More on Calif. computer-power management: System standards proposed

Related to the “Save energy, spare the air with efficient computer usage” post, the California Energy Commission (CEC) on Mar. 12, 2015 in its “Energy Commission Releases Draft Energy Efficiency Computer Standards: Consumers Will Save Money Each Month on Electric Billsnews release in which the CEC wrote: “The California Energy Commission released today proposed energy efficiency standards for computers and monitors that will save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars every year. For desktop computers alone, it is estimated that a $2 increase in manufacturing costs will return $69 to consumers in energy savings over the five-year life of a desktop.

“When grouped together, computers and monitors are among the leading users of energy in California, and most sit idle, wasting energy and money while not in use. Although many manufacturers already choose to build relatively efficient models, the Energy Commission has determined significant efficiency improvements can be made-equivalent to the energy consumption of all homes in the cities of San Francisco and Santa Clara combined.”

Considering the savings detailed, implementation of the proposed energy efficiency standards makes sense. Cutting energy losses should be of paramount concern, and right now especially, considering the drought the state is dealing with.

“If the present dry spell continues unabated, a diminishing water supply will mean less in the way of hydroelectric generation, and that points toward increased reliance on electricity produced from other sources – renewable and non-renewable alike,” I argued in “A shrinking California water supply or no, power from renewables the way to go,” on Mar. 21, 2015 on the Air Quality Matters blog. Increased dependence on “other”-sourced electricity, puts added pressure on those other sources to provide the electricity Californians use.

The standards proposed, according to the CEC in the release, are a part of what the Commission terms a draft staff report. These vary by the kind of computer – desktops, notebooks, “small-scale servers” and “workstations” and permit the “industry flexibility to choose how to comply. Standards for notebooks, small-scale servers and workstation computers would take effect Jan. 1, 2017. Standards for desktop computers and thin-clients would take effect Jan. 1, 2018.”

The CEC’s Commissioner, Andrew McAllister and who leads the Commission on energy efficiency, pointed out in the release in question that in the Golden State there are about as many computers and computer monitors as there are Californians. Understanding this, considerable is the potential savings regarding improved computer efficiency.

Most importantly, the opportunity exists for digital-device power-management-system improvement, that is, provided the proposed standards are adopted.

“The Energy Commission developed the draft staff report and standards after receiving stakeholder input beginning in September 2012,” the CEC in the news release noted. “A workshop is scheduled for April 15, where public comments and further stakeholder input will be heard. The comments will guide changes to the staff analysis and proposed standards.”

Waste-to-watts, trash-to-cash ideas and more

Trash, unglamorous a topic as any around, the matter, and matter trash is obviously, needs to be dealt with. Challenging is finding viable and eco-friendly ways of its disposing of.

Perth, Western Australia, landfill
Perth, Western Australia, landfill

Some of the more attention-grabbing stories

I remember once watching a documentary called “Trashed.” In one part, the conversation turns to trash (solid waste) shipped from Toronto, Canada by truck across the Ambassador Bridge for disposing of in Michigan in the U.S. At the going rate of $37 per ton, the sending of this trash south no doubt has more to do with the economics than it does with the “eco-logics.”

Oh, and speaking of remembering stuff, I recall way back when a story about a barge stuffed to the gills with trash from New York City that no municipal landfill anywhere, it seemed, was willing to accept, its fate or disposal left to be figured out the details of which remained to be worked out, and ultimately making national news. The presumption is that there was insufficient landfill space available to accommodate it and hence onto the barge it went. My suspicion is the barge-full of trash went back to the place from whence it came.

Maybe less notable, no less newsworthy

Meanwhile, in one languishing, 28-year effort to rail-transport Los Angeles’ trash to an abandoned mine at Eagle Mountain in California’s high desert east of Indio and the Coachella Valley, whatever forward momentum there was made was in one fell swoop, figuratively cut off at the pass, the plan finally being laid to rest once and for all.

As Susan Grigsby writing for the Daily Kos explained it, “Kaiser Ventures wanted to use the mine as a massive garbage dump for the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County. The intent was to ship trash 150 miles east of Los Angeles via rail. In order to accommodate the proposed sale, Kaiser worked a deal with the Bureau of Land Management to swap land along its railroad between the mine and the Salton Sea to the south, for land surrounding the mine.

“The proposed use of land adjacent to the park [Joshua Tree National Park] as a landfill was fiercely contested by environmentalists who filed multiple lawsuits to stop the project. The Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles [County] found an alternate smaller site in Imperial County and the plan was dropped in 2013.”

The point here being a satisfactory solution was found.

Other more arcane, less widely-known endeavors can be found if one looks.

Watts from waste

One of the more interesting and innovative programs is the AERS, which stands for “Advanced Energy Recovery System.” The brainchild of Gills Onions, AERS is explained in a Jul. 16, 2009 company press release. It’s all spelled out here.

For much more on the waste matter, check out:

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

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

CATS: Trash – it’s the ‘stuff’ of biomass and documentaries

For one praiseworthy program business is ‘cleaning up’

Garbage disposal: Rubbish not just for burning and dumping anymore

No slam dunk on spent American car batteries getting recycled sustainably

No slam dunk on spent American car batteries getting recycled sustainably – one year on

Putting pollution in its place about town, at home, on the job

Image above: Ashley Felton

Save energy, spare the air with efficient computer usage

Energy wasters: we’re talking appliances, electrical transmission lines, lighting systems and their main component parts (bulbs, lamps), whole buildings and more. And, in the “more” category are computers, of course.

I am fully aware that computers in idle or sleep mode consume electricity; but, what I do not know is how much electricity. Think that’s all there is to the computers-as-energy-wasters story? Think again.

Funny I should mention this because, relatedly, I found (using a computer, incidentally) this report: Monitoring Computer Power Modes Usage in a University Population,1 prepared for the California Energy Commission (CEC) by the California Plug Load Research Center at the University of California at Irvine.

According to the CEC in the report’s “Executive Summary,” of total state electricity consumption, computers account for around two percent. Not a lot, but not negligible either.

“New computers typically have built-in features such as sleep or hibernation that reduce energy consumption when the computer is not in active use. These features allow the computer to be switched to one or more low-power modes, or to transition into such a mode automatically. Study after study has made it clear that computer users are not employing these power-management options effectively, and that doing so could significantly reduce both residential and commercial electricity use. However, little research has addressed how, when, and why users engage – or do not engage – these options. A better understanding of user behavior is thus a crucial part of increasing energy efficiency for computers.”

I know in my own particular situation that if I’m only going to step away from my computer momentarily, no action is taken on my part to reduce the computer’s energy consumption. Should I be away from my computer for more than just a short time, well, the computer will automatically switch to a mode whereby energy being consumed is reduced. If there is more than five minutes of inactivity, the computer will automatically go into the sleep or hibernation mode. But, rarely is it that I purposely “sleep” my computer.

On the other hand, if I know that I won’t be using my computer for an extended period, I save what needs to be saved, close all programs and documents and then turn the device completely off.

There are times though that the computer is unplugged from the AC wall outlet, relying on back-up battery power. This is one of the best ways I can think of to allow the computer to be less of a drain on the electricity grid. There are times when computer usage following this procedure is more conducive to operating it in this manner.

For example, in my own home, electricity consumption is usually at its highest on weekday evenings from anywhere from 6 to 7 p.m. until about anywhere from 10 to 11 p.m. With the understanding that computer usage accounts for roughly two percent of all electricity consumption, by switching to battery operation during the times of biggest energy demand, then this can make a difference and provide for additional energy savings compared to drawing AC from the wall. Now imagine, if you will, the impact of an extremely large population of people using their computers doing exactly that: less demand would be placed on the electric grid.

As far as the referenced study above goes, perhaps the most profound finding of all, was that, overall, computer central processing units (CPUs) were “on” 61 percent of the day in what in the report is described as “User inactive” mode. Contrasted to this, the CPUs in the survey, overall, were “on” in the “User active” mode just seven percent of the time. These computers were office desktops.

Also from the report’s “Executive Summary”:

“This monitoring study highlights confusion about power management settings for office desktops. The situation may be better for home desktops and laptops: the 2013 survey results indicate that users have more control over their home desktops and laptops, and are less likely to give ‘don’t know’ responses when asked about them. However, since desktops use more power than laptops, and office desktops outnumber home desktops, any problem that affects office desktops has substantial implications for total energy efficiency.”

The takeaway: Smarter, more efficient computer operation can not only result in electric bills being lower, but air quality being better.

Notes

  1. Pixley, Joy E.; Stuart A. Ross. (University of California, Irvine). 2014. Monitoring Computer Power Modes Usage in a University Population. California Energy Commission. Publication number: CEC-500-2014-092.

A shrinking California water supply or no, power from renewables the way to go

The conversation today picks up on what I had written in: “In a warm, dry and mobile California, water rationing, mileage fees possible.”

In that post I had rationalized that “[l]ess water usage could mean more energy savings, and this could, to some extent, counter the effects of the increase in driving which, no doubt, has added more pollution to the air.” Am I correct?

So, stated in the “New Report Reveals Drought Increases Energy Costs and Climate-Changing Pollution” press release of Mar. 17, 2015, is this:

“The Pacific Institute, an internationally-renowned independent think tank focused on water issues, released a report that reveals diminished river flows have resulted in less hydroelectricity, more expensive electricity, and increased production of greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Pacific Institute goes on in the release by explaining, “Under normal conditions, electricity for the state’s millions of users is produced from a blend of many sources, with natural gas and hydropower being the top two. Since the drought has reduced the state’s river flows that power hundreds of hydropower stations, natural gas has become a more prominent player in the mix. This is an expensive change.”

Overhead view of Grand Coulee Dam with hydroelectric component on left
Overhead view of Grand Coulee Dam with hydroelectric component on left

The Oakland-based think tank went on to declare that between 2011 and 2014, in supplying electricity for Californians, a larger share has come via the natural-gas-burning process with less reliance on a hydropower-based supply, and from this, California power-plant-released carbon dioxide and other pollutant emissions have risen by eight percent.

If the present dry spell continues unabated, a diminishing water supply will mean less in the way of hydroelectric generation, and that points toward increased reliance on electricity produced from other sources – renewable and non-renewable alike.

Though all may be accurate, this is only part of the California energy production/energy consumption story.

Case in point: From “Ground lost in 2012 vs 2011 in California GHG-emissions-reduction fight,” following are a few of the particulars from that post.

“The California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) … released its latest greenhouse gas emissions inventory report for California: ‘California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012’ in May 2014. In the effort to lower in the atmosphere overall levels of greenhouse gas emissions, on this front, what, if any, progress has been made and, in its effort to appreciably reduce its GHG, is California winning the war?

“Here is what I learned: ‘In 2012, total GHG and per capita emissions increased by 1.7% from 2011 emissions. This increase was driven largely by the increased reliance on natural gas-generation sources of in-state electricity due to the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) as well as dry hydrological conditions in 2012 (drought) causing a drop in the in-state hydropower generation. Total statewide greenhouse gas emissions have decreased from 466 million [metric] tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) in 2000 to 459 MMTCO2e in 2012, a decrease of 1.6 percent,’ as reported by the ARB.”

So, as a result of the SONGS being decommissioned and going off-line combined with California’s ongoing drought, the relationship between in-state power generated renewably relative to that which is produced non-renewably, has obviously changed.

Coupled with all of the above, what would be helpful is knowing exactly what California’s electric bill is, or, in other words, how many megawatts are being consumed by the various in-state consumers. From year to year, is the bill higher, lower or holding steady? During the drought, with much agricultural land being fallowed (pulled out of production to cut back on water usage) which, in turn, means reduced need for electricity to feed diesel pumps and to drive irrigation systems, what is the impact on the state’s electric grid from this? Ditto regarding automatic sprinkler systems used in watering home, business, municipal, highway right-of-way and other landscapes? The presumption is conservation measures are enabling the saving of water and water saved could translate into volts saved as it has to do with the cut-backs made.

Adds the Pacific Institute in the release: “According to the Institute’s report, between October 2011 and October 2014, California’s ratepayers spent $1.4 billion more for electricity than in average years because of the drought-induced shift from hydropower to natural gas. In an average year, hydropower provides 18 percent of the electricity needed for agriculture, industry, and our homes. Comparatively, in this three-year drought period, hydropower comprised less than 12 percent of total California electricity generation.”

Whether a move farther away from less-sustainable (coal, natural gas, oil) sources and toward more renewables (sun, wind, tide, geothermal) for the supply of electricity, remains to be seen.

As it currently stands, 23 percent of Golden State-produced electricity comes from renewable sources. State mandate, however, stipulates that a third of California’s energy will need to be renewably produced by 2020. The idea is to up that even more.

Image above: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation

In a warm, dry and mobile California, water rationing, mileage fees possible

Unless there is a dramatic change in weather and the drought that has gripped California (and other parts of the western U.S.) suddenly relents, on tap could be water rationing. Drought in the Golden State has now entered its fourth year.

Couple that with higher in-state vehicle miles traveled (VMT). In 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Highway Policy Information’s “Highway Statistics Series – State Statistical Abstracts 2012” report, Californians collectively drove 326.272 billion miles. This surpassed 2011’s numbers by 5.488 billion miles as Californians logged 320.784 billion miles of road travel that year. The presumption is the total miles traveled on California roads in both 2013 and 2014 mirrored the upward trajectory evident in 2011 and 2012 and the same will hold true in 2015.

So, what does one have to do with the other?

Less water usage could mean energy savings and this could, to some extent, counter the effects of the increase in driving which, no doubt, has added more pollution to the air.

Rising temps/falling water tables

In the Mar. 2015 FGN (Fruit Growers News) article: “California drought showing no sign of relenting,” author Vicky Boyd wrote: “At the beginning of the current water year, Oct. 1, 2014, the CVP’s [Central Valley Project] six main reservoirs had carryover storage of 3.1 million acre-feet – or 49 percent of the 15-year average, [Louis Moore, Bureau of Reclamation deputy public affairs officer in Sacramento] said. That compares with carryover storage of 5.1 million acre-feet at the end of the 2013-14 water year.

“An acre-foot, about 325,900 gallons, can meet the annual water needs of a family of four or five, according to the Department of Water Resources,” wrote Boyd.

For added perspective, the rainy season’s end is typically April or May. Should this dearth of much-needed precipitation continue through the remainder of March and throughout all of spring, what it will mean is that the last month the state will have seen any rain of any real significance is February.

And records show, just for February 2015 alone, all up and down the state, above-average temperatures were recorded. In Fresno, for example, the temperature averaged 5.5 degrees above what is considered normal. Redding, in northern California had the highest: its average temperature was 6.9 degrees above its norm. Sacramento was second highest with a mean temperature for Feb. of 5.7 degrees, just ahead of Fresno which is in the number three spot. San Francisco was next with an average temperature of 5.4 degrees for the month. LA City and San Diego tied – average Feb. temperature: 5.2 degrees, surpassing San Jose’s 4.3 degrees and Eureka’s 3.8 degrees.

Now, add to this the findings of a snow survey done in the Sierra Nevada mountains on Jan. 29, 2015, whereby revealed was that snowpack water content was only 2.3 inches which represents but 12 percent of the long-term average, according to Boyd. In this regard, California’s loss seems to be the upper Midwest’s and Northeast’s gain. Besides the record Midwest and northeast snowfall amounts, many areas – even in the southeast at times – saw sub-zero temperatures, making for a quite interesting juxtaposition to say the least.

Relatedly, in the article: “Climate change: Growers will have to adapt to changing weather patterns,” also gracing the very same Mar. 2015 FGN issue, Managing Editor, Matt Milkovich wrote: “Last year was Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“The two agencies recently announced that Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 1.4° F[ahrenheit] since 1880, and that the ‘majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades.’ In fact, the 10 warmest years in the instrumental record have occurred since 1998.

“This long-term warming trend is ‘largely driven by the increase in carbon dioxide and other human emissions into the planet’s atmosphere,’ according to NASA,” Milkovich continued.

As it were, Fresno’s temperature on Sun. Mar. 15th reached a high of 90 degrees – a record. That high a temperature ordinarily doesn’t show up until the end of April/the beginning of May.

On the map and on tap?

California undergoing extreme drought conditions the way it is, expect water use to be closely monitored. If dry conditions persist, this could mean rationing of water could become the new normal.

Meanwhile, as with the drought the advance of sprawl, too, seems relentless.

There has been much in the news as of late about Quay Valley, a 7,500-acre housing development proposed to be located near the Kern County line in southern Kings County and along the Interstate-5 corridor. If built, whether built sustainably or not, the reality is it will take water – and lots of it – to sustain life there.

As for how much water, using the Department of Water Resources numbers, should there be as many as 25,000 homes built, a water supply in the neighborhood of 25,000 acre-feet could be needed each year. Converting that to gallons of water required, that’s 8,237,500,000 (again, that’s assuming four or five residents per household) and this doesn’t include the H2O needed for any on-site commercial and/or office property housed there as well. Efficient water and watering systems, no doubt, would be called for. And, who knows?! At full build-out, perhaps in lieu of a gasoline tax, instituted in its place at that time will be a mileage-based tax which is otherwise known as a vehicle-miles-traveled or VMT fee.

And, not a moment too soon as the motor vehicle impact on the I-5 corridor in that area will likely be considerable. Remember: Quay Valley is only one such proposed development. Proposed/planned others are doubtless in the pipeline.

American land-based traffic and travel profile – 2014

Just as I suspected: The amount of driving in the U.S. is up … again, only this time the year is 2014.

360px-CBX_Parkchester_6_jeh[1]According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Office of Highway Policy Information the aggregate number of miles driven was 3.0156 trillion. This is up from 2.9656 trillion miles in 2013 or an increase of almost 1.7 percent or around 50.041 billion miles. Indicators point to the sharp decline in the price of gasoline in 2014’s latter half as a main driving factor. I would as well surmise that a rebounding economy coupled with a drop in the number of unemployed, contributed to the change also.

The FHWA reports that all data for Dec. 2014 are preliminary.

Going back half a year, in “More miles driven means more emissions, period, and more, not less, are driving,” I had written, “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.”

Okay, so in referring to the FHWA’s newest “December 2014 Traffic Volume Trends: Individual Monthly Motor Vehicle Travel in the U.S. for December 2014” data, 2014’s first half reveals a number that has been revised upward slightly to 1.4716 trillion miles of cumulative travel which means the number of miles driven on American roads between Jul. and Dec. 2014 totaled 1.544 trillion.

“‘Technological and demographic factors, plus urbanization and the preferences of an emerging Millennial generation all suggest that increases in driving will be slower than in past generations,’” U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Senior Analyst and Transportation Program Director, Phineas Baxandall, stated in U.S. PIRG’s “Statement on New Federal Driving Data for 2014” Mar. 12, 2015 news release. “‘The volume of driving could be even lower if public policies in coming years give Americans more choices about whether or not to drive.’”

More choices that include public transportation among them.

Speaking of which, with the uptick in roadway miles traveled came an increase in transit usage. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced in a Mar. 9, 2015 news release 10.8 billion trips were made on public transportation in 2014. This is 100 million more trips taken on America’s buses and trains than were taken in 2013. That’s a percentage increase of nearly 1 percent. This was reported on in: “Record 10.8 Billion Trips Taken on U.S. Public Transportation in 2014: The Highest Transit Ridership in 58 Years.”

The biggest gains were experienced on rail-based transit modes: light rail, heavy rail and commuter rail. The category light rail includes in it modern light rail, streetcars, trolleys and heritage trolleys while heavy rail includes subways and elevated trains.

“Some of the public transit agencies reporting record ridership system-wide were located in the following cities: Albany, NY; Boston, MA; Canton, OH; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Indianapolis, IN; Madison, WI; Minneapolis, MN; Olympia, WA; Orlando, FL; St. Petersburg, FL; Riverside, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Spokane, WA; Tampa, FL; and Wenatchee, WA,” noted the APTA in release.

“Noting that public transit ridership increased even when gas prices declined by 42.9 cents in the fourth quarter, APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said, ‘Despite the steep decline in gas prices at the end of last year, public transit ridership increased. This shows that once people start riding public transit, they discover that there are additional benefits besides saving money.’”

Benefits such as cleaner air to name an important one.

Trinity Railway Express train, “The T” Bus, Intermodal Transportation Center, Ft. Worth
Trinity Railway Express train, “The T” Bus, Intermodal Transportation Center, Ft. Worth

Bottom image above: W. R. Howell, Jr.

Los Angeles air cleaner, kids’ lungs stronger, study finds

Since the mid-1940s, widely known has been the Los Angeles area’s notorious polluted-air problem.

Though that scourge in the region hasn’t completely gone away, conditions have nonetheless improved. Imposed federal, state and local rules are partly responsible for L.A.-area air improvement. So, too, as a contributing factor, was the downturn in the economy, beginning in 2007 as a result of the Great Recession. Information in a Mar. 4, 2015 University of Southern California (USC) news release titled: “L.A. Story: Cleaner Air, Healthier Kids,” bears this out.

In addition to the better-air news in the release, mentioned also is a two-decades-long USC study, a study in which more than 2,000 Los Angeles-area students in three separate cohorts (cohort 1: 1994-1998; cohort 2: 1997-2001; and cohort 3: 2007-2011) took part. Study participants’ lungs were tested for both size and strength. In the final analysis and very, very simply stated, the youngest of the children studied had the greatest gains in terms of lung development and lung function.

Human_respiratory_system-NIH[1] (340x226)“‘We saw pretty substantial improvements in lung function development in our most recent cohort of children,’ said lead author W. James Gauderman, professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, noting this was the first good news from the long-running study,” declared the doctor in the release. There is much more on this below.

The study

“The University of Southern California Children’s Health Study measured lung development between the ages of 11 and 15 and found large gains for children studied from 2007 to 2011, compared to children of the same age in the same communities from 1994-98 and 1997-2001,” as information in the news release made clear.

Lung function was tested a minimum of three times per student. Participants were not tested every year but every other year. Students participating received their first test either near or at age 11. Testing concluded when students were near or at age 15. A spirometer was used to measure both the size and strength of lungs. The time to complete each test took only a second. All according to release information presented.

Pollutants of concern

“Combined exposure to two harmful pollutants, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter of diameter under 2.5 microns (PM2.5), fell approximately 40 percent for the third cohort of 2007-2011 compared to the first cohort of 1994-98. The study followed children from Long Beach, Mira Loma, Riverside, San Dimas and Upland.” It should as well be noted that among the study findings, there was no significant change evident among the three cohorts regarding the incidence of asthma.

Also according to information presented in the release, for the 11-to-15-year-old students in the 2007-2011 cohort who were exposed to reduced NO2 levels, their lung growth was 10 percent greater than those in the 1994-1998 cohort inhaling NO2 levels that were higher.

Findings and observations

“The percentage of children in the study with abnormally low lung function at age 15 dropped from nearly 8 percent for the 1994-98 cohort, to 6.3 percent in 1997-2001, to just 3.6 percent for children followed between 2007 and 2011.”

The gains, although favorable, are not absolute. Should the condition of air in Los Angeles and environs deteriorate, any gains made could be erased.

“‘We have to maintain the same sort of level of effort to keep the levels of air pollution down,’” in no uncertain terms emphasized Frank Gilliland, Keck School of Medicine, Hastings Professor of Medicine and the study’s senior author. Gilliland expressed also that with the ongoing drought, a rise in particulate matter pollution can be expected.

The broader view, of course, is: what was found as a result of this study being conducted could well be relevant for areas beyond L.A.

Image above: U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Note: It was stated in an earlier version of this article that: “Lung function was tested a minimum of three times per year per student.” The article has been modified and now includes the corrected text.

HECA: Taking school-bus-interior air-cleaning to whole new level

When it comes to mobile air-filtration technology in the school-bus operating environment, HECA could be the next big breakthrough. HECA is up to 88 percent effective when it comes to reducing exposure to pollutants in the air inside school buses, so says Kim Irwin in “On-board school bus filtration system reduces pollutants by 88 percent: UCLA-developed technology would protect children from harmful exposure,” a Mar. 2, 2015 University of California, Los Angeles news release.

The “on-board air filtration system developed specifically for school buses reduces exposure to vehicular pollutants by up to 88 percent, according to a study by researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health,” Irwin stated.

HECA – what is it?

320px-1970sMNschoolbuses[1]HECA being the acronym for “High Efficiency Cabin Air,” the “system could help protect the 25 million American children who commute on school buses nearly every day. Children are more susceptible to air pollution than adults because they breathe more quickly and their immune and cardiovascular systems are still developing, said Yifang Zhu, the study’s senior author and an associate professor in the department of environmental health sciences.”

As it relates, sitting in congested freeway traffic can result in motor-vehicle occupants being exposed to unusually high concentrations of air-pollutant emissions via vehicle exhaust pipes. It is little if any different regarding children riding school buses. Higher concentrations of said vehicle-exhaust-pollutant-emissions, incidentally, can be present at heavily-trafficked intersections as well.

As for just how well the HECA filtering system performed in terms of helping clean the air in the school bus interiors under test, in certain respects the filtering system performed better than expected, in fact.

Surprising to study researchers was that the greatest pollution reduction was achieved under freeway driving conditions, according to Irwin in the release. And, of particular note, “[t]he study found that the air inside buses with the HECA system was as clean as air near the beach in Santa Monica, California.”

Very relevant, especially taking into consideration the potential for students in urban settings riding school buses to be exposed to unhealthy levels of motor-vehicle-exhaust pollutants when traveling to and from school, and when on field trips and in getting to and from sporting events. Time spent riding school buses, is but another element in the whole pollutant-exposure equation.

“‘Studies have shown that exposure to high levels of vehicle pollution is associated with pulmonary and cardiovascular health risks, including oxidative stress, mitochondrial damage and acute pulmonary inflammation,’ [Zhu] said.” Moreover, there have been other studies that “have also found that children exposed to pollutants from vehicles tend to perform less well in school,” Irwin wrote.

In all, six school buses were tested sans students on board, under idling conditions, and in operating under conditions in which both freeway and major-arterial roadway driving was done – all in Los Angeles. Air was tested for “vehicle-emitted particulate matter, including black carbon and fine and ultrafine particles, down to a few nanometers in size,” inside as well as outside the school buses under test, Irwin reported.

Developed by study researchers was a prototype HECA filtering system specially designed for inside-the-school-bus cabin use and not one but two were placed at the back of each of the half-dozen school buses under evaluation. “Air was drawn in through diffusers on the sides of each unit and fed through the HECA filter,” Irwin wrote. “The filtered air was then delivered at a constant rate through air ducts.”

Brought out in the study also was information that, regarding a filtration system such as HECA, there is great potential to reduce the exposure risk to vehicle-exhaust-pollutant emissions of students riding school buses, according to Irwin.

“A long-term follow-up study will evaluate how much exposure can be reduced by operating the HECA filtration system in a large number of school buses with children aboard, Zhu said,” reported the news release writer.

Image above: David Rees, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, held and cataloged by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

‘Our air isn’t killing us,’ one writer argues. Oh yeah. According to whom?

Lois Henry writes for the Bakersfield Californian. At any rate, in “Unchecked science no basis for onerous air rules,” (second article in the grouping), she makes the claim that “our air isn’t killing us,” following up later on in the same op-ed by basically stating that the proof is there to support such a claim, although, according to Henry, when it comes to getting access to the evidence in question, that’s not an option – at least, this is how I understand things.

Wow! And, I thought I had heard (read, actually) everything.

SMOG_-_NARA_-_542581.tif[1]A seemingly resolute Henry who then goes on about the proposed strengthening of existing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ozone standards even going so far as to utter – and in no less than a stern voice to boot – this: “So, when EPA officials bleat about how these rules are needed to save countless lives, my response is ‘prove it.’”

As it relates, the EPA is proposing regulations that have to do with lowering the ozone health standard from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a more health-protective 65 to 70 ppb level. I wonder if the Bakersfield Californian columnist has read the report: “Policy Assessment for the Review of the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards,” from the EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards Health and Environmental Impacts Division, which can be accessed by going here. (I, myself, have finished reading about a third of it).

Not that this matter is unimportant, but relates Henry: “The more important issue is that these rules, which even the local air district has said would force the suspension of all internal combustion, are based on health study conclusions that no one can check.” (The “local air district” in this case is the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, presumably).

So, regarding these “health study conclusions that no one can check,” who is it Henry is referring to as “no one”? The general public, the air district; who exactly? I don’t believe that information in her editorial was ever disclosed.

Henry in the op-ed goes on to state “I’ve written about the problem of using unverified studies to gin up regulations for years as that’s the standard MO [modus operandi] of the California [Environmental Protection Agency] Air Resources Board (CARB).” Though the Valley has met the EPA’s 1997 ozone standard of 84 ppb, according to Henry, it is nowhere close to meeting the 75 ppb 2008 standard.

Reading a little farther on in the Henry commentary, quoted is American Chemistry Council Communications Vice President Anne Kolton, who said: “‘These new rules would add a whole new level of cost, complexity and uncertainty,’ that could stymie the economy, she said,” Henry wrote in citing Kolton.

Discussion turning to the economy? Why am I not surprised?!

The American Lung Association offered rebuttal, in essence contending that industry for almost 40 years has cried harm and with no ill-effect resulting.

Henry shot back by pointing out that a lot of business, in this way, that way or the other, has some connection to ozone, and by virtue of that, a stranglehold could be put on economic growth.

Next up in the discussion is cars. If not emissions-free, they could add considerably to the ozone problem. Henry seems fearful that the proposed EPA rules could limit the amount of driving by motorists or that a mileage fee could be imposed. Would drivers balk? Perhaps not, according to Henry, that is if in instituting these prescriptive approaches lives were saved.

But it was what Henry wrote next that has more than likely caused more than just a few raised eyebrows.

Here is what Henry wrote: “Problem is, no one knows for sure. And there’s a lot of evidence no one’s dying at all, but you can’t check.” This is backed up by the several examples provided.

What about the physical evidence that people do die from the effects related to toxic air’s inhalation, even if not ozone per se, whether that be short-term or long, is Henry dismissing this?

Once more, I would ask if Henry has read the EPA “Policy Assessment for the Review of the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards” report or even parts of it. Documented is study after study after study reporting on research that has been done on ozone as it has to do with health impacts, mortality and morbidity.

And, I would add, if ozone isn’t a problem, why the need to establish any standard at all? I ask: How can pollution (the type that can be readily seen in the air) that, when breathed in, be anything but bad?

Relatedly

Meanwhile, in “Research shows possible Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon exposure-DNA change link,” I wrote: “… Dr. Kari Nadeau, a Stanford University medical school professor with expertise in the areas of allergies and asthma, a few years ago discovered that ‘many of her child asthma patients had abnormally low levels of regulatory T-cells, which are crucial to maintaining a healthy immune system,’ Rebecca Plevin at KVPR (Valley Public Radio) in ‘Is The Central Valley’s Air Pollution Affecting Our Cells And Genes?’ wrote.

“Quite interestingly and importantly, of Dr. Nadeau’s patients, those studied from Fresno, California, not surprisingly, had the greatest regulatory T-cell-function impairment, according to Plevin.

“‘Nadeau then compared the regulatory T-cell function in kids from Fresno – where there’s heavy air pollution – with kids from Palo Alto, where there’s less air pollution,’ Plevin reported.

“Studied as well were Fresno non-asthmatic children. Most astonishingly, perhaps, was that the non-asthmatic Fresno children studied showed lower regulatory T-cell levels than did the children studied who were from Palo Alto who had asthma, according to the KVPR reporter in question.

“If I interpreted what I read correctly, the cause-and-effect here is: the lower the regulatory T-cell level or function, the more suppressed the function of the immune system affected.

“Added Plevin: ‘That means, [Dr. Nadeau] concluded, that exposure to the pollution was possibly causing changes to kids’ DNA.’”

I believe these passages from “Research shows possible Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon exposure-DNA change link,” are not only highly relevant but important enough that they warrant repeating again.

Image above: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Valley top spot for fine particle pollution … again!

In the United States, the region with the worst fine particulate matter pollution problem is – you guessed it – California’s San Joaquin Valley. Fine particles, though actually less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter in size, are nevertheless given the designation PM 2.5. These particles are roughly one-thirtieth the width of an average human hair.

In an article in The Fresno Bee, meanwhile, referenced is a San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (air district) daily PM 2.5 health standard of 20 micrograms per cubic meter of air. It is important to note this was tightened from the air district’s previous 24-hour fine particulate matter standard of 30. Also noted in the same Bee article is another number: 470, in this case referring to the number of wood-burning violations recorded for the winter 2014-’15 season when rules on wood-burning are in effect. This is a slight improvement over the prior winter’s 547 violations. Wood-burning rules are in effect in the Valley Nov. 1 through Feb. 28.

Meanwhile, from the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board’s “Air Quality and Meteorological Information (AQMIS2)” page, 49 is the number of days the Valley exceeded the 24-hour federal PM 2.5 health standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air this winter (30 in Jan. and Feb. 2015 and 19 in Nov. and Dec. 2014), this compared with the South Coast Air Basin’s 25 (20 in Jan. and Feb. 2015 and 5 in Nov. and Dec. 2014). The number of times the Valley exceeded the federal PM 2.5 standard last year (Nov. 1, 2013 through Feb. 28, 2014) was 71.

Fireplace_Burning[1]Add to this that during winter 2014-’15 up to this point in time, that is, more rain fell compared to last winter and there has been more Valley fog. Rain totals are recorded from Jul. 1 to Jun. 30. This may have contributed to the fewer number of exceedences this year compared to last.

There are other factors that could have come into play as well.

“Through February, nearly 3,000 wood-burning devices were registered with the District as meeting current [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] emission standards,” the air district in a Feb. 26, 2015 news release emphasized.

“This winter, as of Feb. 26, there were 36 days when wood-burning was not allowed for anyone in at least one county. Comparatively, last winter, there were a total of 376 curtailments throughout the air basin.”

The Valley county with the most curtailments or prohibitions in 2013-’14 was Fresno, with 59. The county with the fewest was Merced with 25, according to the air district in the release.

What was different also wood-burning-wise this season compared to last, for EPA-approved and air-district-registered wood-burning devices, as long as daily PM 2.5 levels were expected to be 65 micrograms per cubic meter or less, their use was allowed. Last year, if the threshold of 30 micrograms per cubic meter of air was expected to be exceeded, there was no wood-burning, with one exception, that being, if residents had no other way to heat their homes.

In no uncertain terms, the air district has made quite clear that, “[t]his season, there were fewer days during which the fine-particle level exceeded the federal health standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter. There was also more rain and less atmospheric stagnancy than last winter, although the statewide drought continues with associated air-quality effects.”

The air district, meanwhile, is discouraging residential wood-burning even though formal wood-burning restrictions aren’t in force any longer in the Valley effective as of Mar. 1st.

Look for temperatures later this week to return to the 70s. Expect with that levels of air-pollutant emissions to rise too.