs. days of yellow tinged fog with visibility down to 10yards. You could smell the sulphur. No wonder so many died as a result. Smogs were cured by use of smokless solid fuel and sulphur scrubbers which, incidentally, put more CO2 into the atmosphere. Not a problem. We still had open fires at home.

  16. The age of the coal is important when considering pollution output. The older the coal the more pyrites it contains and thus the more SO2 produced. Australian coal is Cretaceous/Jurassic in age as is that from the US west, Utah, Colorado and Alaska. These coals are less polluting. Carboniferous coals produce more SO2 due to their greater age.

  17. Great article by Viv Forbes.

    A very important point is made by both ferd berple; April 29, 2013 at 6:17 pm and John;
    April 29, 2013 at 4:26 pm:

    Whether or not coal fired power stations are a good thing (environment wise) really depends on what they are replacing. And in most situations they are replacing millions of cooking fires, hundreds of thousands of ancient coal fired boilers, and removing the need for tens of thousands of dirty, wet outdoor coal storages.

    The energy demand is already there, and is being met. Just not efficiently.

    The precipitous push to ‘green, expensive power’ is plainly harmful to the environment, because those who cannot afford it still require energy and will source it where they can.

  18. Chris said:
    “I believe there are quite a few TVA plants still without scrubbers.”

    My point exactly. I live in eastern TN right now, few miles outside of Kingsport. I don’t SEE any pollution. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

    This entry is not up to the usual high standards I am use to seeing on the world’s #1 science blog…

  19. John says: April 29, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    “…The pollution control scheme for controlling SO2 — in the US only, not internationally — is that each plant has to meet a certain reduction, but they can do so by purchasing reductions from other companies if they wish. This reduced costs of compliance and allowed more reduction for a given amount of money…”

    I believe this was one of the first major successful examples of the idea of using ‘the market’ to control a pollutant (and I believe was first run in the UK(?)) ….

    The issue was very simple – regulators wanted scrubbers used, and estimated that the cost was affordable, the power stations disagreed and came up with their own horrifically expensive cost estimates. Someone came up with the idea of issuing a set number of permits at a fee set somewhere in the middle of the estimates, and these were made trade-able between power producers.

    It worked very, very well. Very soon most stations had scrubbers installed and the value of the permits plummeted, dictated by the real cost of installing scrubbers,

    There was no need to get international bodies, financiers, trading banks, futures traders, the World Bank involved at all.

    All such bodies expect to make a profit, some have absolutely no other motive or reason for being, and someone, somewhere has to provide (pay for) those profits.

  20. MattN:

    In your post at April 30, 2013 at 3:35 am you say

    Chris said:

    “I believe there are quite a few TVA plants still without scrubbers.”

    My point exactly. I live in eastern TN right now, few miles outside of Kingsport. I don’t SEE any pollution. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

    Oh dear!
    Do you see any effects of pollution?

    Scrubbers remove oxides of sulphur (SOx) by putting the flue gases through a spray of water. SOx is very water soluble.

    The same solubility which enables scrubbers to work enables rain to wash SOx out of the air. So, the greatest deposition of the supposed “pollution” would be near the power station.
    Do you see damaged and/or dead trees and other flora near the power station?
    Do you see damaged buildings near the power station?
    If you don’t then the “pollution” is not there.

    All rain contains sulphur. If rain did not contain sulphur then all life on land would die.

    The issue is not whether the power station emits SOx: it does.
    The issue is whether the SOx emission from the power station is sufficient to harm or to overload the natural systems which process SOx.

    Emissions are NOT pollution. Excessive emissions ARE pollution.

    Consider cow dung.
    Too little dung and the land would be damaged by lack of fertiliser.
    Too much dung and the land is damaged by excess dung.
    Whether the cow dung from farming is “pollution” depends on how much there is and where it is emitted.

    The same is true for all emissions from all human activities. Merely because something is emitted does NOT mean it is “pollution”.

    Richard

  21. MattN says:
    April 29, 2013 at 7:46 pm
    I am having a hard time understanding how all the pollution from burning coal in old London is proof that coal doesn’t cause pollution.

    Just because you don’t SEE pollution doesn’t mean there isn’t any there. The trees dead on Mount Mitchell from acid rain say “hello”….

    —————————————————————————————————————————

    Most of the mature Fraser firs, however, were killed off by the non-native Balsam woolly adelgid in the latter half of the 20th century. The high elevations also expose plant life to high levels of pollution, including acid precipitation in the form of rain, snow, and fog. These acids damage the red spruce trees in part by releasing natural metals from the soil like aluminum, and by leaching important minerals. To what extent this pollution harms the high-altitude ecosystem is debatable.[5]

    While the mountain is still mostly lush and green in the summer, many dead Fraser fir trunks can be seen due to these serious problems.

    So it actually ISN’T acid rain that is the problem, only conjecture.

  22. MattN said;
    “This entry is not up to the usual high standards I am use to seeing on the world’s #1 science blog…”

    Matt,

    One of the great issues that impedes the free flow of facts is having a too parochial view of life. Whether we are speaking of science, industry (applied science) or even philosophy, any attempt a communication without bridging the gap between your parish and mine will result in an instant stoppage on the information highway.

    Viv was trying to give perspective to the problem of air pollution, not offer hard science. Those who were not alive during some particularly bad episode of pollution simply don’t have the perspective to understand the progress. Those who are coming to the situation now see pollution as dire, but are failing in perspective. To give an example, I lived in California in the 1960’s. Air pollution was horrible. Millions were moving into the state and brought or bought cars by the additional millions. In the Central Valley of California, farmers were constantly burning farm waste. Lumber mills were prolific in northern California and each one had a ‘teepee burner’ where waste wood, and quite green, was burned 24/7. The burners and a prevailing breeze from the south produced very visible air pollution, even up into the mountains.

    That was then. It is much different now. Is the pollution issue solved in California? Not at all. The population has nearly quadrupled since the 1960’s. But the cars we drive today are virtually zero emission vehicles compared to the land tanks of yore. Farmers are limited in their outdoor burning to very specific atmospheric conditions that must exist before burning is allowed. Winter time pollution here in the Central Valley comes, in large part, from burning wood in fire places and stoves. Because politicians have lost or ignore long term perspective, I can predict with great certainty and no statistics that wood smoke pollution will get worse if we continue down the path to astronomically priced electricity and natural gas. Homes will be warmed in the most economically feasible way, but unintended consequences can and do bite hard.
    pbh

  23. Having suffered through the South-East Asia haze of 1997, whose origins and spread were unequivocally traceable to the burning of rainforest in Indonesia (much of which was for palm-oil to be turned into lucrative biodiesel), I can readily subscribe to the view that well-managed fossil fuel energy is much better for the environment than badly managed ‘green’ energy production technologies.

  24. Richardscourtney says:

    “…Do you see damaged and/or dead trees and other flora near the power station?
    Do you see damaged buildings near the power station?
    If you don’t then the “pollution” is not there.

    …The issue is not whether the power station emits SOx: it does.
    The issue is whether the SOx emission from the power station is sufficient to harm or to overload the natural systems which process SOx.

    Emissions are NOT pollution. Excessive emissions ARE pollution.”

    Richard is correct that the dose makes the poison. A little bit of pollution can cause little to no harm, a lot of pollution can cause a lot of harm. The issue is figuring out at what point to stop increasing, or stop decreasing pollution. Cost benefit analysis. When the costs of reduction are small and the benefits of reduction are large, keep reducing pollution. When the benefits are small and the costs large, you’ve done enough.

    In the early 1970s, the largest emitter of SO2 in North America was the Sudbury, Ontario nickel smelter, which emitted about 10% of all SO2 emitted on the continent. Almost nothing grew in a 10 mile circle around the plant. They’ve cut WAY back now, and have tall stacks now, but if you use Google Earth, you still find that the area around the plant is orange colored, not green (though not for ten miles any more).

    As far as I am aware, nothing like that ever happened in the US. The worse acid rain damage was in the Adirondacks, where a type of tree — red spruce? — suffered consistent crown damage, and perhaps (I no longer remember) were so sensitive to the acid rain that some died. Because of its height (in part), Mt. Mitchell also suffered damage of this general nature, but MattN could fill us in on the specifics better than I could.

    Acid rain is now very low in the US, as stated before, because our emissions of SO2 have declined by about 80% (and also because the Sudbury smelter’s emissions are much lower now).

    So the question is: did we go too far? did we reduce exactly the right amount? In Richardscourtney’s words, “Excessive emissions ARE pollution” — so where are we now on that scale? I would argue we have done our job, but I can guarantee that opinions differ at the Sierra Club.

  25. ***
    Just an engineer says:
    April 30, 2013 at 5:21 am

    Most of the mature Fraser firs, however, were killed off by the non-native Balsam woolly adelgid in the latter half of the 20th century. The high elevations also expose plant life to high levels of pollution, including acid precipitation in the form of rain, snow, and fog.
    ***

    Ozone is also a major culprit (like Germany’s Black Forest), due to complex interaction w/mountain-hugging clouds.

    MattN’s statement of “it’s acid rain” is simplistic and adolescent. There was no such dieback on the mountains around here (west MD) despite being far closer to the SO2 sources.

  26. to Beng:

    Whether acid raid damages trees depends upon a combination of factors.

    If the soil has enough alkalinity, the acidity can be neutralized.

    If the mountains are high, it receives more acid fog than lower elevations, the high elevations intercept the clouds containing acidity, lower elevations don’t as much.

    So the lack of damage in MD doesn’t necessarily mean there was no problem anywhere, back in the day.

  27. ***
    John says:
    April 30, 2013 at 8:29 am

    So the lack of damage in MD doesn’t necessarily mean there was no problem anywhere, back in the day.
    ***

    Never said there wasn’t an issue, only that “acid-rain dunnit” was simplistic. The hemlock woolly adelgid has decimated hemlock stands thruout the NE US — nothing to do w/climate & everything to do w/introduced invasive pests.

  28. Back before I was keeping careful track of such quotes, I ran across a snippet from the journal of one of the first explorers to reach the area of Denver in the 1800s and his remark on the pall of smoke, due to the winter layer inversion, and, he thought, the Amerindians’ camp-fires.

  29. Rick Bradford says:
    April 30, 2013 at 5:51 am
    “Having suffered through the South-East Asia haze of 1997, whose origins and spread were unequivocally traceable to the burning of rainforest in Indonesia (much of which was for palm-oil to be turned into lucrative biodiesel), I can readily subscribe to the view that well-managed fossil fuel energy is much better for the environment than badly managed ‘green’ energy production technologies.”

    I lived through that haze as well, and still do when it returns during the clearing season. However, it’s not accurate to blame biodiesel production for that. From a paper on CPO production – “Nonetheless, in aggregate terms still less than 5% of the total CPO production in Indonesia is being used for biodiesel production.”

    And that was the biodiesel production as of 2011, source: http://www.cifor.org/ard/documents/background/Day3.pdf

  30. mib8 says:

    April 30, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Back before I was keeping careful track of such quotes, I ran across a snippet from the journal of one of the first explorers to reach the area of Denver in the 1800s and his remark on the pall of smoke, due to the winter layer inversion, and, he thought, the Amerindians’ camp-fires.
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.
    See Francis Parkman’s The Oregan Trail wherein he reports the smoke lingering in the Laramies from forest fires, in 1846.

  31. To Beng:

    This is the part of your comment I was addressing: ” There was no such dieback on the mountains around here (west MD) despite being far closer to the SO2 sources.”

  32. There two separate problems. The firs were indeed decimated by the algelid (still are; near Smoky Mountain National Park, local fire departments spray a foam like substance on the remaining live firs which smothers the algelids at a crucial time in their life cycle, or else those firs would also be gone.

    Acid rain didn’t cause the algelid problem. But it isn’t simplistic and adolescent to say that acid rain did cause environmental problems, back in the day.

    Perhaps this issue is one of wording — maybe Beng means that acid rain hasn’t caused specific probems to firs in the Smokies and nearby Mt. Mitchell, maybe he meant to say that in these specific places acid rain wasn’t the problem for firs.

    But acid raid did cause problems, mainly with red spruce dieback, in the Adirondacks and on Mt. Mitchell in N Carolina (the tallest mountain in the US east of Colorado). Does this clear things up?

  33. John:

    re your post at April 30, 2013 at 11:02 am

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/04/29/clean-coal-by-wire/#comment-1292562

    You say

    But acid raid did cause problems, mainly with red spruce dieback, in the Adirondacks and on Mt. Mitchell in N Carolina (the tallest mountain in the US east of Colorado). Does this clear things up?

    I do not know the facts of the specific case which you cite, but – assuming you are right – that does not “clear things up”.

    The issue is whether present day emissions are causing harm.

    If the present day emissions are causing harm then they are pollution. So, reducing the emissions is desirable.
    But
    If the present day emissions are not causing harm then they are not pollution. So, reducing the emissions is a waste of money and resources.
    And
    If past emissions were or were not pollution is not relevant to consideration of whether the present day emissions are pollution.

    I draw your attention to my above post at April 30, 2013 at 3:57 am. This link jumps to it

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/04/29/clean-coal-by-wire/#comment-1292282

    Richard

  34. Richard, are we actually disagreeing? Here is what I said in regard to your post:

    “Richard is correct that the dose makes the poison. A little bit of pollution can cause little to no harm, a lot of pollution can cause a lot of harm. The issue is figuring out at what point to stop increasing, or stop decreasing pollution. Cost benefit analysis. When the costs of reduction are small and the benefits of reduction are large, keep reducing pollution. When the benefits are small and the costs large, you’ve done enough.”

    I have read you post, believe me, I responded to it after reading it.

    If we do disagree, maybe it has to do with this part of your last comment:

    “If the present day emissions are not causing harm then they are not pollution. So, reducing the emissions is a waste of money and resources.”

    I see the amount of pollution control as a balance between the costs of cleanup vs. the damages of the pollution. MAYBE your statement in the paragraph just above implies that if emissions today DO cause harm, then they need to be reduced, regardless of the costs vs. benefits? I you mean pollution must be reduced if it causes ANY harm, regardless of costs, then we do disagree, but I don’t have the sense that you mean that.

  35. John:

    re your post at April 30, 2013 at 11:49 am.

    Clearly, I misunderstood you and I owe you an apology.

    Indeed, I have just put down the phone because my son was so offended at my misunderstanding you that he phoned to give me an ear-bashing about it.

    Yes, I now see that we are saying the same thing in different words. I misunderstood and thought you were arguing against my view that harmful emissions are pollution so not all emissions are pollution. I was defending my view, but you were not opposing it.

    Sorry.

    Richard

  36. To Billy Liar: Nice graphs.

    Do you know why so many counties are blank? Is that due to a lack of monitors, or to low pollution levels?

    It looks like only Mecklenburg county (where Charlotte, NC is located) is listed on all three maps, and is in violation of the ozone standard (only one other county in NC is in violation, according to the map). Looks like the more rural counties aren’t in non-attainment for ozone. I couldn’t figure out whether there were any localities in non-attainment for the SO2 or NO2 standards from the maps.

    It looks like either there aren’t any monitors in Yancey county, on the Tennessee border, where Mt. Mitchell is located, or there are no current pollution violations.

    Any further thoughts or comments?

  37. John says:
    April 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    John, I would say that the monitoring is spotty. Looking at the Asheville region there are a number of monitors but certainly not to the level of one in every county.

    Mt Mitchell has an O3 monitor active from April to October (currently not active). The nearest county with an SO2 monitor is Swain County (Bryson City) but it’s off line at the moment!

    http://xapps.ncdenr.org/aq/ambient/AmbtSite.jsp?loggerList=BY

    Here’s the Asheville area map with the monitors marked:

    http://daq.state.nc.us/ambient/monitors/Asheville.shtml

  38. ***
    John says:
    April 30, 2013 at 11:02 am

    But acid raid did cause problems, mainly with red spruce dieback, in the Adirondacks and on Mt. Mitchell in N Carolina (the tallest mountain in the US east of Colorado). Does this clear things up?
    ***

    Evidence? I’d love to see some credible evidence that acid rain itself (not other pollutants/issues) actually caused damage. Red spruce dieback on stressful high mountain sites was a known & recurring issue before there was acid rain. Most of the plants/trees on my lot thrive from a sulfur additive, even tho the soil is already plenty acidic.

    It’s been some time, but the 60 Minutes report that got completely ignored by the MSM & congress cited studies that showed hardly any effect directly from acid rain, except on a few already highly-acidic watersheds flowing into a couple lakes in the Adirondacks.

  39. To Beng:

    My conclusions about damages to the roots and crowns of red spruce in the Adirondacks are based on the NAPAP reports — National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program — of around 1990, and later. These reports were multi-Cabinet reports by the US government, with the first report coming out in 1990, continuing reports thereafter.

    Reading between the lines, I’m going to guess that you don’t see that report as entirely credible. Since I don’t have reason to trust the federal government’s veracity just because it is the federal government, I can’t defend the report based on all the work that went into it, because the work could have been politicized at some point. All I can say is that what I’ve read about the effect of acid rain on red spruce, roots and crowns, has been consistent for 25 years.

    Whether trees and plants where soils are reasonably alkaline thrive with a fertilizer containing sulfur is, I agree, true in many cases. Sulfur is a nutrient at the right doses (just as selenium is for people, at the right doses), but that doesn’t say the same will be true where soils are already pretty acidic, and acid fogs affect the leaves — conditions of the 1970s and 1980s in upstate NY.

    Ozone can damage trees, yes, but ozone levels are pretty low in upstate NY, as far as I have been able to find. They tend to be very high within 100 miles downwind of big cities in the summer — that is why Connecticut has such a problem, it’s downwind of NYC.

    Yes, I saw the 60 Minutes report as well, way back in the day. They do a good job, generally, but sometimes they have their mind made up before they edit. I wouldn’t necessarily take what 60 minutes had to say, with their shoestring research staff, over the government’s report, with huge staff (but subject to policy changes). But as noted, it is hard to trust the federal government implicitly, either. Are environmentalists the last to still do so?

    So I’d like to ask you, collegially: which pollutants (if any) do you think damaged high altitude trees in the Adirondacks, and what is your basis? I might have missed an article or report on another pollutant.

  40. Goldie says:
    April 29, 2013 at 3:46 pm
    Happy to agree with you Viv – if you need references I can supply a lot from my PhD written in 1993 on Urban Air pollution in London.
    —————————
    I’m not sure 20 yo science is quite current, eh?
    /sarc

  41. Chuck, you then remember the SMOGS of the 1950s? I worked and lived near London. 6,000 people died then and more permanently affected. The pea soupers of the Victorian era were less common then.(They are yellow, and cars had yellow fog lights too) Steam trains I traveled on from Potters Bar to the City (Bank of England, and Cheapside) required me to change my petticoat twice a week because of the 2 inch ring of black dirt on the hem. Diesel trains changed that. They were handing out smog masks at one time, not that I remember buying one, but the smoke free zone cleared the city, swallows returned, city buildings became clean again and so did the dolphins in the Thames. But it didn’t stop the Thames freezing over in 1963? Battersea Power Station, was the largest electricity producer in London then but burnt Coke, not Anthracite, so the Sulphur was removed. One never saw smoke coming from it, when one visited the permanent fair ground at Battersea Gardens opposite the station.

  42. John sayeth: “It is also accurate that if you have almost complete combustion as well as modern pollution controls — which all coal fired power plants have today in the US and Europe…”

    Not quite all. George W. Bush tried to get the “Clean Skies” bill passed that would allow older powerplants to upgrade their pollution controls as much as possible/practical but the greens blocked it. Yup, the watermelons kept powerplants from cleaning up. They demanded that the only way anything would be allowed to be done was the plants had to be brought up to current standards. Just one problem, the only way to do that would be to knock it down and build a new plant, which of course the watermelons would file lawsuit upon lawsuit to block after the older plants were razed.

  43. ***
    John says:
    April 30, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    So I’d like to ask you, collegially: which pollutants (if any) do you think damaged high altitude trees in the Adirondacks, and what is your basis? I might have missed an article or report on another pollutant.
    ***

    Like I said, conifer dieback had already been noticed/documented in high mountain sites in both the northern & southern Appalachians as far back as the 40s. Dated, dead snags & regenerated living trees showed that the dieback occurred in waves — tree deaths moved slowly downwind as the windward, leading edge of living tree stands became exposed to the elements. The trailing edge of living trees likewise moved downwind as new seedlings became established in the leeward of the stands. Evidence from dated dead wood showed that this had been occurring for thousands of yrs. When much of these coniferous forests were cut wholesale in the 30s (thanks to Roosevelt), shelter from living stands was suddenly gone & local extirpation of the conifers occurred. The “heath balds” on Smokey Mnt tops are examples where this had already occurred naturally. Death of conifers on stressful high, east NA mountains is an old and ongoing issue.

    If sulfur is getting to the Adirondacks, so is NOx, which photochemically produces ozone. Sulfur has nothing to do w/ozone.

  44. To Galane: your point about the Greens wanting all plants to meet standards of a new plant build today is correct. And a lot of such plants are now being shut down because the costs for some plants of doing so is prohibitive. These standards mostly had to do with emissions of SO2 and oxides of nitrogen.

    Virtually complete combusion ensures that virtually no black carbon (soot) or party burned hydrocarbons go up the stack ot a coal plant in the US, but complete combustion doesn’t prevent oxides of sulfur from going up, nor does it prevent oxides of nitrogen from being creates and going up the stack. You need technology to control the last two.

    To Beng: I hadn’t realized that logging at high altitudes in the early to mid-1900s had made it harder for remaining trees to remain alive, thanks for that. And you are correct that oxides of nitrogen reach the Adirondacks. How much oxone is created depend upon the concentrations of oxides of nitrogen and of volatile organic compounds (from automobiles, and, yes, from trees and other vegetation), and the amount of heat and sunlight. So you will get oxone formation in the Adirondacks. It is just that there would be less oxone there than in locations where there are more of the precursor pollutants, such as downwind of major cities.

  45. I read sometime last year, that in Oz, they were combining solar farms with coal generators. I don’t know what has transpired since, but pics were shown of the massive amounts of solar panels near an existing station?

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