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505Re: Using Natural Gas for Power Plants and/or Heating?

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  • Jonathan Clemens
    Dec 18, 2000
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      This fine article is a follow on to Dian Deevey's message I recently
      forwarded. Ned Ford cautions us about not fully understanding the science
      behind particulate matter pollution and the economics of natural gas versus
      other fuels. Read the previous article first, I suggest, while those of you
      interested in science and economics can read on. His main point is that
      2.5M (micron) PM with NG may be different from 2.5M with diesel, which may
      be different from 2.5M with coal burning. Good point, for there are
      differing levels of other toxins associated with each of the fuel types'

      This article restates the importance of efficiency measures in the coming
      decade, with RE coming in full stride later. Ned emphasizes the importance
      of DSM (Demand Side Management), which we touched upon at our last general


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Ned Ford" <Ned.Ford@...>
      Sent: Sunday, December 17, 2000 8:22 PM
      Subject: Re: Using Natural Gas for Power Plants and/or Heating?

      > Tom Hackney's message containing Dian Deevey's message does two things:
      > 1) It takes us back to the inevitable importance of creating new
      > systems to increase energy efficiency, since nothing else is available
      > in quantity and at cost to become a meaningful part of the picture in
      > the next fifteen years or so.
      > 2) It demonstrates the level of knowledge that still needs to be
      > obtained before we know precisely what pollution is the worst: I
      > appreciate Dian's message because all too often the scientific community
      > fails to convey the precise nature of the issues to the public (and the
      > activist community). But she too leaves some of the puzzle unexamined.
      > While there is a sound body of evidence that PM 2.5 (the "APM" in her
      > message is a relic of some text conversion) is the particulate matter
      > that matters to human health, there is still a lot left to be
      > determined. It is evident that there are a lot of differences between
      > PM2.5 from coal, PM2.5 from diesel, and PM2.5 from natural gas as well
      > as other sources. One scientist I speak with occasionally says that 45%
      > of the PM2.5 in ambient air (presumably in the Midwest) is heavy metal
      > particles that are highly acidic. He presumes that these particles are
      > from coal. I have not heard that natural gas particulate matter
      > includes heavy metals, although it is clear that there can be some
      > sulphur in natural gas. Diesel PM2.5 contains complex reactive
      > chemicals that I do not fully understand, which are probably
      > disproportionately dangerous to health.
      > For those of us working on the cutting edge of these issues, it is
      > evident that some people presume that further PM2.5 cuts will result
      > from stronger acid rain laws, and that this is the regulatory course to
      > take. Others assume that further acid rain gains will result from the
      > necessary reductions in PM2.5. Confusing? Well, that is the state of
      > environmental protection in the U.S. Confusing. And anything but
      > concerned with the health of the public.
      > The greatest unknown is the degree to which particulate matter can be
      > controlled from power plant sources. New source standards are far more
      > protective than existing plant standards, but they still do not directly
      > regulate PM 2.5. They will reduce PM2.5 incidentally, relative to older
      > power plants, because the PM10 standards are so much stronger. But we
      > really don't have a clear sense that I've been able to detect, of what
      > level of PM2.5 is acceptable. My understanding is that the new
      > standards advanced by the Clinton EPA and savagely attacked from every
      > direction except to criticize the basic conclusion EPA reached that
      > current standards fail to protect human health, were not intended to
      > cause reductions directly. (The new ozone standards do cause
      > reductions, and represent a compromise between science and polluter
      > appeasement, but don't expect to hear that from anyone in public any
      > time soon. We should be accomodating, because the movement from 125 ppb
      > to 85 ppb is a large one that will save many lives and improve the
      > health of tens of millions of people, but the science demonstrates a
      > convincing drop-off in impact below 60 ppb).
      > What the new PM2.5 standards do, is establish the fact that PM2.5 is of
      > regulatory concern, thereby justifying the Clean Air Act's operation to
      > require all air pollution testing facilities to include measurement of
      > PM2.5 in their work. Thus, in a few years, we will have enough data to
      > determine what the problem looks like from a comprehensive perspective
      > nationwide. At present, we know that health is impacted, and we know
      > that levels are too high to protect health, but we don't know what
      > levels are like all year long, all around the nation. As I understand
      > it, by the time we have the monitoring picture usefully established, we
      > should also have some more information about the levels that could
      > protect health, and the relationship between different types of sources
      > and the relative harm to human health.
      > Having a negative strategy (we're against pollution) isn't sufficient to
      > cause change. We have to have a positive strategy as well. Neither the
      > nation, nor the environmental movement, have worked hard to develop a
      > coherent strategy, and we must change this! Natural gas has been widely
      > regarded as the fuel of choice, but there is little doubt that natural
      > gas will remain the fuel of choice in the face of $9.50/mmbtu costs, or
      > for that matter, $4.50/mmbtu. Wind is not an option for the reasons
      > that the wind industry can't gear up fast enough to substitute wind for
      > natural gas where it is feasible, and wind is not feasible where there
      > aren't ambient wind conditions that justify the cost of an array. In
      > fifteen years or so, wind will become mature, and this could be
      > jumped-forward some by decent policy, but it is not clear that wind has
      > enough technological room to substantially increase the geographic
      > distribution of areas where it will make sense, even if it is clear that
      > it will become cheaper, and therefore penetrate markets further.
      > I want to be working on something that will make a difference today.
      > The only thing I have found that makes that difference possible is
      > efficiency. There are limits to the amount of efficiency that can be
      > obtained through appliance standards and building codes, and we need to
      > explore ways to go beyond those standards. The high price of natural
      > gas will help policymakers understand the importance of this, but
      > efficiency is still such a different animal than supply, that we need to
      > work hard to make the case for the non-utility DSM programs I think are
      > the wisest choice.
      > Several parts of the nation are finding that deregulation wasn't the
      > magic wand they all wanted to believe in, and recognizing that
      > non-utility DSM is an important means of protecting against the worst
      > negative impacts of dereg. This message needs to be heard in the
      > majority of the nation where DSM wasn't ever a serious topic. I believe
      > that DSM can be effectively administered up to about 4 or 5% of utility
      > revenues. It is likely that non-utility DSM will cost a lot less than
      > utility DSM did, and thereby make it possible to provide a steady,
      > modest decrease in emissions with programs that cost 2% of utility
      > revenues or less. But the criteria should be a steady net reduction in
      > emissions, not a percentage of cost. DSM will reduce bills, while
      > making per KWH rates higher, and this is something that needs to be
      > underscored again and again and again...
      > So perhaps we can promote efficiency programs that are funded by 1% of
      > utility revenues, or less, just to demonstrate the effectiveness and
      > importance of these programs. But we need to keep our eye on the ball,
      > which is a steady net reduction rate.
      > I am very interested in other ways to promote efficiency. There are
      > some wonderfully intelligent programs that might or might not be called
      > DSM. Most of the ones I know were terminated by Congress or state level
      > officials. They generally involve financial assistance that can be used
      > first to produce qualified engineering for large-scale commercial and
      > industrial changes, and second to support some of the funding of the
      > proposed changes.
      > I'd love to hear other ideas on how to increase efficiency.
      > - Ned
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