Sunday, June 28, 2009

AB 32 Hypocrisy vs Health and Poverty

I read the other day that Obama wants American people to come forward with their tales of health care woes. The idea is to have heart-rending stories of ill health that is either badly treated, or not treated at all because private health insurance is too expensive and not available.

I, too, would like to hear some tales from the poor, the elderly, and those on fixed incomes, plus those who are just getting by from paycheck to paycheck. I want to hear how their lives are affected by sudden increases in gasoline price such as occurred in summer 2008, and electric power prices such as occurred in California in 2001. This is central to my argument that Carbon Dioxide reduction, along with Cap and Trade legislation, will plunge many if not most of those mentioned above into even more dire straits.

Basic needs include food, clothing, shelter, and medication. Shelter no longer means simply a roof to keep dry from rain, but includes temperature moderation so people can live warm in winter and cool in summer. Some would include transportation costs as a basic necessity.

It is hypocritical of government, in my view, to pass strict regulations to reduce tiny amounts of air pollutants with a goal of preventing a very small number of illnesses or deaths, but then to pass Carbon Dioxide reduction laws that will increase costs of electric power and transportation fuels, thus forcing millions of people to choose between paying for electric power, medication, food, transportation fuel, or rent. Yet that is exactly what U.S. governments have done and are doing, at both the State and Federal levels. An example is California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District’s health impact studies on air pollutants; these and similar studies were used to justify laws that impose massive costs on industry and individuals to reduce some forms of air pollution including diesel particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, ozone, and non-diesel particulate matter such as construction-related dust. One can follow along at, and see many laws of this nature. A recent study known as MATES III shows a cancer risk of 1200 cancers per 1 million population, most of which (84 percent) is attributed to diesel particulate matter. The national EPA conducted similar studies nation-wide.

California laws to reduce diesel-related PM10 (particulate matter smaller than 10 microns) include requirements for catalytic oxidation filters, electric drayage trucks at ports, and electrification of ships at berth, among others. New diesel engines have strict emissions limits, with those manufactured from 2010 to have very low emissions. Also, California will prohibit any truck from entering the state unless that truck meets California emission standards. The costs of achieving the goals of these laws are immaterial; one must comply or pay the penalties.

Meanwhile, California passed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, aka AB 32, which directs the Air Resource Board (ARB) to write strict regulations on reducing Carbon Dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases. Also, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 2454, a federal greenhouse gas bill with goals similar to AB 32. Each would reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below the 1990 level by 2050. The net effect of these laws will be massive increases in electric power costs, transportation fuel costs, all goods that move by truck, and all services. The population groups mentioned earlier, the poor, elderly, on fixed incomes, and living paycheck to paycheck, will not be able to purchase energy-saving appliances, or new hybrid cars, but must pay for higher-priced merchandise including food. Many in those population groups live in rental apartments or homes, and cannot upgrade appliances on their own initiative. Only the landlord can do such upgrades. The higher price of transportation fuel is the same for all, whether poor or rich.

Thus we shall see millions of Americans forced further and further into poverty, forced out of their homes, unable to purchase medication or food, or sitting in the dark, sweating in the heat in summer, or freezing in the winter because governments passed laws to reduce Carbon Dioxide via carbon capture and sequestration, forcing utilities to provide power that is generated by renewable means, and forcing fuel companies to sell transportation fuel that includes expensive bio-fuels.

Carbon capture and sequestration is a very, very expensive means of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It may seem not so bad, at first, as electric prices will be increased approximately 4 to 8 cents per kWh. That is roughly a 30 to 80 percent increase over current prices. But, that price increase is based upon the availability of suitable geologic sites for storing the liquid Carbon Dioxide. Just like solid waste landfills, what happens when those geologic sites are full, and there are no more? How much more expensive will electric power become?

CCS, or carbon capture and sequestration, requires huge capital investment and equally large ongoing operating costs. The capital investment is to provide counter-current absorber vessels in which exhaust gases from a coal-fired power plant or process furnace flow upward through a liquid that flows downward. The liquid absorbs the carbon dioxide, and is known as a “rich” liquid. The rich liquid then is pumped to another vessel, known as a regenerator, where heat is applied to the rich liquid, thereby releasing the carbon dioxide as a relatively pure gas. The liquid, now free of carbon dioxide, is designated a “lean” liquid. The lean liquid is then pumped to the top of the absorber vessel. The pumping consumes electrical power, and heat to the regenerator may be from steam or a hot oil.

Additional capital is required to compress the carbon dioxide, and in some cases, liquefy it. The motors to run the compressors and liquefaction chillers also consume great quantities of electric power. Once the carbon dioxide is transported to the disposal site, usually a well deep in the ground, more energy is required to compress or pump the carbon dioxide into the well. All of these costs are added to the basic price of electricity.

Higher costs of electricity are deadly to the vulnerable groups in our society. Carbon reduction laws are wrong for that reason alone, if for no others. There are others, of course, including the lack of correlation between carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere and average global temperature over time.

Government is hypocritical in passing diesel-emission reduction laws on the grounds of improving health, then passing carbon reduction laws such as AB 32 that will increase misery and illness.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. The facts seem to mean nothing as people are led to believe whatever is necessary for the government to gain more and more power. With the economy in decline, when will people wake up? What can we do? It seems like writing to politicians will do nothing to stop this rush toward socialism. Even my friends won't listen to me (a young environmental chemical engineer with a focus on air) but instead enjoy the brainwashing of those in power. Can you help or give suggestions of ways we can actually make a difference??

Roger Sowell said...

Mr. Mous, Glad you agree. I see several avenues to pursue to make a difference. First, and most effective, is to use the legal system to repeal or soften the existing laws. Many environmental cases have been decided in the courts.

Next, is to rally huge numbers of voters to voice their opinion to legislators. Written letters, emails, faxes, phone calls, peaceful demonstrations, and personal visits to the offices of elected officials can be very effective when great numbers of people participate.

Next is to publicize the laws and their ill effects on people. A blog such as this is one example. Other media can also be used; the more the better.

Ultimately, as long as California is the only, or one of just a few, states with unfounded climate change laws, people will vote with their feet and leave the state for a friendlier location. This option disappears when a national law exists. We already see that California's population is changing due to businesses leaving the state, and people migrating to other states. No longer is California the golden state that attracts people from the other 49 states due to better opportunities.

Even with a national law, businesses will move offices and manufacturing to more friendly countries, as happened during the 1980's, 1990's, and 2000's when off-shoring became a buzzword.

A simple check on the price of one-way rental trucks verifies that more people are leaving than entering the state. One can go online, and obtain a rental price for a one-way trip on a moving van from Los Angeles to Dallas (or another non-California city). Then check the same moving trip for the other direction.

Another way I try to make a difference is by making speeches to various audiences around the country. These speeches are enthusiastically received. I find that most people suspect they are being conned by the media and government, and what I show and tell them confirms what they suspected.

One can also make note of valid science and reports and send links to friends and colleagues via email and popular networking sites. I do this regularly. In fact, here is a link that discredits three of AGW's most sacred cows: Ocean Level Rising, Ocean Temperatures Rising, and Polar Ice Decreasing. The link is

Finally, the words of President Abraham Lincoln are appropriate: "The best way to repeal a bad law is to enforce it strictly." With climate change laws, the harm to businesses and hardships on people will be visible.

I certainly hope we can repeal or soften these laws before the harm and hardships become too great.

I encourage you to send a link to my SowellsLawBlog to your colleagues and friends. The debate needs to be heard.

Ellen Swensen said...

I just found your comments and have copied to my Tea Party group in Palm Springs. Your suggestion about what to do is coming true, as we are marching on Sacramento August 28 to protest against AB32. I was "asleep" when this passed but have now been awakened with the Federal Cap & Trade efforts. Thanks again for your intelligent comments about this bill.

Roger Sowell said...

Ms. Swenson,

Thank you for the kind words, and for spreading my writings. I am very much against AB 32 and similar Federal legislation, as can be seen from this and other blog entries containing the key words AB 32.

I wish you the best in your August 28 event. Please let me know if I can be of assistance.