Monday, September 23, 2013

The EPA Has Double Standards

There is a lot of hubbub today that the EPA has mandated new CO2 emissions requirements for new electric power plants in the USA.  I have already blogged on this being a trick to get Al Gore and friends at Bloom Energy more business.

I do think however this desire by the Obama administration to banish coal from future power stations is a two edged sword for the EPA and some clever lawyers for the coal industry may be able to use the following double standard argument to win a lawsuit that the EPA simply does not know what it is doing and talks from both sides of its mouth.

Here is the logic behind the argument.   The EPA sets the ratings on fuel efficiency of vehicles.  For electric vehicles such as the Tesla Model S they have given an equivalent miles per gallon (MPGe) of 89.  They did this by using a factor of contained chemical energy in a gallon of gas of 37.3 kilowatt hours or 127,267 BTUs per gallon.  The Tesla needs 0.419 kilowatt hours to travel a mile and the EPA divided 0.419 into 37.3 and voila they state the Tesla Model S achieves 89 MPGe.

This is all fine and dandy and smoke and mirrors as the EPA assumed 100% of the chemical energy in the gasoline becomes electricity.  By this they also mean the electric grid generates and transmits electricity with 100% efficiency no matter what fuel is used to generate the electricity.   I blogged about this over a year ago.

OK I know the MPGe are fake figures that the Obama administration uses to promote their misguided policy of promoting plug in vehicles.  I know the grid is not 100% efficient at generating power from any and all fuels.  But for the sake of defeating the new EPA rule on the limits of emitting CO2 from a new coal fired power plant I will drop my thermodynamic hat and wear the EPA dunce’s cap that their Tesla Model S MPGe is correct at 89 and the grid generates electricity with 100% efficiency.

Coal from the powder river basin is widely used in power generation.  The USGS lists the carbon content and calorific (BTUs/lb) of this type of coal.

Performing tedious math in a spread sheet I calculated that if the power generation is 100% efficient 0.145745 pounds of carbon contained in the powder river basin coal are combusted for each kilowatt hour of power generated.  As CO2 has a molecular weight of 44 and carbon has an atomic weight of 12 each pound of carbon combusted results in 3.66667 pounds of CO2.  Multiplying 0.145745 by 3.66667 we obtain that if the power generation is 100% efficient coal fired power stations emit 0.534397 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt hour.  Multiply this by 1,000 and we obtain 534.397 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour.

The EPA has limited new coal fired power stations to a maximum of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour and Dr. Moniz (Secretary of Energy) and Ms. McCarthy (Administrator of the EPA) are having a “hang out” at the Whitehouse on the clean power rules.   Here is what Dr. Moniz posted on his Facebook page.

Ernest Moniz shared a link.
There are few priorities more pressing than the need to #ActOnClimate. Tomorrow -- Monday, September 23, at 12:15 p.m. -- I’ll be joining EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for a live White House Google+ Hangout. We look forward to answering your questions about the President’s Climate Action plan, and progress made so far to meet its goals.

To participate, watch live on Ask questions now at (, or on Twitter using #ActOnClimate.

Learn more:

Well a clever lawyer for Peabody coal could use my arguments above that on the one hand the EPA promotes plug in cars by stating that power is generated with 100% efficiency and therefore powder river basin fired coal power stations emit only the “equivalent” of 534.397 pounds of CO2 per mwh by the EPA’s own admission and calculation and are well below the new 1,100 pound per mwh standard. 

On the other hand if Dr. Moniz and his hanging out friend Ms. McCarthy want to use real emissions from power stations they simply cannot lie to us about the 89 MPGe of a Tesla Model S.  This hang out is actually a thermodynamic fake out by two puppets of an administration that is all about letting “science” dictate policy.   

 It is time to draw a green line in the sand where the EPA and DOE start telling thermodynamic truth and not manipulate the math for electric vehicles when it suits them and their misguided policies of subsidizing friends and contributors and penalizing opponents.  

 Dr Moniz shame on you !  You are in lockstep with Dr. Chu and the thermodynamic fake out at the department of entropy.  Your hippie hairdo may make you look like you are hanging out and cool but your actions show you are just another puppet on a string.  As for Ms. McCarthy she comes from a family of puppets and her brother Charlie would shed a tear for the state of the country.  As for WC Fields he would say “there comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.”