Food for thought: A (hopefully) motivational new-year message

Well, it’s almost that time again – almost time to ring in a new year. Just days away, what kind of year will 2015 be?

So let’s look at a few of the issues now before us.

‘Air’ and ‘quality’ need not be a contradiction in terms, really

Not wanting to rain on anyone’s parade or beat a dead horse, but face it: 147 million Americans are regularly exposed to polluted air, according to the American Lung Association; what, in my words, is damaged, deleterious and deplorable air. And, each year, by one estimate, 200,000 Americans are dying prematurely on account of it. And, based on World Health Organization estimates, worldwide, the number is roughly 35 times that – or more than 7 million early deaths from air pollution’s effects.

If that kind of sad commentary weren’t enough, because annual mean temperatures have been trending upward, word is, the effect this is having is exacerbating air condition making it more susceptible to becoming more polluted more readily or easily.

To reach a global climate accord

Climate change, climate disruption, global warming, call it what you will, arguably, with a carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the air of close to 400 parts per million, the CO2 that got there had to come from somewhere.

Of the written accounts that I have read on the global rise in CO2, more often than not, that rise is attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. On this, people, generally, agree. Though, that seems to me to be where agreement ends.

Why I say this is because yet to materialize from all the talk at recent global climate change conferences and summits is a binding accord, representatives from over 190 nations taking part, notwithstanding – the latest one in Lima, Peru, South America – still there is no such agreement – yet. While I don’t expect everyone to see eye-to-eye on every single issue on the table, however, with as many taking part as there were, all going to all the trouble of convening, after all the many meetings, surely, there must be some progress to speak of; the kind that can be built upon more and more each time getting that much closer to reaching a plan that in terms of implementation is doable, achievable.

Same ol’, same ol’ or something smarter?

Okay, so with greater emphasis being placed on and greater use of active (walking, biking) and public transportation, in compact, transit-oriented neighborhoods, pollutant emissions levels are held down. And, while residents in sprawled out neighborhoods and communities without good access to public transit and that don’t encourage active modes to meet mobility needs, depending more heavily on fossil-fuel-driven power vehicles to get travelers to and from, more – not less – pollution results, comparatively speaking, that is.

Understanding the relationship, it would seem that encouraging more compact development that is both transit and pedestrian/bike friendly would be the way to go. But, it isn’t just this. Also understanding that approximately 80 percent of the world’s peoples reside in cities, the cities responsible for contributing the lion’s share to world emissions, it seems not only logical but prudent that the message to advance in talks at climate conferences in terms of cutting down on emissions is the one that is better at reducing said emissions rather than the one that isn’t.

There, however, are invariably those who will and do cry foul. Is it that they are against the smart-growth paradigm per se or is it more a case of their supporting letting market forces set the course? Or maybe there is fear that a smart-growth movement will come at the expense of local economies being hurt.

Fervent disapproval of dense, mixed-use, infill development might very well be misplaced. Reason being is because often those in decision-making positions see outward growth (read: “sprawl”) as a way of generating needed revenue to pay for the infrastructure necessary to support that sprawl. But my view of this whole “more-horizontal-development-begets-more-revenue” model is that the way these schemes wind up playing out is that revenue inadequacy or unsustainability in so many a situation rears its ugly head.

Contrarily, the smart growth building apparatus isn’t typically a drain on city coffers the way the sprawled development machine is because much of the needed infrastructure and support services as it pertains to development and redevelopment in the inner-core is already in place. Or as one pundit, Jeff Turrentine in “Neighborhood Watch” in OnEarth magazine very insightfully put it: “… I believe the champions of sustainability should be emphasizing how ideas that fall under the rubric of smart growth benefit all of us, wherever we reside. Their new message needs to be: if you really love your suburban quality of life, then know that the greatest threat to it isn’t coming from bureaucrats, environmentalists, or liberal politicians. It’s coming from that brand new, almost-completed housing development going up right next to yours.”

So, what’ll it be: More of the same ol’, same ol’ or, well, something smarter?

California and U.S. high-speed passenger train transportation

Coupled to the land use issue is transportation and America is adding a new dimension: High-speed passenger train travel.

On Friday, Dec. 12th, the California High-Speed Rail Authority announced in a media advisory notice that ground will officially be broken in Fresno, California (my home town) on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015.

It has been a long and arduous road just getting to this juncture. If I am not mistaken, high-speed rail in the Golden State is at least two decades in the making if not longer. Not just California’s, there are others in the pipeline too.

I would also like to put in a good word if I may for both rail- and road-centered transportation. These are continually being improved upon. I think what we can look forward to and expect are many advancements in the new year ahead.

New EPA O3 standards on the horizon: What will these be?

Oh, and one more positive, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is to decide on a new health standard for ozone. The current standard is 75 parts per billion (ppb) of air set in 2008. As it stands, it would appear the current standard is not health-protective enough. Question is: What will the new ozone health standards – one primary (human health) and one secondary (environmental health) – be? Based on what I’ve read and understand, these will be on the order of from 65 ppb to 70 ppb or could be an even more health protective 60 ppb possibly. From what I understand a decision will be handed down by October.

End note

Whatever kind of world it is that we wish to have, ultimately that rests with us. I hope my message has been both inspiring and motivational, enough to help bring about positive change to the air which all people breathe and to the world in which all people live.

Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources – Part 5: Business, industry, home

20130828172057 01 340x192 300x169 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources – Part 5: Business, industry, homeAir pollution: where does it come from? There are myriad sources. Many have been referenced here in the “Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review” series and on the Air Quality Matters blog. On the stationary sources side, there is fuel combustion and fuel production, waste and power generation. Been there, done that.

Today’s post – the fifth and last in this series – highlights air pollution from commercial, industrial and residential sources.

Commercial – from: “For one praiseworthy program business is ‘cleaning up’” (Aug. 27):

“Longtime Air Quality Matters blog readers are no doubt well aware of the fact that one of the included categories is ‘Clean up.’ Now, it’s interesting: Most though not all Air Quality Matters posts have this one category listed. ‘Clean up’ is in reference to ‘Air pollution;’ another of this blog’s categories.”

So, what this has to do with and how it ties in, there is much produced waste, obviously, and it demands attention. In response, waste is picked up, transported and dumped. That which is above and beyond what is commonly and regularly discarded and requires being handled separately, people may themselves elect to haul this waste to, say, a landfill, for disposal or they may pay to have it removed and disposed of by a commercial endeavor on a for-hire basis.

One example would be tree limb and stump removal. Very often those commercial entities providing these services have equipment that shreds or grinds tree limbs on site. The beauty of this is that it saves the green waste from being burned and that helps the air.

Next, in the many communities whose businesses offer drive-thru services, these can be facilitators of polluted air – it just depends.

From: “Great Western Cities ‘On-the-Air’ tour: San Luis Obispo, California” (Jul. 10):

“Now, not only has the buzzword notion of sustainability become a hit with town residents with practices like bike-sharing, car-sharing, and businesses sans drive-through windows at local eateries, pharmacies and what-not, surcharges on grocery-store-provided plastic and paper shopping bags, and sustainable development approaches with regard to in-town residential and commercial building and construction, but the university has caught the ‘green fever’ also. Cal Poly is one of the more green campuses in my opinion with its methane digester system for an on-site dairy and its adoption of and participation in community supported agriculture (CSA) and algae-to-biofuel conversion programs, these, of course, in the company of other related programs and practices.”

And from: “Groundbreaking fertilizer-based anti- air-pollution program launched” (Nov. 15):

“In ‘EDF [Environmental Defense Fund] launches initiative to reduce fertilizer pollution from commodity grain crops: Collaborative effort will improve water quality, cut GHGs and reduce supply chain risk,’ an EDF press release, made quite clear is: ‘Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has launched a new, collaborative initiative to eliminate fertilizer pollution as a major environmental concern in the United States. The effort will engage farmers and businesses throughout the supply chain to transform the way fertilizer-dependent grain crops are grown and sourced.’”

A few paragraphs later, written is: “Vice President of EDF, David Festa, in the release emphasized that in meeting a growing demand for food pollution must be decoupled from production, this being done ‘as soon as possible.’”

Industrial – from: “No slam dunk on spent American car batteries getting recycled sustainably – one year on” (Apr. 2):

“As Tim Johnson, a McClatchy Newspapers correspondent in: ‘As U.S. tightens rules on lead emissions, battery recycling has moved to Mexico,’ explained: ‘Mexico has won a leg up for a reason: Its lead emissions standards are one-tenth as stringent as U.S. standards. Mexican factories can ignore strict U.S. regulations that cap harmful lead emissions onto factory floors and into the air.’

“Meanwhile, in ‘No slam dunk on spent American car batteries getting recycled sustainably,’ I added: ‘Not a very comforting thought, especially when one considers, ‘Scientists now say that exposure to lead – even in minute quantities – can lead to cardiovascular disease, kidney damage and neurological disorders.”

“‘If this is, in fact, fact, it would seem U.S. car battery disposal would be handled in the most responsible way, which means also, the most sustainable way.’

“Not so, it seems, as according to article authors Jessica Garrison and Abby Sewall in the Los Angeles Times newsstory: ‘L.A. County to create toxic pollution ‘strike team’,’ it would appear the Exide battery recycling facility in Vernon, California is an emitter of toxic pollutants.”

320px Los Angeles Basin JPLLandsat1 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources – Part 5: Business, industry, homeThe “strike team,” that includes fire department and health officials, prosecutors and others, was “assembled for the purpose of identifying county-based, toxic-pollutant emitters.” Based on what the L.A. Times authors in the article in question had written, it is my understanding the “Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon” was the first to be identified by the “team.”

Yet to be known are what cleanup remedies will be put into action.

“ … [T]he uncertainty of not knowing what lies ahead in terms of finding and implementing a mitigating resolution as I see it can do nothing but further compound matters. It could be that the instituted fix – provided there is one – could be comprehensive and thorough as in permanent closure of the plant or could involve something that is much more complex in nature,” I wrote.

Residential – from: “Groundbreaking fertilizer-based anti- air-pollution program launched” (Nov. 15):

“As a matter of fact, in regards to ag-acreage loss due to land transference for the purpose of providing a platform on which other types of development can occur, such is born out in an article I wrote that graced parts of two pages in the Mar. 2009 Vegetable Growers News issue, said article titled: ‘San Joaquin Valley deals with development.’

“Under the ‘Startling statistics’ article subhead, referred to was the America Farmland Trust study: ‘Paving Paradise: A New Perspective on California Farmland Conversion,’ under which included was an itemized list, two key points being:

  • ‘More than half a million acres were urbanized during the 1990-2004 period, almost two-thirds of the state’s agricultural land
  • ‘According to the study: ‘If sprawling development patter ns (sic) continue, another 2 million acres of California land will be paved over by 2050. If, however, the state as a whole develops land as efficiently as Sacramento County or the [San Francisco] Bay Area did in recent years, a million acres of California’s irreplaceable farmland could be saved.’1

“But, being formerly farmed land and then subsequently rezoned and to be used for residential, commercial, industrial purposes, such can, as well, be breeding grounds for contaminated air.”

How this can happen, maybe there will be increased motor vehicle use by residents related to their commuting to and from jobs. This has been a problem in many communities and regions and is a problem in other regions still.

Alternately, Smart Growth policies, practices and principles that place more reliance on walking, biking and public transit use could indeed have a positive effect in terms of emissions being lower compared to sprawled developmental patterns which may result in more motor vehicle miles of travel from community residents.

“With much farmland acreage having been taken out of production already – primarily through land fallowing due to ongoing and prolonged drought conditions, particularly in the U.S. west, not to mention that which has been rezoned for residential, commercial and industrial use – that, in and of itself, having a profound effect, learning about goals like those of the EDF’s mentioned above, is like a ray of sunshine poking through a cloud-filled sky,” this from the “Groundbreaking fertilizer-based anti- air-pollution program launched” post as well.

Moving on and less globally and more locally, at home and around the house, meanwhile, air pollution can come from home heating and cooking equipment and processes; chemical, paint, gasoline and cleaning solvents; and in a more global sense from residential neighborhood conceptualization to implementation (the path that such development follows).

What works for one, works for all?

SolarpanelBp1 300x168 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources – Part 5: Business, industry, homeWhether commercial, industrial or residential property, all could benefit from technology such as on-property photovoltaic systems to aid in the supply of electricity.

In “EPA sued over LA’s, SJV’s alleged failure to meet fine particle standard” (Oct. 19), mentioned was a California Air Pollution Control Officers’ Association’s (CAPCOA) report and in it is a multi-pronged mitigating strategy consisting of:

“One: adoption of new regulations and enforcement of existing ones.

“Two: clean-technologies incentive-based programs and based on voluntary participation.

“Three: public/private efforts involving research and development, demonstration and deployment of clean-air technologies.

“Four: community outreach and education efforts aimed at informing constituents and emphasizing air-quality improvement and what constituents can do to help in this regard.”

End notes

And with that, this brings the “Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review – Stationary sources” series and the entire “Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review” series to a close.

Upper image above: Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Middle image above: NASA

Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 5: Off-road

“Off-road,” well, those are those “other” mobile emissions’ sources. Everything mobile-source-wise that isn’t “on-road,” in other words, is the best way that I know to describe it.

Now, about my neighborhood, every week lawn care professionals make their rounds armed with their mowers, trimmers, edgers and leaf-blowers tending lawns and yards the way they do, showing up week-in and week-out with such regularity, you could practically set your clocks and watches by their schedules. Those mowers, trimmers, edgers and leaf-blowers – they are not the cleanest, let me tell you. I don’t think I would be wrong in declaring that the engines powering these devices are some of the dirtiest-burning engines going. The exhaust from these, have a definite and distinctive smell. The mowers, trimmers and edgers – individually or combined, if that doesn’t cause a stir, the clouds of dirt, dust and debris that the blowers kick up, will.

Aside from these, other off-road mobile sources can be found on farms; at construction sites; at beaches, on the slopes, out in the wilderness (vehicles used for recreational purposes, primarily); and other equipment needed necessary to perform a work-related task, unless these are zero-polluting, well, you get the picture.

Off-road – from: “Particulates uncovered: Diesel, soot get closer look” (May 5):

“[T]he ARB [California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board] relates: ‘There are two categories of PM sources. Primary PM is released directly into the atmosphere, such as dust or soot, while secondary PM is formed in the atmosphere by the chemical reactions of gases, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, ammonia and volatile organic compounds. Both primary and secondary sources must be controlled in order to reduce ambient PM.’ 3

“Meanwhile, the ARB lists major contributing PM sources:

  • Trucks
  • Passenger cars
  • Off-road equipment
  • Residential wood-burning
  • Forest and agricultural burning
  • Electric power generation and industrial sources4

“‘Dust from paved and unpaved roads, and construction, mining, and agricultural activities also contribute to PM2.5,’ the ARB pointed out.5

Now, onto what can be done about it.

From “To sequester harmful emissions start with transportation – Part 1: Trucks” (Sept. 21):

“On Oct. 25, 2008, I attended locally what was called the ‘Transportation Energy and Fuels Forum’ at Fresno City College, of which a principal topic of discussion was air pollution. Add to this the step I took to lower my own impact on air: trading in my air-polluting, gas-powered lawn mower for an electric model equipped with a rechargeable battery. Related to this, I wait for days when air is relatively clean and temperature relatively cool to mow. The two often go hand-in-hand.”

A few paragraphs later, I wrote: “For starters, just for NOx [nitrogen oxides] alone, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in its Board Meeting Minutes for June 21, 2007 on page 3 stipulated: ‘With mobile source emissions constituting 80% of the Valley’s total NOx emissions, the bulk of the necessary emissions reduction must come from state and federal control measures for mobile sources. These measures will include more stringent tail-pipe standards for new on-road and off-road mobile sources, and regulations designed to accelerate the deployment of newer, cleaner engines.’ Again, this was back in 2007.”

End notes

If you have kept up with some or all of what is in the “Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review” series, regarding mobile- and/or stationary-sources sectors alike, you have probably noticed a familiar theme running throughout: mention of innovative or technological approaches employed as means to bring about marked reductions in polluted air.

Over the five parts of this yearly review, much ground was covered. Part 5 is the last in this mobile-sources series.

The Earth seen from Apollo 171 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 5: Off road

Image above: NASA

Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources – Part 4: Fuel production

Getting right to fuel production matters – from: “It’s not what’s in auto exhaust but what isn’t that matters” (Nov. 13):

“In ‘To encourage greater usage, should ZEV buy incentives be made part of the sales deal,’ I referenced the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) ‘Charge Ahead California Launches Campaign: Diverse coalition aims to put one million electric cars, trucks, and buses on California’s roads’ press release.

“In the NRDC release itself, meanwhile, is the pronouncement that, ‘Cars, trucks, and buses are the single largest source of air pollution in California and are responsible for 34 percent of the state’s soot and smog-forming pollution.’”

Outside the state, I would presume it to be more of the same, considering vehicle exhaust may be equally or less clean than that which emanates from California cars, trucks and buses. As for vehicles equipped with internal combustion engines sold elsewhere in the U.S., personally I can’t see said emissions being any “cleaner” than that emitted from Golden State vehicles considering state vehicle emissions standards no doubt are among the highest if not the highest in the nation.

In “To encourage greater usage, should ZEV buy incentives be made part of the sales deal” (Apr. 15), I explained: “Meanwhile, [the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Peter] Lehner added: ‘California is part of an eight-state coalition, including Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, which recently agreed to work together to get 3.3 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025. And the recently signed Pacific Coast Climate Action plan, issued by the governors of California, Washington, and Oregon, and the premier of British Columbia, also calls for scaling up electric vehicle sales.’”

Noble missions both. But what about for all those on- and off-road vehicles that are non-zero-polluting – how can these be made cleaner-burning?

182px Diesel engine PSF1 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources – Part 4: Fuel production
Two Cycle Diesel engine with Roots blower

Several ways come to mind: “… [I]ncorporating application of improved automotive-emissions-filtering-system technologies” and “greater attention aimed at efforts to improve vehicle efficiency (miles-per-gallon) ratings which can be accomplished through increased utilization of cleaner-burning fuels, fuel blends and with regard to advancements made in motor-vehicle-engine design.”

This information, too, was presented in the “It’s not what’s in auto exhaust but what isn’t that matters” post.

Meanwhile, on the oil and natural gas fuel production end, exploration, drilling, extracting and refining (in the case of oil) of such keeps on keepin’ on with seemingly no let-up in sight.

And, on this in “Gasoline prices down: What’s ‘up’ with that?” (Dec. 3) I opined: “America being the world’s leading fuel-producing nation is just a temporary condition. The change in fortunes so to speak is mainly on account of technology – for example, the employment of hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) oil-extracting methods – utilized in tapping shale oil from subsurface deposits which in this country at this point in time, seem more than plentiful. Oil that, at best, is: ‘bottom-of-the-barrel’ grade – the lowest of the low in terms of quality – you tell me.”

Meanwhile, from: “California’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases picking up steam?” (Mar. 23):

“… California Senate Bill 4, passed only recently, in effect, grants conditional drilling rights to the vast (and I do mean vast) oil reserves of the Monterey Shale formation – the state’s modern-day Mother Lode. The impact on the environment – air and water – that tapping into this so-called ‘gold mine’ will have, that is, in the grand scheme of things, at this time remains unclear.”

Rounding out the “Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources” series will be commercial, industrial and residential inputs.

Image above: Pearson Scott Foresman

Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 4: Ships

Well, three “Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources” series parts completed (“Trains,” “Autos, buses, trucks,” and “Aviation”) with two remaining; today’s, with watercraft the feature and Part 5 in which presented will be off-road equipment.

On the water, from a mobile-sources perspective, all has not been smooth sailing. Though, to be fair, emissions-wise, conditions are improving. So, it’s a mixed bag.

Ships – from: “Re emissions-savings, utilization, value, train-time vs maritime: And the winner is …” (Jan. 17):

“To help put things in context, consulted was the European Environment Agency (EEA) report: The contribution of transport to air quality – TERM 2012: Transport indicators tracking progress towards environmental targets in Europe.

“In TERM 2012, the EEA reported: ‘Using current fuel sales data as a proxy for estimating total transport energy consumption in 2011, it appears that transport energy consumption increased by 0.1 % compared to 2010; however, this is still 4.3 % lower than its peak in 2007.’”

Skipping to the next paragraph, written was this:

“Moreover, according to the EEA and also from the TERM 2012 report, international maritime transport greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rose from slightly more than 100 million tonnes in 1990 to slightly less than 200 million tonnes in 2006, an increase of almost 100 percent.”

And, finally, in the post in question in the second-to-last paragraph:

“Please note also sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions in the ocean-going-vessel domain are considerable.5

The news does, however, get better. From the same post is this:

“Combined energy use for aviation, rail and shipping has [been] reduced by 5.2 % between 2007 and 2011. The greatest reduction was for domestic navigation (10.2 %), followed by aviation (5.7 %) and rail (5.3 %).”

Jumping to the middle and end of the next paragraph, respectively:

“GHG emissions from international maritime transport held steady until 2009 when such started a downward descent, a decline that continued till at least 2010, the last year for which such data is available.”

“It should be noted, however, between 1990 and 2010, international maritime transport GHG emissions increased by 34 percent.2

On the high seas as well as turning attention dockside, there have been more than a few important developments.

From: “Air quality improvement at the Port of Long Beach: Yesterday, today and …” (Sept. 29), “So, what does progress at the Port today look like?

“Well, in a POLB news item dated Sept. 23, 2014, the Port gushes: ‘Diesel air pollution from ships, trucks, trains and other big machines at the Port of Long Beach has declined by 82 percent since 2005, a comprehensive air quality analysis has found. The report – which focus on 2013 – show seven straight years of steadily declining air pollution from goods movement in the harbor area.’

“The POLB further stated: ‘In addition to the drop in diesel emissions, smog-forming nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides have been cut 54 percent and 90 percent respectively. Emissions from Port operations have plunged even as shipping activity has increased slightly, with containerized cargo up 0.3 percent since 2005.’”

And to what is such progress owed?

In addition to various dockside emissions-reduction approaches employed, credit larger, more efficient cargo-carrying ships; newer cargo-carrying ships with cleaner engines; and “the lower sulfur content of ship fuels;” to name but several.

253px Green flag port1 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 4: Ships

Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources – Part 3: Power generation

Quality being the operative word in this review as it relates to energy generation and air, the two should in no way be dissociative, one relative to the other.

But, as it happens, this is the case more often than not.

Generating energy, both cleanly and efficiently, are key – the main ideas of the “Stationary sources” conversation – Part 3.

Power generation – from: “Air report findings cause for optimism, concern” (May 1):

“‘The 15th annual [American Lung Association] national [‘STATE OF THE AIR® 2014’] report card shows that while the nation overall continued to reduce particle pollution, a pollutant recently found to cause lung cancer, poor air quality remains a significant public health concern and a changing climate threatens to make it harder to protect human health,’ the ALA reported in ‘American Lung Association ‘State of the Air 2014’ Shows Half the U.S. Lives with Unhealthy Air’ press release, released Apr. 30th. ‘Especially alarming is that levels of ozone (smog), a powerful respiratory irritant and the most widespread air pollutant, were much worse than in the previous year’s report.’”

Farther on in the same post, in no uncertain terms, stressed was: “‘While particle pollution levels generally showed improvement, ozone worsened in the most polluted metropolitan areas in 2010-2012 compared to 2009-2011,’ the ALA in the release noted. ‘The warm summers in 2010 and 2012 contributed to higher ozone readings and more frequent high ozone days.’”

If that weren’t enough and relatedly, it was reported that, in Pennsylvania, “‘The Sierra Club, the American Lung Association, the Clean Air Council, and other groups say that under the new emission limits, the state’s biggest emitters, coal-fired power plants would be allowed to release more than 130,000 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxides annually,’ Joanna M. Foster in ‘Will Pennsylvania’s Proposed Anti-Smog Regs Actually Create New Pollution Hot Spots?’ stated. ‘That’s 40 percent more than they do now. Coal-fired power plants are responsible for about one-quarter of smog-causing pollutants in the state.’”1

I reported on this in: “Pennsylvania’s proposed new air rules generating furor” (Apr. 24).

Moreover, I was curious to know how regulations designed to reduce smog-forming emissions at said coal-fired power plants could make the Keystone State’s air quality worse. What I had discovered was, well, shocking.

“As explained by Foster, ‘Part of the problem is also that Corbett’s plan doesn’t require that individual facilities meet the standards, just that the power-plant operators comply ‘on average’ across their facilities. This means that certain areas could still experience hazardous smog even if the problem is no longer visible in official numbers.’2

“The ‘Corbett’ referenced here is Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and that so-called ‘plan’ refers to proposed new laws to move air quality levels into compliance with 2008 National Ambient Air Quality Standards,” I explained.

The concern I have now is whether this is an isolated case or if this is one among a number of such instances.

So, in what ways are these and other issues being addressed?

“… I am thoroughly convinced that to thoroughly clean the air will take a combination of factors: technological innovation, commitment, regulatory compliance, and common-sense practices.” From: “Fight to make air right: Runaway train or ducks in a row?” (Feb. 22).

From the same post, there is this also:

“It was Time magazine Science & Space writer Bryan Walsh himself who, in fact, in ‘Unbreathable: Air Pollution Becomes a Major Global Killer’ in the Dec. 20, 2012 issue wrote: ‘Fortunately in the U.S. and other developed nations, urban air is for the most part cleaner than it was 30 or 40 years ago, thanks to regulations and new technologies like the catalytic converters that reduce automobile emissions.’”

Coal bituminous1 300x256 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources – Part 3: Power generation
Bituminous coal

And to this I would add: Effective mitigating efforts are ongoing: everything from the seemingly innumerable technologically-centric remedies available in the form of installation of power plant smokestack scrubbers and others, to power-plant upgrades as in switching fuel supplies to cleaner-burning natural gas from, say, coal, these are proven solutions.

However, as good as these are, this is not as good as it could get. Way more could and should be done.

In the pipeline for Part 4 is fuel production – liquid and gas.

Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 3: Aviation

If California were its own country it’d be the world’s 12th largest greenhouse-gas-emitting country. This information was brought to bear in: “California’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases picking up steam?” (Mar. 23). Just so you know, I have read also where in terms of world-GHG-emissions output, the Golden State is ranked 15th according to one source and ranked 20th according to another. Whether 12th or 20th, GHG-emissions output in state is considerable.

The important thing to remember here is that California is mandated to reduce GHG emissions by approximately 31 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) by year 2020 from the level of what those emissions are currently or from approximately 458 MMTCO2e to 427 MMTCO2e, this while population grows at an average rate of 1.05 percent per annum, which, by 2020, is estimated to reach 40.4 million or 2.4 million more people than there are now. What this means is the state will have its work cut out to meet specified GHG targets.

By weight, transportation GHG accounts for 38 percent – the single largest GHG contributor in the state.

Besides GHG, there are other emissions of concern also. Their connection to aviation is what will be focused on in “Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 3.”

Aviation – from: “For National Transportation Week, road, rail, air compared” (May 15):

320px HH 65C Dolphin1 300x199 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 3: Aviation“One of the chief considerations when discussing transportation is the quantification of emitted pollutants; in other words, how much of what type of pollutant is being emitted one mode compared with others? For illustrative purposes, compared are airplane (A), car (C) and high-speed train (HST) for the following pollutants: Carbon dioxide (CO2), particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC).

“The information below is referenced from ‘Figure 11 A modal comparison of air pollutant emissions.’2 Please keep in mind CO2 is measured in kilograms (kg) while all other pollutants are measured in grams (g). Please also note that the Frankfurt to Hamburg route in Germany was selected and the ‘Characteristics and components’ are expressed in ‘units per person travelling.’”

  • CO2 – 77.1 (A), 86.0 (C), 19.2 (HST)
  • PM – 2.1 (A), 21.2 (C), 1.0 (HST)
  • SO2 – 43.4 (A), 3.2 (C), 19.5 (HST)
  • NOx – 268.3 (A), 223 (C), 17.2 (HST)
  • NMHC – 20.8 (A), 18.3 (C), 1.1 (HST)

And, in terms of aggregate travel miles, meanwhile, in “State of state air: The worse for wear, but nothing that can’t be fixed” (Feb. 9), there is this:

“Currently there are six million annual flyers between San Francisco and Los Angeles.” That’s just between the state’s two largest metro regions. Imagine if what was accomplished by flying was restricted to driving. The distance in miles logged in cars would be a cumulative average 2.4 billion per year. That number of miles is determined based on a distance covered one way of 400 miles. Assuming most of the flying to be round-trip, the 2.4 billion yearly miles of travel then becomes a staggering 4.8 billion. Even though all that mileage is logged in flight, there is still the downside of polluted air.

“Responsible for 68.2 percent of the regional cancer risk was diesel particulate matter emissions, mainly from ‘diesel trucks and other diesel-powered vehicles and equipment,’ the SCAQMD [South Coast Air Quality Management District] found. Moreover, the air regulatory body found 90 percent of the risk to be from mobile sources; mobile sources that include cars, trucks, marine vessels (ships), railway locomotives, aircraft and equipment used in construction,” this from: “Further air quality gains noted by South Coast Air District in study” (Oct. 5).

On the other hand, the upside and this gets back to the GHG, is this: Through my research, what I found was that in the grand scheme of things transportation-wise, aviation’s GHG contribution is a comparatively small four percent.

Meanwhile, in aviation, cutting emissions isn’t the easiest. Although not a technical solution, what has proven effective at least in parts of Europe is supplanting mid-range flights (100 to 500 miles) with ground-based electric high-speed trains where operations between identical city pairs exists. This was discussed before in: “eMission control – Focus: Airways.”

320px FLV California train1 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 3: Aviation

On tap for Part 4 is maritime.

Image at top: U.S. Coast Guard

Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources – Part 2: Waste

I make it a mission to not be wasteful. But waste, as it were, comes with the territory. It is a part of the human experience.

That the creation or production of waste is unavoidable, the key is to not be unnecessarily wasteful; in other words, make the most of what we have and waste as minimally as one can, regardless of commodity, be it time, money, energy, water or whatever. I think that’s a pretty good rule of thumb to have.

The nitty-gritty

From solid and liquid waste making up the waste stream itself, to that of gases entering and fouling air, soil, water (pollution that is naturally occurring or otherwise), and every other kind imaginable under the sun in between (biodegradable and non-biodegradable alike), it is all of it waste, the most common forms being refuse, sewage, pollution.

So, as is plain to see, waste is broad-based.

Waste is anything discarded. Refuse, you know, wrap (wrappers) or packaging, it by far makes up the biggest percentage. That which is not recyclable in large part ends up in landfills. Please be mindful that some recyclable material finds its way to landfills as well. But the lowdown is this: The more waste there is that can be reused or recycled, the better.

The above, well, it’s a mouthful and there is a lot here to chew on and digest – metaphorically speaking, and in relegating solid, non-recyclable refuse to the garbage pail, waste bin and landfill, seeing exactly where all of this – the second “stationary-sources-sector” installment – is going, is really not all that difficult: waste (and disposal) coverage is what we’re talking about!

Waste and disposal thereof – from: “Garbage disposal: Rubbish not just for burning and dumping anymore” (Jan. 28).

“‘Agricultural burning is currently a significant source of air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley, responsible for more than ten tons per day of particulates and more than 15 tons per day of smog forming chemicals,’ noted the SJVAPCD [San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District].”

This quote, from “Agricultural burn phase-out begins,” published in the Jul. 2005 “Valley Air News” issue, a SJVAPCD publication, was in reference to the practice of the burning of agricultural waste in farm fields in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

I further explained that: “In California, Senate Bill 705, passed in 2003, stipulated that open-field agricultural burning was to be banned, and implementation of the bill was to be carried out in stages,” three stages actually, these being:

  • June 1, 2005: Field crops, most pruning and weed abatement;
  • June 1, 2007: Orchard Removals;
  • June 1, 2010: Pruning from crops harvested off the ground, vineyard removal and removal of diseased materials.

The process involved in the disposing of solid waste is what it is. Done in a sustainable way, though that may be a difficult undertaking, it can make all the difference.

From the same “Garbage disposal” article:

“Handling refuse sustainably is a difficult and, yes, dirty job, but by doing such, in the long run, it could be well worth the extra effort. But more than that there is another benefit: Air is spared in the process from waste not being burned.”

Meanwhile, in “Putting pollution in its place about town, at home, on the job” (Oct. 12), detailed are ways to put and get pollution under control, one of those having everything to do with waste collection and handling.

Next up in Part 3, energy generation.

Marine debris on Hawaiian coast1 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources – Part 2: Waste
Person amidst washed-up-on-shore-debris, Hawaii

Image above: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 2: Autos, buses, trucks

Reduction of emissions in the on-road category is where discussion is directed in Part 2. I can’t lie: headway has been made in this regard, but the positive work must be sustained. The country call ill-afford to backslide. If it does, then progress made, whatever that is, begins to become undone.

Autos – from: “More miles driven means more emissions, period, and more, not less, are driving” (Sept. 3):

“Last Friday, Aug. 29th, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) put out a press release: ‘New Data Show U.S. Driving at Highest Level in Six Years: Nearly Three Trillion Miles Traveled Over Last 12 Months Supports Call for Greater Transportation Investment,’ and in it the FHWA expressed: ‘Americans drove more than 2.97 trillion miles between July 2013 and June 2014, the most recent month for which data are available. In the first half of 2014, drivers traveled 1.446 trillion miles – the largest since 2010 and the fourth-highest in the report’s 78-year history.’

“In addition, the agency, also in the release, called for increased highway investment.”

Yes, some highway investment is needed, obviously. But, it is the way money is invested that matters.

Money for expansion of existing highways can be problematic if for no other reason than for something called “induced demand,” the idea here being that as more road pavement is added which, in theory, creates increased capacity, that increased capacity can “induce” or attract more motor vehicles, often prompting so much traffic (the “demand” aspect) that the point of saturation is reached and thus the thoroughfare becomes constrained.

Hydrogen vehicle1 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 2: Autos, buses, trucksThe answer(s)? Not expanding highways which would save money. Barring this, it is up to technology to save the day, as it were – solutions such as vehicle-system propulsion method (hybrid and zero-emissions vehicle designs), the use of alternative fuels and emissions-control equipment (namely, exhaust-pollutant filtering, covered under Trucks), etc.

Efforts are being undertaken to help put more low- and non-polluting vehicles on the road. A couple are detailed in: “To encourage greater usage, should ZEV buy incentives be made part of the sales deal?” (Apr. 15).

“On Nov. 18, 2013 Peter Lehner of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) posted on the Switchboard, his blog: ‘Electric Vehicles Approach Tipping Point.’ Lehner observed: ‘When the latest generation of plug-in electric cars hit the mass market three years ago, they evoked the same mix of reactions as hybrids did: enthusiasm, curiosity, and some skepticism. However, they’re selling at more than twice the rate at which the first widely available hybrids left dealers’ lots.’”

“Meanwhile, Lehner added: ‘California is part of an eight-state coalition, including Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, which recently agreed to work together to get 3.3 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025. And the recently signed Pacific Coast Climate Action plan, issued by the governors of California, Washington, and Oregon, and the premier of British Columbia, also calls for scaling up electric vehicle sales.’”

Problem completely solved? Not quite. The purchase of more fuel-efficient, less polluting hybrid and zero-polluting electric vehicles will help, to a point.

Buses – from: “In the spotlight: ‘Dump the Pump Day,’ transport society honored” (Jun. 18):

“‘Today the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) awarded Société de transport de Montréal (STM) with an official certificate for earning Gold-level recognition in the APTA Sustainability Commitment program,’ the APTA in the ‘Société de transport de Montréal Receives Gold-Level Recognition for Sustainability’ press release offered. ‘Chair Phillipe Schnobb and CEO Carl Desrosiers received the award for STM’s sustainability commitment which resulted in decreasing air pollutant emissions per produced seat mile (PSM) by 43 percent from 2006-2012. In addition, STM achieved a 17 percent reduction in electricity use and a 7 percent reduction in fuel use per PSM over this period.’”

Soybeanbus1 300x193 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 2: Autos, buses, trucksGetting drive-alone motorists out of autos and into public transit like buses, for example, can have a huge impact.

“‘Among STM’s signature policies are an initiative to pursue LEED certification for all new buildings, as well as a policy to reduce emissions by purchasing only electric vehicles by 2025,’ the APTA emphasized.”

Trucks – from: “Particulates uncovered: Diesel, soot get closer look” (May. 5):

Diane Bailey, who is a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, in an email adds: ‘Particulate matter as a broader class of pollutants in solid form encompasses all kinds of soot particles including diesel soot, and other types of particles like crustal dust (minerals), ash, etc.,’ and further clarifies, ‘The soot particles themselves contain toxic constituents – you can think of each particle like a micro-honeycomb of carbon filled with other minerals, condensed hydrocarbons, metals, etc.’2

“‘[D]iesel exhaust contains soot particles and other gaseous pollutants like acetaldehyde and benzene – some 400 chemical constituents in total,’ Bailey continues, providing even greater perspective.”

Diesel smoke1 238x300 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 2: Autos, buses, trucksIn the same article also, listed were major contributing sources of particulate matter. Among them, trucks.

The fix is straightforward: “So, what are we talking about here, exactly? One approach that could fit the bill is the procurement of cleaner-burning, less-polluting equipment. … Looking on the plus side, over time there would be less expenditure for fuel because truck types that are cleaner-burning, it is a good bet that they are also more fuel-efficient. What’s more, if in purchasing equipment that is easier on the environment and better from a public-health point of view, there is the strong possibility of such company owning such equipment qualifying for a rebate,” this from: “Putting pollution in its place about town, at home, on the job” (Oct. 12).

Not just newer, cleaner-burning engines, but diesel-particulate-filtering equipment could be obtained and utilized where applicable and appropriate.

In Part 3, covered will be aviation.

Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources – Part 1: Fuel combustion

Thus begins the “Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources” series. Similar in idea and layout to the “Mobile sources” series, this series focuses on emissions reduction in the stationary sources sector. To repeat a thought from “Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 1: Trains”:

“Furthermore, each [category] is broken down, first by bringing to the forefront a deficit condition followed by mention of some advancement in the area that is both noteworthy/praiseworthy and technologically significant or important.” The same holds true here.

Meanwhile, in “In search of cleaner air – Part 2: The South Coast Air Basin” listed are the various stationary sources, such as: “Fuel combustion, waste disposal, cleaning and surface coatings, petroleum production and marketing, and industrial processes.”

Oilshale1 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources – Part 1: Fuel combustion
Oil shale combustion

“Stationary sources – Part 1: Fuel combustion” takes a look at fuel combustion in the stationary-sources sector and one of its byproducts – carbon dioxide (CO2) – in addition to the application of innovative development tools regarding its cleanup.

Fuel combustion – from: “Gasoline prices down: What’s ‘up’ with that?” (Dec. 3).

“And, on the matter of fuel, there is but one more thing to consider: 20 pounds of carbon dioxide is produced for every gallon of gasoline burned.”

Some reading this might be thinking, perhaps even saying: “Whoa! Wait just a minute! Carbon dioxide isn’t an air pollutant!”

Well, I’d say it depends in what context CO2 is applied. For instance, in support of this in: “Earth Day 2014: ‘Conserve’ is the word” (Apr. 22), I wrote:

“It is indeed more than just a curiosity that one type of pollution can actually cause another. Some of the additional carbon dioxide (CO2) entering the atmosphere goes elsewhere: it has been and is ending up in major bodies of water like the world’s oceans. In fact, writer Elizabeth Kolbert in OnEarth magazine insists, since even before 1800, what has resulted with heightened CO2 emissions, is ocean acidity levels intensifying.

“In the Kolbert article in question, according to the author, this increased ocean acidity, from what I understand, is due to air-to-ocean transference of CO2 and there is less of that gas escaping from the oceans than what is being introduced. And, as it happens, each year carbon dioxide by the billions of tons is being added to the seas. Not a pretty picture.

kandel ship 1 218x300 Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Stationary sources – Part 1: Fuel combustion“So, the atmosphere, tantamount to being a dumping ground for the extra CO2, what this, in effect, is resulting in are pH-altered seas. And, what the increased oceanic acidity means is: sea life is impacted if not threatened.”

So, yes, in that context I think it is safe to say CO2 is a pollutant and much if not most of this pollution is generated via the burning of fossil fuels which, itself, is a polluting process.

Now as to how to better technologically manage this gas, one viable way is through its capture and potential reuse so as to keep it out of the atmosphere primarily and bodies of water secondarily.

It was back in “Greenhouses for carbon dioxide capture? Why not?!” (May 12) that I, in fact, wrote about redirecting excess CO2 into greenhouses since plants take on CO2 anyway, especially in the sense that in winter when ambient (natural) lighting conditions are reduced, in the absence of natural or even artificial lighting, plants could benefit from being fed a steady diet of carbon dioxide gas. Here is some of what I offered:

“Think about it for a moment. Supplemental lighting in an application such as with regard to enclosed structure crop growing and given the notion that electricity needed for such (during wintertime) is likely an expensive proposition as far as purchasing electricity goes, then by switching the supplemental lighting out and in its place bringing the proper amounts of CO2 in, not only would such a scenario result in the demand on the electricity supply being lower and the load on the power grid being less, presumably, but more of the CO2 that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere as waste could instead be put to use in helping to grow crops during winter specifically in enclosed environment applications.”

For Part 2, in regard to stationary sources, I shine a spotlight on waste and its disposal.

Lower image: United States Coast Guard