Friday, July 01, 2022

...Then The Dog Ate Congress's Homework....

      Prompted by a blog comment, I started looking into West Virginia vs. EPA.  The online headlines from major news services have all got a slant, one way or another.  At this writing, the account at Wikipedia is on the level and lo, one of the problems is Congress failed in a very basic way, over thirty years ago: " oversight during the reconciliation of the Clean Air Act amendment in 1990 that resulted in the House and Senate versions of § 7411(d) to never be reconciled, and both versions were codified into the signed law."

      That's my emphasis in the quote.  Given two different versions of the law, EPA picked the one they liked best, and promulgated regulations based on it.  Lawsuit hijinks ensued and dragged on.  Eventually the Obama Administration was replaced by the Trump Administration and EPA changed course.  On and on it went, 'round and 'round.  The primary issue at hand was the extent to which EPA gets to chivvy power providers into using cleaner ways to generate power, with a side order of dispute over the cost of scrubbing emissions from fuel-burning power plants.

      The majority opinion from the Supreme Court gets hand-wavy about the risks posed by carbon dioxide in the process of discussing whether EPA was given authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.  These are two separate things, but journalists followed the Court's lead in mixing them, with varying degrees of cheering or outrage.  This is almost as sloppy as failing to reconcile the House and Senate versions of a bill about to become law, and as inexcusable.

      The news story is being presented (often in inflammatory language) as an environmental issue.  And it is, but oil and even coal are more valuable as feedstocks for chemical synthesis than going up in smoke, while sunlight falls for free on half the globe and you often can't even tell a solar plant is there until you're nearly at the gates.*  So it's eventually a self-solving problem, driven by economics and public pressure.  To my eye, the bigger story is a bunch of lazy politicians and reporters who can't be bothered to do their jobs with sufficient diligence.  The first group left a mess; the second group keeps ignoring it.
* Yes, yes, what do you do at night?  This is solved art; you charge batteries or pump water uphill when the sun shines.  It's inefficient but the sunlight is free.  There's always going to be some need for diverse sources; the current Western drought shows the problem with hydroelectric power without adequate backup.  Modern nuclear plants, located in seismically-stable areas, would be a good base source.  The French do it; the U.S. Navy does it.  So can commercial power in the U.S.

1 comment:

Glenn Kelley said...

Tesla just replaced a coal fired plant with a solar farm and large battery bank .(I think it was in Hawaii.)

In California( and many other places) it is possible to back feed the grid if you have battery storage. Charge from the grid at the cheapest time of day and feed it back at the most expensive. If enough people do it the utility doesn't need to bring other generation on line .