Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lawsuit Says CO2 Is a Pollutant in Texas

From a Houston Chronicle article, "Public Citizen's lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in Travis County District Court, accuses the [Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] regulatory agency of violating the state's Clean Air Act by refusing to issue standards for controlling the emissions of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants." The environmental group seeks to force the state of Texas to regulate CO2 emissions because, they say, CO2 causes global warming.

One can imagine how this plays with the public in Texas, the state with more refineries than any other, the greatest oil and gas production after Alaska, and hundreds of associated chemical and petrochemical plants. The comments following the article are excellent reading.

A limit on CO2 emissions, if restricted to coal-fired power plants, would be damaging enough. But, such a ruling would open the door to additional regulation of CO2 emissions from refineries, petrochemical plants, and chemical plants, plus other industries (steel and cement spring to mind), and of course natural gas-fired power plants.

TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw, a realist, hit the nail on the head when he stated “Reducing CO2 in Texas will do nothing to lower CO2 globally, but will have the effect of sending U.S. jobs to China and India.

As I show in my speeches on California's AB 32, a state law that requires massive reductions in CO2 emissions, one state cannot possibly make a difference. California produces approximately 2 percent of all CO2 emissions in the world due to energy consumption. Texas produces approximately the same. A 20 or 30 percent reduction from a 2 percent base, implemented 11 years from now, would never be noticed in the world, and would be instantly overwhelmed by one year's modest increase in developing countries.

The science is not supportive of the position embraced by the US EPA, that CO2 causes atmospheric warming globally. The supposed mechanism for the global warming effect is that CO2 molecules in the atmosphere absorb electromagnetic radiation in the infra-red range, or heat, as that heat is traveling upward toward outer space. The CO2 molecules then, the theory goes, re-radiate their absorbed energy in all directions, such that roughly half the energy is directed downward toward the earth's surface. The downward-directed heat then slightly increases the earth's surface temperature, and causes more water to evaporate from the oceans. The additional water vapor in the atmosphere then traps yet more heat, causing a runaway heating effect. Climatologists use the word "forcing" to describe the mechanism. The climate models are hopelessly inaccurate and have not yet predicted any of the events of the past 10 years - colder air, colder oceans, fewer hurricanes, growing ice caps, shorter growing seasons, early snowfalls in Autumn, late snowfalls in Spring, normal or zero ocean level increase, and indeed, lower sea levels in many areas including offshore San Francisco. The climate models have a basic assumption of constant relative humidity in the atmosphere, and if the air is indeed warmer, more water vapor should be held in the atmosphere.

Several real mechanisms act to thwart the climate modelers and their models. First, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, is clouds. More humidity creates more clouds, which cool the earth in at least two ways. One way is to increase the albedo or reflectivity of the earth, which allows less sunshine (heat energy) to reach the surface. Another way is increased rain, whereby great amounts of heat is released at high altitude where the water vapor condenses to rain drops. Water releases approximately 1000 Btu per pound upon condensing.

The second real mechanism is normal cycling of ocean basin temperatures. Third is the flow and position of the northern hemisphere jet stream. Fourth is the action of arctic winds and currents, and their effect on the floating ice pack. Time-lapse photography shows that the recent decrease in arctic ice is largely due, if not entirely due, to the effect of wind pushing the ice out of the arctic and into warmer waters where the ice melts. Such an event created the iceberg that sank the Titanic.

There is plenty of sound science for the state of Texas to rely upon that leads to the opposite conclusion reached by the US EPA: CO2 is not a dangerous pollutant, and therefore should not be regulated as one.

Let us hope that Texas does the right thing. Declare CO2 to not be a dangerous pollutant.


Armin Tamzarian said...

As an attorney, you should probably want to consult case law and precedent on this matter. Specifically, that in Massachusetts v EPA, the Supreme Court of the US declared the greenhouse effect real, CO2 and other greenhouse gases a pollutant, and that the EPA has the right under the Clean Air Act to regulate them. You are entitled to your own opinion on the theory of anthropogenic climate change, (knowing full well that your opinion is not that of over 90% of climate scientists who actually study this... but more on that later) but not your own legal opinions. When SCOTUS speaks, it sets . This is also why air permits have been turned down by EPA in the case of the Bonanza coal-fired plant in the Deseret Power Coop in Uintah County, Utah. It sounds like all Public Citizen is trying to do is set the same standards for coal plants in Texas that have been used elsewhere in the country.

If that is the case and EPA has the power to regulate CO2, as SCOTUS has said, then why not the TCEQ? Furthermore, in a previous legal proceeding, the TNRCC (precursor agency to the TCEQ, changed by Sunset rules and Legislative mandate) settled with Public Citizen that they would create a CO2 registry and regulate CO2. That has obviously never occurred, although doing a search for the term "carbon dioxide" on the TCEQ website does bring up results, including documents which claim that CO2 is harmful. Granted, some of these were designed to teach children, but doesn't that tell you how simple this concept really is: that the TCEQ believes we should teach schoolchildren that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant?

Furthermore, given EPA's increased scrutiny over TCEQ and declaring that the TCEQ "Flex-permitting" process and SIP implementation are not in line with the Clean Air Act, we shouldn't really be listening to opinions of people like Commissioner Shaw.

As to the canard argument of water vapor and cloud formation, you are using old science. Andy Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M who studies water vapor, and a team of other climate scientists have recently shown that increased water vapor in the atmosphere that would accompany cloud formation actually has a positive, not a negative, feedback effect. In essence, you can put more vapor in the air, it will form more clouds, but the excess vapor will trap more heat than the albedo of the clouds will reflect.

Armin Tamzarian said...


And as for China and India, you must not be paying attention to the news recently. China passed its own economic stimulus package-- one which spends $22 million a DAY on renewable energy deployment. They stated during UN Climate Week on Sept 22 that they will cut their CO2 emissions. Climate change is a classic "tragedy of the commons" economics problem, one which can easily be solved by everyone doing their fair share. Since Texas, if it were its own country, would be the 7th biggest emitter of CO2 in the world, we have some mighty big work to do. But luckily, this is Texas, and we don't shy away from hard work. Nor do we wait for others to get the gumption to act. As a state, we've already begun to cut our CO2 due to energy efficiency programs and a renewable portfolio standard that were fought tooth and nail by the same special interests who now claim that any regulations of carbon will hurt our economy.

Finally, the time for debate has passed. If Congress fails to act, the EPA has already issued an endangerment finding for CO2 and could issue draft rules at any time. Supposedly, the Obama Admin is keeping them from releasing them so Congress can pass a bill. But if they fail to, you will have EPA regulation. Given that we cannot know the structure or scope of federal regulations, be they cap and trade or straight EPA regulation, it makes sense for Texas to put the brakes on the 12 coal plants currently being permitted around the state. Public Citizen's lawsuit would do just that, and maybe make us take a second thought about the cost of adding approx 20% more CO2 to the state's already large carbon footprint, especially if we might have to begin paying a price for every ton of it we put into the atmosphere.

Roger Sowell said...

Mr. Tamzarian, you sound like one who does not think things through. Science is not a consensus business - it is based on facts, careful measurement, open sharing of data and techniques, and a willingness to accept the obvious when a pet theory is proven wrong.

I am familiar with Massachusetts v EPA, and what it did and did not say. I am also aware that courts listen to some scientists, and not others.

First, Massachusetts v EPA was a 5-4 decision, with the usual liberal justices in the majority along with Justice Kennedy. It is subject to being overturned when the court's makeup shifts.

Next, even the weak majority decision left the door open for EPA to rule that CO2 is not a pollutant, stating "If the scientific uncertainty is so profound that it precludes EPA from making a reasoned judgment, it must say so."

Second, the Court did not issue a final ruling, as the last line of the opinion states "On remand, EPA must ground its reasons for action or inaction in the statute." This clearly leaves the ball in EPA's court to decide NOT to make CO2 regulations.

Given these facts, the uncertainty surrounding the issue makes it patently clear that Texas may choose not to regulate CO2.


Roger Sowell said...

(continued to Mr. Tamzarian)

Now to your point about my opinions on AGW - yes, I am fully aware that the warmists' CLAIM is that 90 percent of climate scientists blah blah blah. But what the scientists actually state is that man-made emissions of GHGs may have an effect - and that the degree of that effect is quite unknown.

But science has never been a majoritarian discipline. As I wrote above, it is based on facts, not consensus, and certainly not on computer models.

I'll stand by the water vapor position as stated earlier. Water vapor is not a settled science - as more "discoveries" are made each year. The fact is that the earth is cooling, and that is undeniable. This cooling is impossible if AGW proponents are correct.

As to China and India, do not be naive. Watch their actions, and pay no attention to their words. Their actions show massive increases in coal consumption and burning via power plants, and oil imports for transportation fuels.

I am shocked that you write that "the time for debate has passed." It is never too late for more discussion, especially in a matter as serious and with the far-reaching ramifications as this.

Given the absolute failure of IPCC predictions to come to pass, this is the perfect time for a rational, serious, deliberate debate.

Why are you in such a rush to condemn the Western world to economic suicide and chaos?

Texans know what is best for their state - and by the way, I am a native Texan.