Monday, February 25, 2013

There's gold in them-thar emissions

Back in 2007, the EPA succeeded in perhaps one of its most consequential schemes ever. That was the year the Supreme Court held, in Massachusetts v. EPA, that the agency had the authority to regulate so-called greenhouse gases as it does general types of pollution.

Think about this. Throughout the history of the EPA, we've all understood pretty well what air pollution is. It's something we've put into the air that doesn't belong there. So particulate matter and even finer elements have always been a big deal. Smog, acid rain, etc. It's not hard to understand and we've pretty much rid ourselves of those problems relative to our past habits, both from vehicles and industry.

But WAIT. Apparently, some of the naturally-occurring elements in the universe are also a problem. Mind you, anything that occurs in a high enough concentration can kill or do bad things. But no, that's not what we are talking about. For example, I believe Carbon Monoxide is a greenhouse gas. Well, of course that can kill you, as anyone will tell you. Why else do we have all these new fancy detection devices in every new home?

Except, if you notice, the levels (parts per million measurements) dictated by the EPA demonstrate that the regulations have nothing to do with harmful affects. Indeed, the regulators acknowledge that concentrations aren't the problem. The globe is pretty forgiving in how these naturally-occurring atmospheric gases are dispersed.

So how did these gases, which in the atmosphere have no ability to harm anyone, suddenly become pollutants? Well, they will eventually kill us all through global warming, apparently.
That's right, the U.S. Government now sets air quality standards based on something other than air quality.

As usual, there is money to be made. BP Cherry Point Refinery, through a Northwest Clean Air "Agency" grant, has awarded nearly $3.2 million to Whatcom County projects in order to offset its upcoming carbon footprint expansion. 

In a cruel twist of irony, the refinery is only increasing its greenhouse gas output due to a new low-sulfer diesel production facility. That's right, an effort to fight REAL pollution is causing the plant to run afoul of EPA greenhouse gas standards. So they voluntarily find an "authority" like the Clean Air group and funnel money to a bunch of local pet green projects that, until now, would have been pie in the sky. Mind you, we have no idea how effective some of these efforts will be anyway, which is why no one is funding them privately in the first place.

Just take a look at the list:

• $760,000 for the city of Bellingham's new 1.6-megawatt hydroelectric energy plant on the waterfront

• $2 million to the Opportunity Council, to be used to expand its Community Energy Challenge program in three counties.  The program is aimed at reducing the amount of electricity and natural gas used by households and small businesses.

• $439,500 for the WSU energy program and its ongoing efforts to harness methane from dairy farms (hmmm, a greenhouse gas). Part of that effort will apparently buy down the cost for energy-efficiency efforts at the Darigold plant in Lynden. Oh, and get this, there will be cash incentives to local farms or food delivery companies to convert two or three vehicles to run on the aforementioned biomethane.

So the green agenda really delivered apparently. Whatcom County has two such petroleum refineries as well as an Alcoa aluminum smelter. I can only imagine what is coming in terms of additional revenue to these kind of projects.

I think I'm in the wrong line of work. Who knew the air I breath could be such a cash cow?

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