Essay by Eric Worrall
The Guardian seems to be falling out of love with the Biden administration’s plan to recycle plastic into allegedly toxic biofuel. Chevron denies there is a problem.
This ‘climate-friendly’ fuel comes with an astronomical cancer risk
This article is co-published with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power
Fri 24 Feb 2023 11.03 AEDT
“That kind of risk is obscene,” said Linda Birnbaum, former head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “You can’t let that get out.”
That risk is 250,000 times greater than the level usually considered acceptable by the EPA division that approves new chemicals. Chevron hasn’t started making this fuel yet, the EPA said. When the company does, the cancer burden will disproportionately fall on people who have low incomes and are Black because of the population that lives within three miles of the refinery that will produce the fuel in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
In response to questions from ProPublica and the Guardian, an EPA spokesperson wrote that the agency’s lifetime cancer risk calculation is “a very conservative estimate with ‘high uncertainty’”, meaning the government erred on the side of caution in calculating such a high risk.
In January 2022, the EPA announced the initiative to streamline the approval of petroleum alternatives in what a press release called “part of the Biden-Harris administration’s actions to confront the climate crisis”. While the program cleared new fuels made from plants, it also signed off on fuels made from plastics even though they are petroleum-based and contribute to the release of planet-warming greenhouse gases.
In an email Chevron spokesperson Ross Allen wrote: “It is incorrect to say there is a one-in-four cancer risk from smoke-stack emissions. I urge you [to] avoid suggesting otherwise.” Asked to clarify what exactly was wrong with the statement, Allen wrote that Chevron disagrees with ProPublica and the Guardian’s “characterization of language in the EPA consent order”. That document, signed by a Chevron manager at its refinery in Pascagoula, quantified the lifetime cancer risk from the inhalation of smokestack air as 2.5 cancers per 10 people, which can also be stated as one in four.
…Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/feb/23/climate-friendly-us-program-plastics-fuel-cancer
Is the risk as bad as the Guardian claims? Chevron says no. I’m not sure I’m satisfied with their answer.
All I can say, I’m not putting that stuff in my gas tank. I think I got my lifetime exposure to organa-chlorides and dioxane working in decrepit plastics factory with questionable ventilation as a teenager. I’m not interested in topping up the dose.