J’accuse! EPA’s carbon dioxide regulations would endanger public health and welfare

Underground storate of carbon dioxide is risky, and shutting down coal- and gas-fired power plants is a recipe for widespread poverty

J’accuse! was the headline for Emile Zola’s famous 1898 article protesting a corrupt and anti-Semitic French military that had falsely convicted Alfred Dreyfus of treason. Today I use these same words – “I accuse” – to protest the Environmental Protection Agency’s attack on coal use, based on false scientific claims about the “dangers” of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, and on EPA’s failure to acknowledge the harmful effects that its regulations will have on human health and welfare.

J’accuse the EPA of imposing rules that would abolish coal use for power plants, unnecessarily increase electricity costs, harm our nation’s economy, kill millions of jobs, hurt people’s well-being and living standards, and shorten many lives – for no climate, health or environmental benefit.

J’accuse the EPA of planning to gradually extend its carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas regulations to cover nearly all the hydrocarbon energy that powers our economy: for cars and trucks, trains and airplanes, factories, shopping malls, large office and apartment buildings, and even farms and other sources – and ultimately everything Americans make, grow, transport, eat, drink and do.

J’accuse the EPA of cherry-picking studies that support this anti-fossil fuel agenda, while dismissing severe shortcomings and misrepresentations in IPCC documents, and ignoring a vast body of scientific studies and empirical observations that sharply contradict EPA’s claims and decisions. For five years the EPA has waged war on fossil fuels, to advance its misguided view that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels causes catastrophic global warming.

By substituting the words “carbon pollution” for carbon dioxide, EPA further misleads the public about its aims. People think “carbon pollution” means co2soot, which conjures up images of blackened winter snow and black dirt on cars that was prevalent before 1970, before environmental controls all but eliminated these and other pollutants associated with burning coal. Modern power plants emit very little besides water vapor and CO2.

Even as the United States has dramatically reduced its pollution and its emissions of plant-fertilizing CO2 per unit of economic output, worldwide fossil fuel use has increased significantly, as developing nations try to bring decent living standards to their impoverished people. This caused atmospheric carbon dioxide to increase from 310 parts per million (ppm) in 1950 to 400 ppm in 2013 (0.04% of Earth’s atmosphere).

For more than a century, scientists have known that atmospheric carbon dioxide contributes slightly to a “greenhouse effect” that helps warm our planet. Water vapor produces the same effect, but far more so, since its average atmosphere concentration is 10,000 ppm. All of this also means planetary CO2 levels will keep increasing, even if the United States destroys its economy to slash its own CO2 emissions.

Concerns about global warming resulted in creation of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988. Since then, the IPCC has published five reports (1990, 1995, 2001, 2007, and 2013), each one insisting that human CO2 is now the dominant factor in climate change and relying on computer climate models that claim we face future disasters.

The EPA uses these IPCC reports, models, and predictions as its primary source of information on climate change, and its principal justification for restricting fossil fuel use. The IPPC and EPA have refused to engage in discussions or debates with the thousands of scientists who disagree with their claims that humans are responsible for climate change, and that any future warming or climate change will be disastrous. They have likewise been exempt from any real oversight. In fact, the 2007 IPCC report stirred up tremendous controversy over major errors, serious omissions, and fraudulent claims that student papers and environmental activist reports were “peer-reviewed scientific studies.”

The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) were creeated in 2003, to restore balance and scientific integrity to this process – and ensure that citizens, politicians, journalists, and other people have access to the scientific findings that the EPA and IPCC have ignored. In 2008, the NIPCC issued its own scientific analysis, Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate. To highlight more IPCC errors, the NIPCC then produced an 856-page report, Climate Change Reconsidered: The 2009 Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.

The Heartland Institute helped prepare and publish these reports, and held conferences and media briefings to publicize their findings. Anticipating that future IPCC reports would have similar shortcomings, the NIPCC produced a 2011 Climate Change Reconsidered interim report, featuring scientific evidence and information that was not available for its 2009 report. Both reports can be found at www.nipccreport.org.

As the IPCC prepared to publish its fifth report in 2013, a number of its charts and findings were leaked to the media. This enabled the NIPCC and other scientists to examine the IPCC data and challenge many of its assumptions and claims. The NIPCC released its 1000-page report, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science and a 20-page Summary for Policymakers, on September 17, 2013. Their principal findings are that:

(1) human impacts on climate are very small;

(2) any changes in temperatures that might be occurring or will occur in the future are too small to be noticed against the climate’s entirely natural variability;

(3) the IPCC’s 2013 report glosses over the fact that there has been no global warming for 16 years; and

(4) the IPCC global climate models completely failed to forecast this hiatus in global warming and the record lulls in major hurricane and tornado activity.

These NIPCC reports are available at http://www.climatechangereconsidered.org.People can easily compare the NIPCC and IPCC summaries and findings, by going to http://ipcc.ch/.

EPA refuses to acknowledge the clear benefits of CO2 and moderate global warming, the need for fossil fuels to power modern societies, or the fact that atmospheric CO2 causes negligible warming. Thousands of papers and books showcase these benefits, and British science journalist Matt Ridley’s October 19, 2013, article “Why climate change is good for the world” provides an excellent summary.

Warming saves lives, while cold kills. Some 29,000 Britons died in this past winter because they could not afford to heat their homes properly, due to soaring energy costs resulting from the UK’s renewable energy and climate change policies. Increasing atmospheric CO2 increases plant growth and makes them more drought resistant. We are able to feed our planet’s 7 billion people in part because the 40% rise in CO2 since the start of the Industrial Revolution has helped food crops grow better.

After EPA issued its September 2013 proposed regulations, the Investor’s Business Daily said the rules would “kill the coal industry.” The IBD editorial stated, “Far from being a plan to clean up the environment, it is in fact a road map to de-industrialization and poverty.” The article highlighted power plant shutdowns and threats of businesses to leave the country due to escalating electricity prices.

Gas turbine combined-cycle power plants can meet EPA’s proposed standards for no more than 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh). However, even high-performance coal-fired power plants typically emit 1,800 pounds of CO2 per MWh and cannot meet that standard without CO2 capture and sequestration – a technology that has not been demonstrated for large power plants.

The unproven process is very expensive, requires one-third of a power plant’s entire electricity production, and then must find places where billions of tons of high-pressure CO2 can be stored safely underground. Such underground storage of high-pressure CO2 presents human and wildlife safety problems that have never been encountered in the United States. Because CO2 is denser than typical air, leaking gas would spread along the earth’s surface and suffocate any people, domestic animals, and wildlife in its path.

gasmasksIn 1986, CO2 emerging from a natural reservoir under Lake Nyos in the Cameroon suffocated 1,700 people and thousands of cattle. Similar events have occurred elsewhere in Africa. How ironic that the agency charged with ensuring the safety, health, and welfare of American citizens is promoting regulations that will supposedly address a global warming and climate change problem that thousands of scientists say does not exist – and is addressing that non-existent hazard by creating rules that will kill jobs, harm human welfare, and threaten unsuspecting citizens with death from CO2 leaks.

In summary, using poor science and a lack of judgment, the EPA has promulgated CO2 rules that are intended to drastically reduce or even eliminate our nation’s use of its huge reservoirs of fossil fuels. Once these rules are implemented, even more onerous rules will follow. Great economic damage will result, leading to fewer jobs, increased poverty, greater hardships, and reduced nutrition, health, welfare, living standards and life spans for our citizens – all in the name of preventing global warming and climate changes that exist only in IPCC computer models and EPA press releases.

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About the Author: James Rust

James H. Rust is a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, a retired professor of nuclear engineering, and an outspoken critic of unnecessary alarmism over man-made global warming. He funds several scholarships for students majoring in chemical engineering at Purdue University. He currently is delivering a talk titled “America's Failed Energy Policies and The Reason Why.”