Coal – confirmed by NASA as getting cleaner

Oh Dear, It’s another Joe Romm head exploder. The improvement is verified by satellite data and the results are peer reviewed. Yet the EPA still insists on closing coal plants nationwide.

NASA Satellite Confirms Sharp Decline in Pollution from U.S. Coal Power Plants

A team of scientists have used the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite to confirm major reductions in the levels of a key air pollutant generated by coal power plants in the eastern United States. The pollutant, sulfur dioxide, contributes to the formation of acid rain and can cause serious health problems.

The scientists, led by an Environment Canada researcher, have shown that sulfur dioxide levels in the vicinity of major coal power plants have fallen by nearly half since 2005. The new findings, the first satellite observations of this type, confirm ground-based measurements of declining sulfur dioxide levels and demonstrate that scientists can potentially measure levels of harmful emissions throughout the world, even in places where ground monitoring is not extensive or does not exist. About two-thirds of sulfur dioxide pollution in American air comes from coal power plants. Geophysical Research Letters published details of the new research this month

average sulfur dioxide levels measured by the Aura satellite for the period 2005-2007

average sulfur dioxide levels measured by the Aura satellite for the period 2008-2010 These maps show average sulfur dioxide levels measured by the Aura satellite for the periods 2005-2007 (top) and 2008-2010 (bottom) over a portion of the eastern United States. The black dots represent the locations of many of the nation’s top sulfur dioxide emissions sources. Larger dots indicate greater emissions. (Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory)

› Larger image (2005-2007)

› Larger image (2008-2010)

The scientists attribute the decline in sulfur dioxide to the Clean Air Interstate Rule, a rule passed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2005 that called for deep cuts in sulfur dioxide emissions. In response to that rule, many power plants in the United States have installed desulfurization devices and taken other steps that limit the release of sulfur dioxide. The rule put a cap on emissions, but left it up to power companies to determine how to reduce emissions and allowed companies to trade pollution credits.

While scientists have used the Ozone Monitoring Instrument to observe sulfur dioxide levels within large plumes of volcanic ash and over heavily polluted parts of China in the past, this is the first time they have observed such subtle details over the United States, a region of the world that in comparison to fast-growing parts of Asia now has relatively modest sulfur dioxide emissions. Just a few decades ago, sulfur dioxide pollution was quite severe in the United States. Levels of the pollutant have dropped by about 75 percent since the 1980s due largely to the passage of the Clean Air Act.

a coal power plant Smokestacks from a coal power plant in Maryland jut into a hazy skyline. Credit: Jeff Stehr, University of Maryland

› Larger image

artist concept of Aura Artist’s concept of the Aura spacecraft. Credit: NASA

› Larger image Vitali Fioletov, a scientist based in Toronto at Environment Canada, and his colleagues developed a new mathematical approach that made the improved measurements a reality. The approach centers on averaging measurements within a 30 miles radius (50 km) of a sulfur dioxide source over several years. “Vitali has developed an extremely powerful technique that makes it possible to detect emissions even when levels of sulfur dioxide are about four times lower than what we could detect previously,” said Nickolay Krotkov, a researcher based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and a coauthor of the new paper.

The technique allowed Fioletov and his colleagues to pinpoint the sulfur dioxide signals from the 40 largest sulfur dioxide sources in the United States — generally coal power plants that emit more than 70 kilotons of sulfur dioxide per year. The scientists observed major declines in sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia by comparing levels of the pollutant for an average of the period 2005 to 2007 with another average from 2008 to 2010.

“What we’re seeing in these satellite observations represents a major environmental accomplishment,” said Bryan Bloomer, an Environmental Protection Agency scientist familiar with the new satellite observations. “This is a huge success story for the EPA and the Clean Air Interstate Rule,” he said.

The researchers focused their analysis on the United States to take advantage of the presence of a robust network of ground-based instruments that monitor sulfur dioxide emissions inside power plant smokestacks. The ground-based instruments have logged a 46 percent decline in sulfur dioxide levels since 2005 — a finding consistent with the 40 percent reduction observed by OMI.

“Now that we’ve confirmed that the technique works, the next step is to use it for other parts of the world that don’t have ground-based sensors,” said Krotkov. “The real beauty of using satellites is that we can apply the same technique to the entire globe in a consistent way.” In addition, the team plans to use a similar technique to monitor other important pollutants that coal power plants release, such as nitrogen dioxide, a precursor to ozone.

OMI, a Dutch and Finnish built instrument, was launched in 2004, as one of four instruments on the NASA Aura satellite, and can measure sulfur dioxide more accurately than any satellite instrument flown to date. Though OMI remains in very good condition and scientists expect it to continue producing high-quality data for many years, the researchers also hope to use data from an upcoming Dutch-built OMI follow-on instrument called TROPOMI that is expected to launch on a European Space Agency satellite in 2014.

On July 6, 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), requiring 27 states to significantly reduce power plant emissions that contribute to ozone and fine particle pollution in other states. This rule replaces EPA’s 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR). A December 2008 court decision kept the requirements of CAIR in place temporarily but directed EPA to issue a new rule to implement Clean Air Act requirements concerning the transport of air pollution across state boundaries. This action responds to the court’s concerns.

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Latitude

Speaking of satellites measuring….
….what in this world happened to this?……
http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/japanese-satellites-say-3rd-world-owes-co2-reparations-to-the-west/

Hmm, well it isn’t as if I spent time obsessing over SO2, and while its humorous to dig at our nutty obsessive friend, Romm, the benefits of coal far outweigh any imaginary harm pre or post this study.

Sandy

Mt. Pinutabo injected 20 million tons of SO2 into the atmosphere. So 300 years of total US output in one of Nature’s smaller belches.

Hugh Pepper

It’s great that the SO2 levels are falling, but the much bigger problem is CO2. When you cite research which shows these levels falling, I will get really excited.

beng

Actually, I think sulfur deposition, in small amounts, is a good thing for the environment. As a plant hobbyist I know many plants need more acidic soil than they have and benefit from additional sulfur in the soil. It would be interesting to monitor crop-yields & tree-growth rates in the “high” sulfur areas, like the upper Ohio River valley, keeping in mind that sulfur-levels have decreased markedly in the last few decades.
Notice that any benefit from anything is not permissible in the CAGW propaganda.

Jimmy Haigh

NASA disappoints. – gavin

H.R.

“The scientists, led by an Environment Canada researcher, have shown that sulfur dioxide levels in the vicinity of major coal power plants have fallen by nearly half since 2005.”
wOw! By half since 2005… And SO2 levels were severely curtailed when acid rain was first attacked as a problem. So I’m guessing that the levels of SO2 from a modern coal power plant are low enough that you could suck on the exhaust stack with little effect? No sarc; that’s pretty impressive results.
Besides all that, don’t we need the SO2 to counteract the warming effects of CO2?
Won’t somebody at the EPA make up ther mind?

Kelvin Vaughan

So that’s why it is getting colder there.

AdderW

Hugh Pepper says:
December 3, 2011 at 7:55 am
It’s great that the SO2 levels are falling, but the much bigger problem is CO2. When you cite research which shows these levels falling, I will get really excited.

Why ? So it will match the fact that temperatures are falling ?

Mike from Canmore

Further to what H.R. was saying – Way back in the early 90’s. I was selling control systems to a company which designed and implemented incinerators. The president at the time showed me the results from the emissions from a hospital incinerator in Minneapolis they built. The particulate counts at the hospital’s front doors were higher than those coming out of the incinerator’s smokestack. The pollution controls were that good and that was at least 20 years ago.

Climate science is an absolute mess.

Jason Miller

Regulation really worked fast cleaning up SO2. Now, could something finally be done about all that mercury?

Once and for all: “Acid rain” is not caused by SO2 from coal burning.
Acidification of lakes, thought to come from acid rain, is caused by rotting vegetation, mostly accrued from land clearing.
Please – everybody – get your facts straight. Coal burning has nothing to do with lake acidification. If it did, the lakes in Ohio would be more acidic than the lakes in Florida. However, the reverse is true.

Jim

I would be interest in seeing similar data regarding two West Coast plants. Specifically the Centralia Steam Plant in Western Washington and the Boardman Plant in Eastern Oregon.
Both plants are slated to be closed in the next 5 – 10 years, with no associated replacement of power to the regional power grid.

crosspatch

Both plants are slated to be closed in the next 5 – 10 years, with no associated replacement of power to the regional power grid.

The EPA is set to shut down an amount of generating capacity equal to all of or nuclear power generation with no replacement power. 28 Gigawatts of generation is slated to be taken off the grid by EPA
http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/2011/10/07/ier-identifies-coal-fired-power-plants-likely-to-close-as-result-of-epa-regulations/
No replacement power is on the horizon to take its place.

Honest ABE

Since the sulfate levels are dropping so fast we can expect it to be heating up in the area right? 😉

pat

Data? I don’t need no stinkin data.

Latitude

Hugh Pepper says:
December 3, 2011 at 7:55 am
It’s great that the SO2 levels are falling, but the much bigger problem is CO2.
=========================
Even the IPCC doesn’t think CO2 is a big problem…..
…..they let developing countries, the vast majority of countries, do nothing

Craig Moore

After reading Willis’ latest contribution it becomes very clear as to the EPA’s motivation in closing coal plants. The life cycle costs of wind and solar are “sky” high compared to coal.

Tim Channon

Beng is correct, be scared of zero sulphur, serious agricultural problems.
In England there is actual trouble and of course extra costs from having to apply this to crops.
Quick search, plenty to find
“Over the last decade, sulphur deficiency has increased sub-
stantially in many crops in the UK, and is predicted to
increase further because the decreasing trend in S emis-
sions is expected to continue. Sulphur is important not only
for crop yields but also for crop quality. Sulphur deficiency
can also result in greater losses of nitrogen to the environ-
ment. To predict where S deficiency is likely to occur and to
recommend optimised uses of S fertilisers requires a
detailed understanding of the S cycling in soil-crop sys-
tems. A better understanding of the molecular physiology
of crop S nutrition is imperative for improving S utilisation
efficiency and crop quality.”
http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/corporate/annualreport/2000/7-Sulphur.pdf
Always someone else’s money.

Mike Davis

This shows I am paying for something that was not even needed in my region and should have been implemented on a site by site basis rather than requiring all coal plants to install the additional scrubbers.

When it comes to SO2 and particulates the coal emissions can and should be controlled. They can be too and what is needed are rational rules fairly applied. When one examines the situation those rules exist and are often fairly applied. What is difficult is separating the emotional hype and sophistry from all sides. I can not speak for other jurisdictions I can say our methods here in Alberta are reasonable, not perfect but reasonable. The big problem is often the difference between being able to measure something and understanding what that measurement means.

G. Karst

Hugh Pepper says:
December 3, 2011 at 7:55 am
It’s great that the SO2 levels are falling, but the much bigger problem is CO2. When you cite research which shows these levels falling, I will get really excited.

We certainly don’t want you getting more excited than you already are! Has it occurred to you that the reason we are not cooling faster is because of dropping sulfates. CO2 is so yesterday. GK

kforestcat

Gentlemen
Regards the EPA spokesman’s (Bryan Bloomer) statement:
“This is a huge success story for the EPA and the Clean Air Interstate Rule”
In my view, the EPA’s statement is a bad a joke. The Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) rules were overturned by Federal Court in 2008 because the EPA failed to articulate how the regional CAIR rule it created matched the Clean Air Act’s requirement that the EPA must match its emission limitations to the actual impact of upwind States emissions on downwind states ). In short , using the CAIR rule, the EPA attempted to regulate virtually the entire Eastern United States without showing an actual state-to-state impacts. (CAIR remains in effect until the new CSARP rule is enacted).
When this attempt failed, the EPA then proceeded to redefine what constituted “significant impacts ” on downwind States in a manner which now requires even deeper emissions reductions than CAIR required. This was largely accomplished by claiming upwind States were impacting downwind States if a single monitor in an upwind state was out of compliance & any downwind State’s emissions were projected to enter a downwind State. The EPA new interpretation of “significant impact” was, developed by this current administration, what is the new CSAPR rule. These rules take into effect January 1, 2012.
There are three major problems with the approach used in CSAPR: 1) The EPA assumed , thru atmospheric modeling, that specific monitoring points in downwind states would be out of compliance. It did so even though it had actual data that showed the same downwind monitors were not out of compliance; 2) The EPA provided no evidence that the emissions from upwind state were actually contributing to (or would have contributed to) the failure of individual downwind air monitors to meet the compliance targets (i.e., they assumed that if even a minor amount of upwind States emissions might enter a downwind State that these theoretical emissions would impact all monitors in the downwind State), and 3) The monitoring sites the EPA based its rule on were located in counties with multiple monitors which were not out of compliance even with their modeling assumptions (thus indicating a clear local problem unrelated to interstate emissions from electric generating units).
In short, the EPA has ignored evidence that specific cities had (or might have) serious local problems with non-utility facilities like coke plants. Instead of addressing the local problems, the EPA used the process as a means of severely restricting the use of coal by electric utilities. The really galling part of this is that the EPA is deliberately sacrificing the health of citizens in those few areas of the country where real health issues exist.
Regards,
Kforestcat

Crispin in Waterloo

@Sandy says:
Mt. Pinutabo injected 20 million tons of SO2 into the atmosphere. So 300 years of total US output in one of Nature’s smaller belches.
++++
Exactly! What was the devastating local or downwind effect of ‘all that acid rain’ that should have been created by Mt. Pinatubo? Anything at all? Flattening of forests in an acid rain soup with the floating rotting bodies of endangered species of frog? If there was nothing because of high level dispersion, it supports the old argument that dilution is the solution to pollution.
Personally I like the desulphurisation approach as the byproduct (sulphur) is valuable. Anyone up for desulphurising a volcano? Might cost a bit. I accept cheques.

Sandy says:
December 3, 2011 at 7:45 am
Mt. Pinutabo injected 20 million tons of SO2 into the atmosphere. So 300 years of total US output in one of Nature’s smaller belches.
——————————————————————————-
Exactly. The enviros are once again crediting themselves for fixing imaginary problems. Just like the ozone hole. I can’t wait until they announce they’ve fixed the GW issue.

Jay Davis

Interesting article, however I have one question. Was generator output the same for the two periods? If so, then the decrease in SO2 is impressive.

crosspatch

One can look in near real time to see where the SO2 is in the atmosphere. For example, I find this handy for keeping track of volcanic eruptions:
http://satepsanone.nesdis.noaa.gov/pub/OMI/OMISO2/blowup_drag_ME.html (takes a while to load, be patient)
You will see a fairly decent “smudge” in Africa, that is Nyamuragira which has been putting on quite a show recently and has been emitting a fairly large amount of SO2 right at the equator since November 6 or so. You’ll also notice a plume from Mexico, that’s Popocatepetl. Then there’s a plume in the Columbia/Ecuador region. Those are Tungurahua and Galeras which are both erupting. You can see a bit of a burp in Hawaii and there is a rather large plume that has been going on for months and months Northeast of Australia at Vanuatu.

Steve

…but let’s shut down and bankrupt the coal industry anyway, because screw you, America! -BHO and the EPA.

Dave Springer

Hugh Pepper says:
December 3, 2011 at 7:55 am
“It’s great that the SO2 levels are falling, but the much bigger problem is CO2. ”
What exactly is the problem with CO2? Even the IPCC admits that it will be beneficial until at least 2050 because of its wonderful effects at increasing plant growth rates, better water utilization, and longer growing seasons. And given that the earth’s actual average temperature is tracking substantially below the best case predictions that extends the benefits right on through the end of economically recoverable fossil fuels 200 years from now.
By far the most insidious disinformation is that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are actually helping make the world a greener place. Anyone actually concerned about greening of the earth knows that green things barely manage to survive seasonal ice and snow and they sure as hell don’t prosper from freezing weather.

Wayne Delbeke

Mike from Canmore says:
December 3, 2011 at 8:46 am
Further to what H.R. was saying – Way back in the early 90′s. I was selling control systems to a company which designed and implemented incinerators. The president at the time showed me the results from the emissions from a hospital incinerator in Minneapolis they built. The particulate counts at the hospital’s front doors were higher than those coming out of the incinerator’s smokestack. The pollution controls were that good and that was at least 20 years ago.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I had several similar experiences 20 plus years ago including one where a client was prohibited from discharging sewage into a lake … until we discovered that the sewage was actually of significantly better quality than the existing lake water and would actually improve the quality of water for aquatic life forms. Sometimes things are not what they appear on first glance.

crosspatch

It is estimated that between 20-30 million tons of coal is burned each year in coal seam fires that have started both naturally and sparked by man. Lewis and Clark reported natural coal seam fires burning in Wyoming. One fire in China that over 50 years consumed an estimated 12.43 million tons of coal and prevented another 651 million tons from being mined was only recently put out.
We are basically talking about the entire annual coal production of West Virginia going up in smoke every year without any “scrubbing”. Much of this is very dirty high sulfur coal. The pollution emitted by these fires is roughly equal to all of the pollution emitted by transportation related fossil fuel burning in the entire world. In other words, putting these fires out would be equal to eliminating the pollution from every car, truck, and train from the face of the earth.
Then lets begin to talk about natural gas and oil seeps. In the Gulf of Mexico alone the equivalent of two Exxon Valdez loads of oil naturally seeps into the Gulf every year. The amount of oil that naturally seeps into the environment per year is greater than the amount spilled from all human drilling activity over the entire decade of the 1990’s.
People simply have no sense of scale of how much natural pollution goes on and tend to inflate their own impacts.

many power plants in the United States have installed desulfurization devices and taken other steps that limit the release of sulfur dioxide.
The funny thing is, that the simplest way to control SO2 emissions is to neutralize those emissions with “milk of lime”…but, to obtain it you need “burnt lime”, by burning CaCO3 with fuel so as to decompose it in CaO + CO2 🙂

Laurie

Yes, Steve. Also, someone at NOAA needs to be fired and the Geophysical Research Letters need to be shunned. Who were the reviewers? We need to know and we also need to do something about these Canadian researchers who are committing crimes agains humanity!

There is an alternative way:
Reaction 1: SO2+CuO = SO3+ Cu
Reaction 2: Cu+ Air(O)+ Heat = CuO
Reaction 3: SO3+ H2O =H2SO4

Otter

Hugh Pepper~ If CO2 begins to drop substantially, you will Need to be excited. Shivering will (slightly) offset the increasing Cold you will be feeling.

So, no more “Death Trains” from Dr. Hansen??

Stephen Brown

Up until about 20-25 years ago the application of sulphur-rich fertilizers was unknown in England. The land received sufficient sulphur from dissolved gasses in rainfall. Since the environmentalist’s mandated “clean-up” farmers now have to spread far less efficient sulphur-rich fertilizers on their crop-land but it would appear that a lot of the sulphur so applied is leached from the soil before the plants can make use of it. This results in sulphur pollution of water courses which is detrimental to aquatic life. This is a relatively new phenomenon to most, but one which Rothamsted has been measuring for about 150 years!
“Annual applications of >50 kg S ha-1 as sulphate for more than 150 years in the Broadbalk Experiment have not resulted in an accumulation of S in the soil.”
http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/corporate/annualreport/2000/7-Sulphur.pdf

Latitude

We’re supposed to trust glorified weathermen…..
…..when we can’t even get batteries right?
http://www.zdnet.com/blog/green/chevy-volt-fires-have-some-asking-are-electric-vehicle-batteries-safe/19541

Rob Crawford

At least one of the dots on that map — Zimmer, in south western Ohio — was SUPPOSED to be nuclear, and thus emit zero SO3. But the environMENTALists “won” that crusade.

Philip Bradley

The irony here is that SO2 reductions may well be a significant cause of ‘global warming’ due to SO2’s cloud seeding.
Less SO2 = fewer clouds = more solar insolation = warmer surface temps
sulfur dioxide
emissions has been constructed spanning the period 1850–
2005 using a bottom-up mass balance method, calibrated to
country-level inventory data. Global emissions peaked in
the early 1970s and decreased until 2000, with an increase
in recent years due to increased emissions in China, inter-
national shipping, and developing countries in general.

The timeline certainly fits much better than CO2.

Philip Bradley

You can add,
Less SO2 = more water vapour = increased greenhouse effect = warmer surface temps

Interstellar Bill

500 kW-hrs generated means another ton of CO2
Shutting down those power plants IS their main goal,
not merely an unfortunate side effect.
Unplug the EPA from the grid
and make them pedal generators at their desks.

kforestcat

Dear Stephen Brown @ December 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm
You are on target regarding sulfur depletion of the soils. Indeed when I was with the TVA’s National Fertilizer Development Center (NFDC) we developed sulfur coated urea specifically to address this problem (as well as to improve nitrogen utilization).
The problem is especially acute in non-developed countries where the average farmer struggles to afford fertilizers and may not be aware of the sulfur depletion issue.
Regards, Kforestcat

Werent SO2 scrubbers mandated in the 70’s? Perhaps there was a slight artificial cooling from the SO2 up to that point, which was removed, causing a slight warming?
Anyone know if someone has looked into this, could late 20th century warming be caused by a reduction the daily amount of SO2 being emitted into the atmosphere?

DesertYote

Charles S. Opalek, PE says:
December 3, 2011 at 9:11 am
Once and for all: “Acid rain” is not caused by SO2 from coal burning.
Acidification of lakes, thought to come from acid rain, is caused by rotting vegetation, mostly accrued from land clearing.
Please – everybody – get your facts straight. Coal burning has nothing to do with lake acidification. If it did, the lakes in Ohio would be more acidic than the lakes in Florida. However, the reverse is true.
###
Next you are going to be trying to tell us that the change in fish population was caused by the introduction of piscivorouse game fishes!

Jessie

Interstellar Bill @ 2.29
Pfffttt…
That is called ‘work at home’ (or work at second employment or activist venture) while still controlling the masses.
Regulation, based in selective selection of ‘samples’ and attendant ‘data’ input has extended to even more to the activities and industry of the bush.
The saga of Matt and Janet Thompson reported by WUWT and Jo Nova is an eg of that.
The workers and family business have been there with pedal and succeeded in educating their kids.
http://www.gizmag.com/go/5714/picture/24026/
and http://www.wilmap.com.au/people/traeger.html
just to let you know how widespread the technology became.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

Jason Miller said on December 3, 2011 at 9:03 am:

Regulation really worked fast cleaning up SO2. Now, could something finally be done about all that mercury?

All what mercury?
http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/powersystems/pollutioncontrols/overview_mercurycontrols.html (bold added):

(…) In 1995, an estimated 5,500 tons of mercury was emitted globally from both natural and human sources. Coal-fired power plants in the United States contributed less than 1 percent of the total.

The amount of mercury being deposited today on land and in water is actually much lower than in recent decades. Peat cores from Minnesota, for example, show that mercury deposition was highest in the 1950s, with levels about 10 times greater than those before 1900. By the 1980s, however, depositions had fallen to less than half of the 1950s. Emissions data from Sweden and measurements of mercury levels in birds and other animals in the United Kingdom also show a consistent pattern suggesting that mercury levels reached a peak around 1960.
Mercury emissions continued to fall in the decade of the 1990s. In 1993, U.S. yearly emissions totaled about 242 tons. By the end of the decade, emissions had declined to less than 160 tons per year.
The primary reason is that the use of mercury in batteries, fungicides and paints has been reduced. Also, municipal waste combustors, hazardous waste combustors, and medical waste incinerators have been regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The number of operating chlor-alkali plants has also declined from about 20 in 1990 to 12 in 2000, and those still operating have reduced their mercury use. Federal regulations reducing mercury emissions by 90 percent from municipal waste combustors and by 94 percent from medical waste incinerators were released in October 1995 and in August 1997. In 1998 mercury emissions from hazardous waste combustion facilities were also regulated.
Coal-fired power plants contribute only a small part of the total worldwide emissions of mercury. The estimated 48 tons of mercury they emit annually is about one-third of the total amount of mercury released annually by human activities in the United States.

Now compare that to this April 07, 2011 newspaper account of a growing Hg contamination issue:
http://articles.latimes.com/2011/apr/07/business/la-fi-lightbulb-mercury-20110407


Demand for CFL bulbs is growing as government mandates for energy-efficient lighting take effect, yet only about 2% of residential consumers and one-third of businesses recycle the new bulbs, according to the Assn. of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers.
As a result, U.S. landfills are releasing more than 4 tons of mercury annually into the atmosphere and storm water runoff, according to a study in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Assn.
A San Francisco hardware store owner is all too familiar with the bulb issue.
“They’re promoting them and giving them away, but there’s nowhere to drop them off,” said Tom Tognetti, co-owner of Fredricksen’s Hardware.

I continually find this issue obfuscated by claims that the energy savings lead to reduced demand on coal-fired electric plants yielding less Hg emissions at those plants. To wit:


CFL bulbs actually have fewer mercury concerns than incandescent lights, according to the California Energy Commission. Although the older bulbs contain no mercury, they’re often powered by coal-fired electricity plants, which release mercury as a pollutant. The result is about 40% less mercury emissions per bulb with CFLs, according to Environmental Protection Agency figures.

Some claims are even more extreme:
http://www.helplightnj.com/about/do-your-part-recycle-spent-cfl-bulbs/

Generating power is the number one contributor of mercury in the environment. CFLs save up to 70% of lighting energy, which means that power plants can produce 70% less power, which means 70% less mercury in the atmosphere.

Strangely enough, this claim does not factor in the Hg emissions from any coal-fired energy sources for the energy used in manufacturing and recycling CFL’s, let alone the Hg emissions from obtaining the Hg and manufacturing process releases. The 70% can be figured by a Nov 2010 EPA document (fine print says it’s a “living document” subject to change):
http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/promotions/change_light/downloads/Fact_Sheet_Mercury.pdf
Which makes an amazing claim:

Most mercury vapor inside fluorescent light bulbs becomes bound to the inside of the light bulb as it is used. EPA estimates that the rest of the mercury within a CFL – about 11 percent – is released into air or water when it is sent to a landfill, assuming the light bulb is broken.

This allows them to significantly downgrade their estimate of Hg released. And they are also not mentioning the Hg emissions related to manufacturing, and recycling including recovering the Hg from the toxic glass, if possible. Since the EPA thinks 89% of the Hg will stay forever bound to the glass in a landfill, it must take a lot of energy to liberate the Hg when recycling. Looks like there may be even more Hg released by recycling than just chucking them into a landfill.
So the EPA wants to regulate out of existence the coal-fired power plants that release only a relatively tiny bit of worldwide Hg emissions. But they want us to use CFL’s while being less than precise about the Hg emissions involved. And if you’re really worried about those coal-fired power plant emissions, ask yourself this: Which gives you a more severe exposure to Hg, those plant emissions spread out across the map, or a single CFL broken in your house? With EPA recommendations of ventilating a room for several hours with outdoor air after breaking a CFL, the answer should be obvious.

Isn’t that beautiful?
Just a few decades ago, sulfur dioxide pollution was quite severe in the United States. Levels of the pollutant have dropped by about 75 percent since the 1980s due largely to the passage of the Clean Air Act.
I think, that was the time, the CAGW hype started.
Lesser SO2 means lesser cloud condensation nuclei -> temperature increase.
So much for a “man-made” warming…

Philip Bradley

Please – everybody – get your facts straight. Coal burning has nothing to do with lake acidification. If it did, the lakes in Ohio would be more acidic than the lakes in Florida. However, the reverse is true.
SO2 from coal burning certainly does cause more acidic rain and more acidic rivers and lakes.
The natural PH of rivers and lakes varies greatly. Whether one lake or river is more or less acidic than another river or lake is irrelevant to whether SO2 emissions cause acid rain and more acidic lakes and rivers.