Thursday, March 29, 2012

EPA Greenhouse Gas Rule Spotlights 1 of 3 Big Manipulations In Howarth Study

Professors Howarth and Ingrafea must be displeased with the historic EPA proposed greenhouse gas standard for carbon pollution of 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour for new power plants, a standard that gas plants meet, while coal plants without expensive and barely commercially available carbon capture and storage equipment do not.  Without such CCS equipment coal plants emit from 1800 to 2200 pounds of carbon per megatwatt-hour of electricity produced, approximately twice what natural gas plants emit.

How could gas plants meet the EPA carbon standard, while coal plants do not, when Howarth/Ingrafea say that shale gas is as dirty or even dirtier than coal?  The answer to the question highlights one of the 3 big manipulations in the Howarth/Ingrafea paper.

Unlike all other researchers, Howarth/Ingrafea stopped their life cycle analysis of carbon pollution from coal and gas before the fuels are combusted.  Howarth/Ingrafea refused to include the carbon emissions from actually burning coal in a power plant, where nearly 100% of coal is combusted and typically inefficiently.  Indeed coal plants convert fuel to electricity much more inefficiently than gas plants do, making the carbon pollution from coal even higher, when it is finally used in the real world.

Including the emissions from coal, after it is actually combusted in the real world, would have destroyed the conclusion of Howarth/Ingrafea that gas is as dirty or dirtier than coal.  The solution to this problem for Howarth/Ingrafea, uniquely and alone, was to stop the calculation of pollution before coal is combusted.  Presto!  Problem solved.

The two other manipulations in the Howarth/Ingrafea study were to use extreme methane leakage rates by, as just one example, assuming falsely ubiquitous venting of shale gas in part of the well development process, and to reject, again uniquely and alone, the 100-year IPCC global warming potential factor and to substitute a 20-year global warming potential.  Methane dissipates almost completely within 15 years in the atmosphere, and so the use of a 20-year global warming potential was essential to reach a false conclusion that gas is dirtier than coal.

One good, unintended benefit of the historic EPA greenhouse gas standard for new plants is highlighting one of the three big manipulations in the Howarth paper.  The failure of Howarth to include carbon emissions, when coal is combusted at a power plant, is one of several decisions he made that makes his paper appear as an exercise in working back from a desired result and fitting his analysis to that desired result.  It is one of three big reasons that all other life cycle analysis studies of coal and gas contradict Howarth's false conclusion.

Hopefully, the EPA proposed rule will reaffirm a fact--gas emits less mercury, soot, arsenic, lead, and carbon than coal without full pollution controls, including carbon capture and storage technology.


  1. Concerned ScientistMarch 29, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    Excellent points John. They started with their conclusions and then went out and found some data to support them. They counted on most people not checking up on their methods. Thanks for all you have done to point out their deeply flawed methods in this critical matter.

  2. Hey John we had a little incident here today...seems the Lathrop Compressor blew a little hole in the roof..just the place you would want to raise your kids. TIME TO WAKE UP!!

  3. Concerned ScientistMarch 29, 2012 at 10:50 PM

    Check this out:

    I don't usually go on those sites, but this is just amazing. This is Mark Ruffalo's group. I think he is a terrific actor. Apparently he is also playing the part of an expert on oil and gas drilling, water resources and energy matters. Here's a quote "Duke University found that fracking contaminated groundwater a majority of the time, in the only peer-reviewed scientific study to ever look at the issue." Gee I must have really misread that paper. I also learned that we can get off fossil fuels now and can make it on wind and solar alone and thereby save our water from the frackers.

    He might find this interesting:

    "According to Chinese news reports, residents claimed runoff from solid waste laced with fluoride and improperly stored at the [solar panel] plant had been swept into the nearby river after heavy rainfall on Aug. 26. They said that a sea of dead fish rose to the surface, covering hundreds of square yards of water. Pigs whose sties had been washed with river water also were reported to have died. The state-run China News Agency reported that government inspectors later found that the water contained 10 times the acceptable amount of fluoride."

    Oops! That is probably more fresh water polluted and more animals killed than fracking has caused over the last 50 years combined.