EPA moves toward tighter smog rules

EPA moves toward tighter controls on ground-level smog in the U.S.

Citing human health concerns the EPA has announced new standards on smog. There is now a sixty-day period of public comment before the rules could be implemented. There will be plenty of public comment. The EPA release today did NOT cite nor mention climate change. The EPA's proposed ruling is aimed specifically at reducing ground-level ozone. This does not deal with CO2, nitrogen compounds, hydrocarbons or sulphur compounds.

Much of the ozone is produced by combustion engines in vehicles, fossil fuel burning industries and percolation from landfills. If the EPA's new ruling does take effect, hundreds of counties across America would be in violation. Smog is blamed for causing childhood asthma and aggravating both heart and lung disease in adults. The ruling has the American Lung Association happy. The critics of the EPA's threatened move are many. One of the first to speak up is the governor of Texas. Dallas and Houston have never met the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act. If the new EPA standards are put in place other Texas cities will fail to meet the smog test: San Antonio, Austin, El Paso and Tyler. Texas is only an example. And it is not clear what form of compulsion the EPA can use on violating regions.

There is some reaction from the auto industry. The car folks say most smog in America now comes from fixed location sources, i.e. landfills and power plants, factories and large buildings heated by fossil fuels.

If the EPA standards are put into place, and if the federal government manages to enforce the standards (see Dallas and Houston above), this could be a huge boon for industry-scale solar and wind-powered electricity generation. There is no faster way for a power plant or factory to reduce smog than to stop burning fossil fuel. This could lead to solar or wind-powered cement plants, bakeries, wallboard factories, lumber mills, food processing, etc. And when there's solar or wind in use, there is likely to be more need for energy storage. That could be a huge boon to industry-scale battery systems. Or sophisticated hydraulic systems. Pump the water uphill when the sun or wind is high. Then, let it run back down through turbines when there is no wind or sun. You can bet the folks working on alternative energy system for producing electricity are watching the EPA's moves very closely.

WHERE AMERICA GETS MOST OF ITS ELECTRICITY NOW

source:coal ..............oil..........coke......nat.gas......nuc............hydro.......renewable 2005 2,012,873 / 99,840 / 22,385 / 760,960 / 781,986 / 270,321 / 87,329 2006 1,990,511 / 44,460 /19,706 / 816,441 / 787,219 / 289,246 / 96,525 Source: EIA Unit: thousands of megawatts generated. There are no more recent stats available at EIA.

You can see how crucial coal is to America's current electricity grid. And other fossil fuels are not trivial, esp. natural gas. Of the top three electricity sources only nuclear is ozone free.

BLAME THE TREES

One argument you are sure to hear from anti-EPA sources: ozone can be blamed on trees. There is clear science to the charge: some trees, expecially in hot cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix, Dallas or Houston, have been shown to contribute ozone pollution. So you may see some ozone eradication programs predicated on suburban or urban logging...but only with electric chain saws, you would presume. So Texas could cut down all the cedars....