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Toxic Air Pollution in Ohio

Home Forums General Columbus Discussion Toxic Air Pollution in Ohio

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  • #453679

    Twixlen
    Participant

    Essentially, the issue is the kind of coal that is burned, and the nature of the plants that burn it. Add to that, many of these plants are concentrated in a relatively small land-space, generally all geographic valleys. Steubenville is the heart of it, and up and down the Ohio River.

    There really is a “cleaner” coal – it simply burns much more efficiently, which causes less off-gassing. Burn that cleaner coal at a fully-scrubbed plant, and you have the best-case scenario for coal. (Assuming the coal is mined via traditional ground mining, not surface-top, where the “good” coal usually isn’t found anyway.)

    These plants can’t be shunted – there isn’t an equal amount of power out there on the grid anywhere that can replace it. Scrubbers can be added – and I think every effort should be made to make the existing plants as “clean” as possible. But it costs a lot. A lot a lot.

    I think AEP has a problem with their someone unique situation out of all utilities. We are blessed with cheap electricity – but at what actual cost?

    #453680

    Analogue Kid
    Participant

    Walker said:
    Serious question: Is the air pollution concentrated in certain areas more than others? I’ve never found Columbus to *feel* like the air quality is bad, but I could be wrong. I imagine it’s worse around power plants, but where is the closest dirty plant to Columbus?

    The closest utility scale coal fired power plant is the Picway Plant on US 23 just south of the Franklin/Pickaway county line. It is a relatively small plant as they go, with only about 100 MW of generating capacity IIRC.

    The worst plants for toxic emissions are the Muskingum River Plant in Beverly, the Cardinal Plant in Brilliant, and the Gavin and Kyger Creek plants in Cheshire. None of these are particularly close to Columbus

    Red Sun Rising said:

    Walker- if you get the chance, go up to the 20th floor or higher in the state office tower or one of the surrounding city towers and look out at around 10am on a clear day. You will see the smog blankets the state every day it isn’t raining.

    The Ohio Environmental Council issued some great white papers several years back on this problem, transportation and diesel truck emissions are also a significant part of this issue and compelled me to purchase high powered air filters for my home.

    You’re not always going to “see” smog, which is a misnomer anyway. There are two primary air issues in Ohio today; ground level ozone (not to be confused with the ozone layer in the stratosphere) and Particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 mm or less (PM2.5). If you want to see what the levels are at any time, you can check out the real time readings here: http://www.epa.ohio.gov/dapc/airohio/aqmap.aspx

    #453681

    Glaze
    Member

    So smoking is banned in indoor public space, and yet countless microscopic cigarettes float around us. Neat.

    US Air Quality:

    http://www.creativemethods.com/airquality/maps/united_states_hires.htm

    Ohio Air Quality:

    http://www.creativemethods.com/airquality/maps/ohio.htm

    Explanation of the Letter Grades:

    http://www.creativemethods.com/airquality/emission/index.htm

    The data essentially says that there’s likely something on the order of 17 tons of lead pumped into in Franklin County airspace every year (0.033 tons per square mile x 543 square miles). It also says to expect at least 85 THOUSAND tons of Carbon Monoxide, 23 thousand tons Nitrogen oxides, and at least 11 thousand tons of Sulfur oxides every year. Of course the numbers and concentrations of pollutants can vary depending on the surroundings but those are the standards so you can expect that amount of stuff to be produced somewhere.

    Lung cancer, allergies, and asthma, oh my.

    There isn’t much we can do about it in the short term. There are plenty of long term goals that would be nice, but people aren’t so good with long term goals. I’d like to see thorium reactors as a safer alternative to uranium, solar panels on rooftops to soften the draw of current at peak hours, more mass transit (which requires people to stop finding it icky), more bike paths, and shopping areas situated within walking distance of residential zones and which cater to people who walk and bike.

    Another nice idea would be a system where neighborhoods actively voice demands for an industry, and the database searches for a prospective business owner to fill that need (it could also work in reverse and allow the owners to search for a neighborhood willing to support them). This would help by lowering the need to drive cross-town to get some specific thing, and possibly nurture independence from brand name stores which are often big polluters and treat primary producers unfairly.

    Lowering air pollution is just getting started. That’s nothing compared to fishing down the food web (check the price of Cod at the grocery), worldwide droughts and freshwater shortages (talk to someone from Colorado), and a huge loss in oceanic phytoplankton and forest acreage (http://www.endgame.org/oldgrowth3.jpg). 2 or 3 billion people from Côte d’Ivoire, to India, to Australia have been seeing these changes take place drastically in the last decade. Perhaps, some day, when we loose our ability to import entire shopping centers worth of stuff, we will also see the effects. Until then, happy driving.

    #453682
    Manatee
    Manatee
    Participant

    rus said:
    Think “what to do about it” is shut down AEP. Can’t burn coal for energy ( bad air ) can’t use natural gas ( fracking ) can’t use nuclear ( ZOMG ) can’t use solar ( doesn’t work well enough yet and batteries aren’t there yet ), etc.

    Seems like there is no answer that’s “environmentally sound” and also keeps the AC on.

    So, move into a ramshackle farmhouse inundated with mold and swelter. Because that’s good for the environment. Or something.

    Did I mention I’m moving to a different house? And also did I mention I think it’s occasionally OK to use AC?

    Also let me mention that I’m in a really awful mood today and thanks for just putting a little extra sunshine in my day.

    How about this? I give up. Hope you’re happy.

    And by give up I mean, I’m done conversing with you. Sorry I haven’t single-handedly solved the energy crisis for you.

    #453683

    Rocknrolloutlaws
    Participant

    Many of the posts in this thread just demonstrate why this “report” is ultimately meaningless. They demonstrate that this is a confusing emotional issue, one that is difficult to fully understand but easy to get upset about. The NRDC should know this–they’re not stupid.

    For example, the two types of air pollution that Analogue Kid focuses on (particulate matter and ozone) are not accounted for in the data that this report is based on. So people will cite this study as saying Ohio has “bad air.” But it actually says little to nothing about the overall state of Ohio’s air quality. And the people who produced the report know this. If they do not, they’re just utterly incompetent and the report should be disregarded for that reason instead.

    I would argue that by issuing reports like this, NRDC is being malicious and is intentionally playing on peoples’ fears. By doing so, they actually make legitimate public discussion of serious issues difficult if not impossible. If people are afraid, particularly afraid of things they cannot see (and so cannot verify), then it’s great for the clout of environmental groups. Both in terms of membership (for lobbying power) and their bottom line.

    That’s not to denigrate the role that such groups could play in the public discourse. If they choose to accept the responsibility, such groups could actually help educate the public. The OEC seems to be much better about doing so than the national groups.

    Also, Coremodels is right, RSR has no idea what he or she is talking about. The proper NAICS codes for animal production are those beginning with 112, NOT 311. (Also, transportation and diesel emissions are not accounted for in the data used in this report. So that part is also incorrect.)

    #453684
    rus
    rus
    Participant

    Manatee said:

    How about this? I give up. Hope you’re happy.

    *shrug*

    Point me toward a power source with no down side. Far as I can see, there isn’t one.

    Given that, if the choice is modern life or doing without for the sake of the environment, many if not most people choose modern life.

    #453685
    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans
    Keymaster

    rus said:
    Point me toward a power source with no down side. Far as I can see, there isn’t one.

    Given that, if the choice is modern life or doing without for the sake of the environment, many if not most people choose modern life.

    So in other words, we should shut up and be happy with our last place ranking for toxic air pollution.

    #453686
    rus
    rus
    Participant

    Walker said:
    So in other words, we should shut up and be happy with our last place ranking for toxic air pollution.

    Dunno about “be happy”, but if this is the best situation possible ( as opposed to the best possible situation ) then complaining gets you no where.

    Every energy source has some down side and is opposed by someone on some basis. There is no perfect solution. If one can only be satisfied with perfect then one will never be satisfied.

    If someone wants to try to convince people to pay more for energy in the name of the environment ( clean coal perhaps in this case ) then feel free. Good luck.

    But note Rocknrolloutlaws’s comments.

    #453687
    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans
    Keymaster

    rus said:
    Dunno about “be happy”, but if this is the best situation possible ( as opposed to the best possible situation ) then complaining gets you no where.

    So you’re saying that being the worst state in the country for toxic air pollution is the best situation possible. Gotcha.

    I guess there’s nothing we can do about it since the solutions cost money.

    Oh well. We tried. The other 49 states just got lucky I guess.

    #453688
    rus
    rus
    Participant

    Walker said:
    Oh well. We tried. The other 49 states just got lucky I guess.

    If the report is to be believed ( that’s in doubt; again, note Rocknrolloutlaws’s comments ) and the only difference between us and other states is the coal we burn for energy then that’s exactly right.

    Other sources of coal have at least two problems: first they’re more expensive ( if they weren’t, we’d use them already ) and second, since it’s mined here in Ohio, eliminating it as a source of energy eliminates those jobs. Good luck with that.

    Converting from coal may be an option, but to what? Natural gas? Not if the gas comes from fracking, since that’s now evil. Solar? Incredibly expensive compared to other options and, given the problems with battery technology, apparently infeasible as a base load solution. Nuclear? Right. The sheer panic even discussing nuclear generates eliminates that option, sadly.

    So, what’s left?

    Point out a problem, sure. Bitch about it if venting your spleen makes you feel better. Without a solution, though, it’s a useless endeavor.

    Doesn’t mean investing in research and development of new technologies is without merit, of course, but right now this looks to be as good as it gets.

    #453689

    Analogue Kid
    Participant

    I disagree that coal is the best solution right now. Natural gas is a very efficient and overall lower impact than coal, and the cost is similar. Because of new USEPA regulations on toxic air pollution, we’re going to see many older coal plants shut down or convert to NG. New purpose built plants may be constructed as well. We will see some additional cost on our electric bills, but it’s not going to be dramatic.

    As for the source of natural gas, fracking is certainly an issue that gets people riled up, but ultimately most of the issues with it will be resolved.

    Contamination of drinking and groundwater can be prevented by use of proper well casing as well as monitoring before and after drilling. Reputable gas drillers are doing this now, because they realize if people don’t trust them, they’ll never get them to sign a lease to the mineral rights. The flowback water is no longer allowed to be dumped into streams or rivers. The vast majority is now recycled, and what isn’t is sent to a proper disposal facility. Also, the contents of frack fluid are now being disclosed, which wasn’t the case before. There are other issues such as truck traffic, air pollution from compressor engines and flares, but that is a separate issue from fracking.

    Ultimately when you weigh the total environmental impact of gas vs. coal, gas wins hands down for being less damaging, even if it isn’t perfect.

    #453690

    I grew up around an oil refinery, a steel coker, a steel mill, coal on trains, and coal on barges, and more industry than you can imagine. I am completely fine!!!!!!

    #453691
    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans
    Keymaster

    rus said:
    Point out a problem, sure. Bitch about it if venting your spleen makes you feel better. Without a solution, though, it’s a useless endeavor.

    Make no mistake. I’m pointing out a problem, but not really bitching/venting about it. This is outside my realm of expertise, so I’m not even going to try to propose any sort of realistic solution. Worthy of discussion though.

    rus said:Doesn’t mean investing in research and development of new technologies is without merit…

    There we go! It only two two pages, but I knew you’d come to your senses. ;) Everything you said prior made it sound like investing in research was a waste and we should be happy with what we’ve got (ie: last place).

    There’s hope for you yet, Ron Swanson.

    #453692
    rus
    rus
    Participant

    Analogue Kid said:

    Ultimately when you weigh the total environmental impact of gas vs. coal, gas wins hands down for being less damaging, even if it isn’t perfect.

    To that point:

    http://reason.com/archives/2011/07/22/natural-gas-flip-flop

    The national green lobbies initially welcomed shale gas. In 2009, for example, Robert Kennedy Jr., head of the Waterkeeper Alliance, called it “an obvious bridge fuel to the ‘new’ energy economy.” Local environmental activists were not as enthusiastic, arguing that fracking contaminates drinking water and causes other forms of pollution. After a while, some of the national lobbies began to come around to the locals’ side. In the words of the journalist Matt Ridley, “it became apparent that shale gas was a competitive threat to renewable energy.” Josh Fox, director of the anti–natural gas documentary Gasland, put it bluntly on Kennedy’s radio show: “What’s really happening here is not a battle between natural gas and coal. What’s happening here is a battle between another dirty fossil fuel and renewable energy.”

    No industrial process is completely benign, and all have environmental consequences. The relevant question is: Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Are people better off using the resource than they would otherwise be? Of course, any company that damages some else’s property should be fully liable for the costs. But if you’re worried about man-made global warming, natural gas remains the affordable way to supply lower-carbon energy to the world as technologists work to bring renewable energy costs down.

    If you’re right that environmentalists and/or their concerns can be mitigated, then there’s a bit more hope for a different solution ( still a few years off and costly ).

    I’m a cynic, no doubt.

    #453693
    rus
    rus
    Participant

    Walker said:
    Everything you said prior made it sound like investing in research was a waste and we should be happy with what we’ve got (ie: last place).

    Hey, you read what you want, I’ll write what I want. We might even understand each other from time to time. ;-)

    Point I was getting at: Perfect alternatives do not exist and public pressure doesn’t seem to be about accepting anything less than perfect. People let perfect become the enemy of good, in other words.

    PS: Still not convinced the study isn’t total crap.

Viewing 15 posts - 31 through 45 (of 60 total)

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