The Sierra Club might be surprised to learn that some of these emissions aren’t soot

Tom Nelson writes:

Water vapor as “pollution”?: Sierra Club’s claims are based on opacity, which measures the thickness of emissions from a smoke stack by how much light passes through it.

Readers will surely recall some of our stories about photoshopping smokestack emissions to make them look worse, and specifically choosing images with low sun angles to make steam look like smoke (a video follows).

smokestack_before smokestack_after

I wonder if they really have that sort of low information comprehension about emissions.

 

Sierra Club plans to sue Minnesota Power over pollutants at coal plants 

“The Sierra Club’s claims are based on opacity, which measures the thickness of emissions from a smoke stack by how much light passes through it, the AP says. Minnesota Power disputes the contentions in the Sierra Club’s intent-to-sue notice. Officials with the utility tell the AP opacity can be caused by factors other than pollutants, citing water vapor as an example.”

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64 thoughts on “The Sierra Club might be surprised to learn that some of these emissions aren’t soot

  1. According to the Sierra Club, I’m nothing but a pollution generator. First it was the CO2 coming out of my lungs, and now it is the steam coming out of my ears. Why would anyone who doesn’t hate humanity contribute money to these groups?

  2. The Sierra Club should be sued for harrassing and frivolous lawsuits and a basis for such a lawsuit can be found amongst the results of this one, I’m sure. I’m tired of businesses simply paying off agitators and not fighting back.

  3. When, I wonder, will the cowardly weasels at the Audubon Society gather evidence of the damage done to our fine feathered friends by wind turbines and start suing the Dept of Energy, etc. etc. ???

  4. Greens are stupid as fnark. Check out one of their campaign posters for a Hamburg Senate election, in which they aimed at a word play with “Kohle” (German for coal) and the conservative CDU’s candidate’s given name Ole. Soot from a cooling tower. They weren’t even aware of their ignorance, when asked whether they didn’t feel embarrassed by this bulls***. Here’s the link:

  5. Typically, opacity measurement for pollution control trains are taken within the stack and no water vapor has condensed. If the Sierra Club is using the company’s data, they may have a case. If they are using measurements from outside the stack then it is most likely water vapor.

  6. Another name change: Deniers are now Watties.

    On the other hand, William M Connolley of The Gaia Gazette feels things are going swimmingly for Dr Mann:

    Various people have pointed out that Mann vs Steyn is descending into farce, as Steyn demonstrates ever more clearly his incompetence. Eli. Barry B. Mind you, the Watties are still whistling in the wind: Watts is like Steyn countersues Mann for 10 millon dollars and the crowd are all like “hey wow, that must mean he’s winning”. Its an interesting illustration of the basic inability of the two “sides” to agree on anything. Presumably the wavefunction will collapse at some point when the case actually gets heard, but that could be a way off. Speculation: this is already a success for Mann, in that it will make anyone vaguely sane hesitate to go down the Steyn route to insanity.

    [Reply: Connolley is just emitting sour grapes, since he got himself banned from this site. ~ mod.]

  7. The video, at about 1:26: “These towers are releasing the steam after it’s been used in the electricity-making process.” Their own diagram, however, shows the turbine steam passing through a condenser to be re-used. It’s a minor nitpick, but with most of the traditional news media in the alarmist camp, CAGW skeptics need to be scrupulously accurate.

    “Officials with the utility tell the AP opacity can be caused by factors other than pollutants, citing water vapor as an example.”

    Isn’t water vapor transparent to visible light? Shouldn’t that be “steam” instead?

  8. Harry,
    As all Chief Engineers I sailed with never tired of saying, steam is water at or above boiling point and it is invisible, but when it condenses back below boiling point what you see is water vapour, the same thing that makes up clouds.

  9. The Globe and Mail was a huge offender of the truth wrt this very subject.

    They were pushing the green agenda full tilt and even had a menu on their web site called Climate Change” Not environment or Climate like an objective news source might otherwise do.

    They regularly hyped (lied) about pollution to advance the green tax issues. Often they would put up images of cooling towers and steam vents and processing plant water effluent stacks with water vapor clouds billowing. They would have such water vapor cloud images associated with Global Warming and environmental activist issue du jour.

    The use of steam vents, cooling towers, especially with the strategic use of light to imply soot content in the water vapor, is a classic lie that the news editors use to peddle their propaganda.

    From today’s globe and mail…

    Notice the choice the editors made to put the water vapor in the middle of the image, Oh No!!! its is pollution, water vapor is pollution…

    The globe and mail has long engaged in news fraud, faking news about the climate, polar bears, rivers drying up by blaming all of it on CO2.

    Water Vapor is not pollution. CO2 is not Pollution.

    Cx-H2x -2H + ~3/2 O2 –> xCO2 + ~ (X)H2O

    Combustion is mostly pollution free. What you see is not the pollution part.

  10. And of course that should read “Gary”.
    Stupid transatlantic computer can’t spell properly.

  11. Mods: completely off-topic, but MUCH too funny to pass up:

    At JoNova, there is a parody video, called “Canadians dreaming of ‘Plus One’ ” I just watched it, and cannot stop laughing!!

    Mark H.

  12. Paul Westhaver says:

    Water Vapor is not pollution. CO2 is not Pollution.

    Exactly right. But try telling that to a Green-indoctrinated lemming.

  13. The Beeb has been known to illustrate ‘alleged smoke pollution’ stories with images of (water vapour) emissions from cooling towers. The planks.

  14. Oldseadog says (March 26, 2014 at 11:05 am): “As all Chief Engineers I sailed with never tired of saying, steam is water at or above boiling point and it is invisible, but when it condenses back below boiling point what you see is water vapour, the same thing that makes up clouds.”

    Clouds are actually water droplets or ice crystals, not vapor:

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

    You’re correct, however, in describing “steam” as (technically) water vapor, although in everyday language “steam” means “mist”, or rather a very hot mist:

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

  15. The video isn’t entirely accurate. Steam produced in a boiler is condensed, reclaimed, and returned to the boiler as feed water. The stacks release the products of combustion from the boilers furnace.

    Having said that, the visible stack emissions is indeed water vapour, a by-product of the combustion of the hydrogen in the fuel source. It becomes more pronounced when the ambient air temperature is lower because colder air can’t hold as much moisture as warmer air, so it becomes saturated more quickly when in contact with the emissions.

    The same is true of vehicle exhaust in colder climates. Where it’s really cold, vehicle exhaust pipes will drip water due to rapid condensation of water vapour in the pipe.

  16. off topic but good news .
    25th MArch 2014

    New paper finds no effect of “acidification” on plankton from CO2 levels 8 times higher than today
    A paper published today in Biogeosciences finds that prior claims about the effects of ocean “acidification” on calcifying plankton are highly exaggerated because the artificial laboratory conditions utilized do not correctly simulate the effects in natural seawater. The authors find exposure of the plankton to “acidification” from elevated CO2 concentrations of up to 3247 ppm [over 8 times higher than the present] had no effect on the life cycle (population density, growth and reproduction) of calcifying plankton when natural buffering sediment was present in the experiment

  17. Martin Toden says:
    March 26, 2014 at 10:26 am
    “Soot from a cooling tower. They weren’t even aware of their ignorance, when asked whether they didn’t feel embarrassed by this bulls***. Here’s the link:”

    It will work for their base though; the Green Maoist teachers and their brainwashed victims; as they don’t know a thing about technology anyway.

  18. Thanks, R. de Haan. Read Delingpole and weep, peeps. This is what it was all about.
    =====================

  19. The E=GREENS have billions in reserves to BUY University Grant Science as they get Industries to pony up money to create findings that go towards further limiting that economic activity.

    Why you ask would industries go along with the E=GREEN new limits and permits being required? Well businesses operate to produce profits . . if government forces all to increase production costs then that increases the gross sales dollars which increases the net profits – These expensive Permits, studies and new equipment keeps smaller more efficient Companies form take their market share.

    Big business and big government go hand in hand. Walmart and few others are exceptions as they are very cost management conscious. Take the Money away from DC and restore the powers to the States and our Standard of Living will get better.

    http://articlevprojecttorestoreliberty.com/take-action.html

  20. Heh – I looked at the site referenced above (abbreviated g.g), and was amused to find that even without talking about content, the overwhelming first impression was of its incredible ugliness, and articles were arranged in what can only be a completely random and thoughtless fashion – the polar OPPOSITE of user-friendly! I’ve seen pre-teen girl blogs that were far more effectifvely designed than that nightmare.

    Oh yes, I’m sure many, many devotees will make that their homepage. LOL!

  21. The key here is the lack of information on the release of harmful pollutants into our atmosphere which definitely are a problem for the health of humans and other living species, in the vicinity of the release and in our atmosphere that we all share. Weak argument, blame the photo shoppers. Don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Really?

    • Sister,

      Share with us one single example of a true PEER REVIEWED paper that has passed to a Proof. It should be one that proves the wild claims of all the deaths due to 10 parts per billion of this or that. My guess is there will not be a single one on any issue with American Air quality in the last 30 years.

  22. Col. Mosby:

    “I’m tired of businesses simply paying off agitators and not fighting back.”

    See Chevron Corp. v. Donziger :-D

  23. “The Sierra Club obviously never drove in fog.”

    Maybe not, mkelly, but they certainly live in one.

  24. @ AW did you read the article on Breitbart re leaked working group II document looks like a winner

  25. The president bloviates about ‘carbon pollution’. No one asks what he means. Or corrects him.

    But now its visible! Coming out of these cooling stacks with ungodly amounts of dihydrogen monoxide…..

  26. Environmental organizations, EPA and many state agencies have taken to suing over opacity violations in recent years because it is low hanging fruit, not because it is a substantive air pollution issue. Opacity is usually measured by a continuous opacity monitor so it is very unlikely that the Sierra Club lawsuit has anything to do with steam which is not counted as opacity by the monitors. So the suggestions in these posts that the Sierra Club does not understand that point are probably unwarranted.

    That is not to say that this still isn’t an unwarranted lawsuit. I spent too much time over the last 15 years of my career dealing with opacity and ultimately found that it did not matter whether there was a real air pollution issue or simply an aesthetic problem, the harassing lawyers eventually prevailed. If you want to know more about opacity than you probably need to know then read on.
    According to the AP, the Sierra Club maintains Minnesota Power has violated clean air standards more than 12,000 times over the last five years at three coal-fired power plants. That sounds like a big number but the opacity standard is for a six-minute average. There are three plants with six stacks: Boswell has three units with one common stack and a second stack that serves the fourth unit, Laskin has two units with one common stack and Taconite Harbor has three stacks for its three units. Each year there are 87,600 six minute periods times five year times six stacks so there were 12,000 excursions over 2,628,000 possible six-minute periods or 0.46% of the time.

    So what is the opacity clean air standard excursion? The opacity limit goes back to the very beginning of air quality enforcement when it was used to determine whether or not a facility was operating efficiently. Opacity in a smoke stack is caused by the blocking and scattering of light by particulates from the incombustible ash components of the fuel or by carbon caused by incomplete combustion. Incomplete combustion suggests that the operator is not running his unit as well as he should except in the case of startup, shutdown and malfunction where unless you can void the laws of physics incomplete combustion is going to happen. Early on the limit was determined by “reading” smoke, a process in which someone gets certified as a smoke reader then runs out and checks the plume. I assume the MN standard is similar to other states where I have worked which would be that you are allowed one six minute period of opacity greater than 20% but less than 27% per hour. Any six-minute period greater than 27% and anything more than one per hour greater than 20% counts as one of the excursions in the 12,000 number. Of course, no smoke reader ever worked 24/7 and there are specific requirements when you can read smoke so these numbers are based on continuous opacity monitors (COMS). Those monitors basically measures the amount of light passing through the stack to determine the opacity.

    Before the compliance lawyers and the environmental organizations glommed on to this as one more way to harass coal-fired power plants, EPA had realistic guidance. The EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance published guidance entitled “The Timely and Appropriate Enforcement Response to High Priority Violations” in June 1999. The policy was designed to direct scrutiny to those violations that are most important. It included a specific case study to determine if opacity would be considered a high priority violation. The most stringent policy defined a high priority violation for opacity when measured with COMS as one that exceeds 30% opacity greater than 3% of the operating time during a quarterly reporting period, excluding exemptions for startup, shutdown and malfunction. Given the 0.46% number over five years I doubt that these plants exceeded that limit.

    The bottom line is that any realistic evaluation of health or welfare impacts associated with opacity would conclude that the impacts are very small. Local problems associated with smoke stacks (e.g. acid smut) are not necessarily correlated to opacity violations. Fine particulate matter measurements indicate a small fraction associated with directly emitted power plant particulate matter. In other words the fine particulate matter that the environmental organizations are so worried about is not associated with opacity. Nonetheless, the big number quoted without any context, the impression that coal-fired power plants are evil, and implication that the noble lawyers at the Sierra Club are watching out for our best interests will likely result in more added costs to produce power in the way of a fine or additional control equipment requirements.

    • Roger maybe they should sue these big guys for they obscure most light when concentrated

      Cumulonimbus
      Cloud
      Cumulonimbus, from the Latin cumulus and nimbus, is a dense towering vertical cloud associated with thunderstorms and atmospheric instability, forming from water vapor carried by powerful upward air currents.

      The owners address is One MOTHER EARTH CENTER.

  27. @Gary Hladik
    Failure to distinguish between visible water vapour and steam can be fatal. A Royal Australian Navy Coral Sea vet saw a man cut in two by an invisible jet of superheated steam as they ran to try and brace up their ship which was being heavily stressed in heavy seas.

    • Batapug,

      Yes they cut steel and other metals with PLASMA [WATER] just like acetylene torch. Steam boilers are very explosive if not operated correctly.

  28. I read this article and shake my head. In the 1970′s, the State of Maryland had air pollution inspectors learn to read smoke opacities and calibrate their eyes. They had a machine that read the opacity coming out of the “stack” and you calibrated your eyes as to the opacity and the color shade. Then you determined the amount of pollutants coming out of the stack. More times than naught, the eyes of the inspectors couldn’t read accurately what the “stack” calibrations read. Wind is a factor. Now I am assuming that whoever is reading those coal emitting stack gases outside. Photos are not accurate (photo shopping is envolved).
    Maryland did away with opacity reading of smoke. It was totally inaccurate and stupid.

  29. richard Mar 26 11:39am “New paper finds no effect of “acidification” on plankton from CO2 levels 8 times higher than today“. Link?

  30. Eddie Current says: March 26, 2014 at 11:27 am
    … The video isn’t entirely accurate. Steam produced in a boiler is condensed, reclaimed, and returned to the boiler as feed water. The stacks release the products of combustion from the boilers furnace.

    Having said that, the visible stack emissions is indeed water vapour, a by-product of the combustion of the hydrogen in the fuel source. It becomes more pronounced when the ambient air temperature is lower because colder air can’t hold as much moisture as warmer air, so it becomes saturated more quickly when in contact with the emissions.

    I think the effect of hydrogen is overridden by the moisture content of most coals.

    Typical Moisture Content in Coal
    Anthracite Coal : 2.8 – 16.3 weight %
    Bituminous Coal : 2.2 – 15.9 weight %
    Lignite Coal : 39 weight %

    Also the steam is pulled out many times to refeed into the reheat steam, desuperheater and drives feed turbins.

  31. If you can see it, it is neither steam nor water vapor. Technically, what we see coming out of the smokestacks are clouds, made up of tiny water droplets. But the term clouds is reserved for the meteorological phenomenon. The trouble is, no name has been given, although I suppose it could just be called “condensate”.

  32. Paul Westhaven, Thomson Reuters’s investment branch has a certain Sir Crispin Tickell on its board, an early green pusher… Great climategate emails about him with Wigley calling him a snake…

  33. Its illogical to try to put any measurement of airborne gasses from a photograph.
    Nah dammit, like most everything that comes from devoted warmists – it is biased and just plain stupid.

  34. Oldseadog says (March 26, 2014 at 11:05 am): “As all Chief Engineers I sailed with never tired of saying, steam is water at or above boiling point and it is invisible, but when it condenses back below boiling point what you see is water vapour, the same thing that makes up clouds.”
    ——

    I suspect they were emphasizing a point of safety. “Steam” leaking from a steam pipe may not be visible, and you don’t want to assume you can just walk up to it because you don’t “see” anything leaking out.

  35. As an industrial mechanic with nearly 40 years of experience, I have worked in dozens
    of refineries, power plants, paper mills and other heavy industries.

    Most of the time, the only “Smoke” you see is pure white water vapor (AKA steam.)
    Even exhaust stacks employ scrubbers and other equipment to filter particulates,
    so the exhaust is nearly clean enough to breathe. About the only emissions are
    harmless CO2.

    The green weenies act as if we are still doing things the way they were done when steam
    locomotive engines were the only industrial engines in existence.

  36. For those who have commented on the use of the term ‘Steam’ in the video rather than ‘Condensed Evaporated Water”, this appears under the video.

    “The video simplifies power station operation to enable a short video focussed on the core message: deceit by ABC, Fairfax, Climate Commission and CSIRO in misrepresenting Nature’s invisible trace gas as billowing steam, artificially digitally enhanced blackened steam and/or particulates.
    Detailed explanation of power station operation is available here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_power_station#Typical_coal_thermal_power_station

  37. @rogercaiazza says:
    March 26, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    First, thanks for helping me fulfill my daily goal of “learn something new every day.” Next, are the 6-minute periods serial or on a rolling basis? Is it 12:00 – 12:06, 12:06 – 12:12, 12:12 -12:18, etc, or 12:00 – 12:06, 12:01 – 12:07, 12:02 – 12:08 with some kind of averaging?

  38. Compared to the stuff that lands on a friends house who lives underneath the flightpath from jets taking of from a local airport flightpath, this stuff is champagne and smells like Chanel # 5

  39. If you have district heating based on steam, and some does, then you know that steam is very hot. Case closed.

  40. So if most of what we see coming out of those smoke stacks is water vapor, can’t it be captured and distilled rather than being released into the air? It would be nice if the steam was recycled, so to speak, so that the greenies couldn’t distort it for their agenda.

  41. The Sierra Club – another criminal enterprise, funded by morons (I know several) – but hopefully not us taxpayers.

  42. “profitup10 says:

    March 26, 2014 at 1:56 pm”

    It’s why boilers etc are pressure tested with water and not gas.

  43. Modern coal plants don’t produce soot, unless they’re burning oil during startup. Properly-operating coal-burners produce a very light-grey, almost whitish ash. If the precipitators are in good shape, even that is hard to see without a dark background. Cold days produce alot of water vapor, tho.

  44. Being not a very intelligent sceptic as I am being continually described by the AGW fraternity, I obviously only have a very limited brain activity, so could the more highly educated and more enlightened AGW believers please explain to me the terrible threat that I pose with all the other illiterate scepics to our planet with carbon dioxide (or is it carbon?)

    We are led to believe that this terrible toxic gas (or is it the carbon element that thes AGW’s are always quoting) has now reached a level of 450 parts per million in our atmosphere but what I would like to ask from the AGW’s is what percentage of this poison is actually contributed by us humans and all our criminal activies?

    Of this confirmed percentage which no doubt these AGW experts can explain how they differentiate between human and natural carbon dioxide, what then is the breakdown of the contribution from the use of fossil fuels, human and other life form emmissions( don’t worry about methane for the moment) and any other artificially produced CO2?

    I would appreciate some fairly simple statistics from the responders owing to my obviously limited understanding of this matter, so I would appreciate no links to other sites that just tend to bombard you with meaningless jargon and AGW propaganda, and just a very simple answer with what ever evidence you have to support your replies.

  45. “Minnesota Power disputes the contentions in the Sierra Club’s intent-to-sue notice. Officials with the utility tell the AP opacity can be caused by factors other than pollutants, citing water vapor as an example.””

    Sierra Club is in effect suing Minnesotans for keeping warm in winter – the same Minnesotans who just experienced an unusually harsh winter with record-breaking cold and snow, and are now facing planting delays. “Damp soil leftover from winter, melting snow and lagging temperatures mean a lot of places are going to have a slow planting period across the Midwest, northern Plains and the Great Lakes,” AccuWeather said.

    Sen Inhofe has done the math and discovered that the coal plants slated for shutdowns by the EPA would cause blackouts.

    “If this recent cold weather occurs again while these plants are shutdown there simply won’t be enough electricity to keep people warm,” Inhofe said on the Senate floor. “It could result in massive blackouts. … It will be as if we’re living in the 1600s and everyone will be cold.” He has introduced sb1988 to allow states to keep their power on.

    Sierra Club is a heartless, predatory environmental activist NGO awash in government money, working to shut down power for people at a time of low solar activity and agricultural challenges in the north.

  46. :”The Sierra Club would be surprised to learn” anything whatsoever. It would be such a shock.

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