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The Bureaucrazies Part 3: the Dihydrogen Oxide Effect and the EPA's Onslaught on Affordable Power
Dihydrogen oxide, also known as hydric acid, is a dangerous chemical that’s use goes widely unregulated in industry, homes, and population centers as a whole. The substance can also be found outside of areas with human activity. High concentrations can be found in the soil in a variety of environments including forests and farms. Even greater concentrations are found in lakes, rivers, and oceans across the globe. Extreme levels of hydric acid are also trapped in the polar ice caps. High levels of dihydrogen oxide have also been linked to heavy thunderstorm activity among other natural disasters. Excessive hydric acid presence in the soil is known to increase the risk of sink holes and mud slides that can devastate entire communities. Hydric acid exposure can also cripple levies, dams, and other flood preventative structures, creating widespread destruction. The corrosive nature of hydric acid poses a severe risk to any metal based infrastructure, slowly destroying bridges, power line towers, communication arrays, sewage lines, and many other necessary structures. Dihydrogen oxide is so widespread that its presence in the atmosphere has created a global hydric acid rain/snow pandemic, with occurrences reported on every continent.
The environmental dangers of hydric acid levels alone are enough to warrant action in this regulatory climate; however the danger doesn’t stop there. Human exposure to dihydrogen oxide can be and is often fatal. The material safety data sheet (MSDS) on dihyrdrogen oxide published by the HSE Group, lists the following dangers to the human body if exposed:
Acute over exposure: Inhalation can result in asphyxiation and is often fatal.
Acute overexposure: Prolonged but constant contact with liquid may cause a mild dermatitis.
Chronic overexposure: Mild to severe dermatitis.
Acute overexposure: Excessive ingestion of liquid form can cause gastric distress and mild diarrhea.
Specific personal protective equipment:
Eyes: Goggles or full face splash shield when dealing with hot liquid.
Hands: Use insulating gloves when extensive exposure to solid state or high temperature liquid state is contemplated.
Other clothing and equipment: Use heat protective garment when exposed to large quantities of heated vapor.
Compound is known as "the universal solvent" and does dissolve, at least to some extent, most common materials.
Compound will conduct electricity when dissolved ionic solutes are present.
Dihydrogen oxide is everywhere and its killing people through over exposure and the adverse weather and other environmental conditions it creates. The EPA has worked to create and implement regulations that have either banned or labeled hazardous far less lethal substances. So we must demand the EPA take action and regulate hydric acid right? After all the spread of dihydrogen oxide is so great that every single human being has close to a 70% contamination level. So where is the action? The dangers are proven. Why do we allow hydric acid to kill so many people and destroy so much? Simple:
Dihydrogen oxide’s chemical formula is H2O. Hydric acid is water.
So clearly it would be silly for the EPA to take action against water. Sure it can kill you, but you can’t live without it. If we safely use and recycle water, we can prevent most of the dangers it poses. Sure we can’t stop the thunderstorms and floods can be a bear to prevent, but just about everyone knows how to avoid drowning or that sticking your hand in boiling water is a bad idea. So if we can safely use a chemical or substance, despite its inherent dangers, it would be silly to impose government regulations on it right?
Well not so fast. The EPA may beg to differ. The Environmental Protection Agency is on track to unleash a train wreck of new regulations upon the country; regulations that are the logical equivalent of banning water because you can drown in it.
The EPA is currently developing and finalizing a collection of nearly 30 major regulations and over 170 major policy rules set to go into effect now through the year 2016. Using backdoor tactics that circumnavigate the authority of Congress, the EPA is implementing unilateral regulations on transportation and energy. The EPA is selfishly interpreting powers granted under acts such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to impose regulations that are staggering in both audacity and cost. Here are some of the more notable regulations.
Burning anything solid naturally creates and ash byproduct. Coal fired power plants are no exception. Much of the ash produced, while obviously not something you want to fill your lungs with (much like hydric acid), is usefully recycled. A plurality of drywall produced for construction of homes and offices is made from recycled coal ash. The recycled coal ash is a $2 billion dollar a year trade as coal ash has other valuable uses in other construction products and methods. Yet the EPA is contemplating regulation that will label coal ash as a hazardous material requiring special disposal techniques. An American Legislative Exchange Council report estimates that such a label would cripple the industries surrounding coal ash recycling and compliance costs for coal ash disposal could be as high as $77 billion, driving energy costs up as this cost is passed on to the consumer.
The onslaught on power production continues.
Fossil Fuel and Nuclear Power Plants often use a basic system of water flow to cool and condense steam produced by the furnaces or reactors back into water. The cooling water in this method is pumped from a natural water source nearby the facility and is run through the plant once before being pumped back into its source. This is a cost effective and safe method of cooling the plants and condensing the steam produced. However the EPA is scheduled to finalize a rule by mid-2012 that would require water cooled plants to shift to a closed-cycle cooling system such as a cooling tower.
The retrofits required by such regulation would skyrocket energy costs and could drastically reduce energy production. Each plant requiring modification with cooling towers would face a nearly billion dollar capital cost. Aggregate capital costs across the country could be as high as $64 billion. Companies or states owning power plants that would require a revamp would have to decide whether or not to keep plants open. Many states facing budget deficits already would likely be forced to close the doors of their power plants and lay off thousands of people. Others that decide to keep plants open would naturally pass the sky high cost of cooling tower installation right on to their customers. Either way, opened or closed, energy costs for the consumer would skyrocket.
Further retrofits or retirements of power plants could come as a result of new rules surrounding Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPS). The EPA is proposing rules that require the use of the Maximum Available Control Technologies (MACT) to bring all power plants to the average pollution control performance of the top 12% of existing power plants. The prominent HAPS driving the MACT rule is mercury. While mercury pollution is a serious issue, the EPA has overblown and overreacted to the issue as it exists in the United States. The EPA MACT rule could cost as much as $358 billion in resource costs with another $100 billion in capital costs taken on by the electric companies and subsequently passed on the utility consumer. These expensive retrofits could force nearly 15 gigawatts worth or generator capacity into retirement. These costs are all unnecessary because U.S. energy production is not behind the mercury pollution problem. Current statistics show that mercury pollution in the oceans and subsequently seafood is an internationally fueled externality. Estimates are that 30% of mercury contamination in the United States in from outside of the country. In fact 80% of the seafood consumed (which is the primary source of mercury exposure) is from foreign markets. In total, the Electric Power Research Institute has estimated that less than 5% of the 2,500 tons of global annual mercury release is from the United States, rendering stricter compliance regulations on mercury emission unnecessary on top of being too expensive.
We all acknowledge that the production of electric power has its negatives. The byproducts can be dangerous yet our society cannot function and our economy can’t heal itself and expand without a reliable power supply. We simply can’t live without affordable and reliable electricity. Our relationship with power is similar to our relationship to water. Water is everywhere and creates dangers from drowning to hurricanes, but we'll all wither away without it. The problem with the current slate of EPA regulations is that they address inherent issues, hoping for elimination of dangers where only management is necessary or possible. The fragile economic state of the country isn’t prepared for massive retirements and expensive retrofits of major electric power sources simply because the EPA has deemed the already effectivele management of externalities of power production unacceptable. Mercury, coal ash, and other byproducts of economical power production are already effectively contained, managed, or recycled. This new slew of EPA rules and regulations, which are the logical equivalent of banning water for its inherent dangers, only serves to burden the American people with astronomically higher energy costs for a less reliable electric power system and will not significantly affect the state of the environment.