A Costly Exercise in Futility
Written by Dr Klaus L.E. Kaiser
Shortly after my recent post on the War on Mercury, the SETAC journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry published a series of articles on mercury in the environment. Most prescient among these is a paper by K. Vijayaraghavan and coworkers with the title “Response of fish tissue mercury in a freshwater lake to local, regional, and global changes in mercury emissions.“
That paper concludes that fish mercury reductions may take 50 years to respond to any reduction in deposition such as from coal burning power plants in the U.S. It further states that recovery (I am not sure from what really) “could potentially be partially or completely offset by growth in non-U.S. mercury emissions.”
There you have it: The recently embarked upon “War on Mercury” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not likely to result in any reduction of mercury levels in fish any time soon – if ever. Mercury is a Common Element in Nature Mercury is a common element in nature and is found in every rock, soil, and water sample; its abundance is similar to that of silver.
Naturally, mercury is also present in most organisms. Worldwide, annual “emissions” are estimated to be around 4,000 tons per year of which only 2% are from the U.S. and 60+% from natural sources (leachates of rocks and from volcanos). The accompanying picture from the SETAC paper demonstrates this clearly. It shows one of the worldwide mercury emission scenarios for the year 2050.
Even with the most stringent new “Mercury and Air Toxics Standards” (MATS) rules by EPA, the proportion of worldwide mercury emissions by the U.S. will not materially change nor will any reduction in fish mercury levels be measurable for years to come – if ever. As mentioned previously, EPA’s “War on Mercury” is a ruse. In reality it is a “War on Coal” which equates to a “War on Electric Power.”
The War on Electric Power
The war on electric power generation from fossil fuels, especially coal, is in full swing. You may have noticed it already when looking at your hydro bill but expect worse to come. Many of the existing power plants will not be able to accommodate additional demands placed upon them by MATS. Instead, they’ll simply plan to shut down entirely.
New coal-fired power plants are not being built for the same reasons. According to the same journal report, the total contribution of U.S. coal-fired power plants is only about 10% of all the mercury emissions in the country. If that is true then EPA is obviously giving coal a bad name and forgetting all other emissions. Therefore, it is clearly a political move not based on rational science.
The result can only be that electric power costs will continue to go up, more likely way up. Other Countries Other countries don’t care about mercury emissions and they are certainly not in the process of shutting down coal power plants. In fact, China and India are building new ones at a rate of one per week. Or, they are going full steam ahead with new nuclear power plants, like France and also China and India.
In other countries, like South Africa abundant coal is used to create both cheap electric power and automotive fuel via the Fischer-Tropsch process. No wonder, the world’s coal consumption is still rising steadily. EPA’s MATS rules are a costly exercise in futility.
Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser is author of CONVENIENT MYTHS, the green revolution – perceptions, politics, and facts convenientmyths.com
Dr. Kaiser can be reached at: email@example.com