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EPA’s Mercury Ruse

March 16, 2012

The EPA has singled out coal-fired power plants for drastic action to cut mercury emissions.

Yet, the EPA is allowing compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) to be used indiscriminately.

Why is this? Is there a big difference between the amounts of mercury that can be released to contaminate the environment? Or people’s homes?

According to Power Magazine, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between coal-fired power plants and CFLs.

The EPA says there is about 4 to 5 mg of mercury in each CFL.

The EPA estimates that the life of a CFL is 8,000 hours, and that over that same period a coal-fired power plant will emit 4.3 mg of mercury to produce the electricity consumed by the CFL.

Let’s see, 4 to 5 mg from a coal-fired power plant vs. 4.3 mg from a single CFL: Not much difference, is there?

Obviously, most CFLs will end up in a landfill and the mercury will enter the environment.

On one hand, the EPA sets out stringent rules for homeowners to follow if they break a CFL, supposedly because of the dangers from mercury, yet the EPA doesn’t do anything to control the use of CFLs.

Why doesn’t the EPA ban CFLs to the same extent that they target coal-fired power plants?

The EPA’s rules for cleaning up a broken CFL are draconian.

Here are a few items from two pages of instructions contained on the EPA website for cleaning-up a broken CFL lamp.

  • Escort all people and pets out of the room. Next, open doors and windows for 5-10 minutes to air out the room. Turn off the heating or AC system and leave off, if possible, for several hours.
  • Collect the residue using stiff paper, sticky tape, and damp towels. Seal all materials used in cleaning up the broken CFL in a glass jar with metal lid or in a sealable plastic bag. Do not vacuum up the residue, as it may spread the mercury-containing powder into the air. (Don’t break the glass jar.)
  • Store the broken pieces, residue and materials in an outdoor trash container until the materials can be taken to a hazardous waste facility or whatever is required by state law.

And, when installing a CFL, use a drop cloth to prevent contamination in the event the CFL is dropped and broken.

If mercury is as dangerous as the EPA claims, why doesn’t the EPA ban CFLs to the same extent the EPA targets coal-fired power plants?

One can only conclude that the EPA is biased against coal-fired power plants, not because of mercury, but because coal-fired power plants emit CO2.

The logic is straight forward.

  1. Coal-fired power plants emit CO2, therefore coal-fired power plants are bad.
  2. CFLs reduce the need to generate electricity which reduces CO2 emissions, therefore CFLs are good.

As has been shown before, see article Mercury Reality,  mercury found by the USGS deposited in the soil from all sources, is 3,400 times below the safe limit established by OSHA for the workplace. And, mercury from coal-fired power plants is less than ½ of one percent (0.5%) of total mercury depositions from all sources.

Conclusion?

Mercury is a ruse used by the EPA to cut CO2 emissions.

 

See Power Magazine, Battle of the Bulb: http://www.powermag.com/issues/departments/speaking_of_power/Battle-of-the-Bulb_4315.html

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. kakatoa permalink
    March 16, 2012 2:42 pm

    Donn,

    I have recently noticed that a couple of gas stations that I frequent have replaced their florescent lighting (ceiling lighting and their refrigerator lighting) with LED lights. One local station owner indicated that he was getting a rebate for becoming more energy efficient (PG&E territory- http://www.pge.com/mybusiness/energysavingsrebates/rebatesincentives/ref/lighting/lightemittingdiodes/refrigerateddisplaycase.shtml .

    The station owner was a bit annoyed about having to dispose of all the florescent tubes- as the crew that replaced his lighting did not take the tubes away. He found out that his local trash hauler wouldn’t take the bulbs either. I got the impression that he was going to make a special trip to the county transfer station on their hazardous waste collection day to get rid of the bulbs. I hope he doesn’t break any of the bulbs before he is able to dispose of them.

    It took 2 days for a couple of guys to replace the fixtures and install the LED lights. The crew drove about 35 miles one way to do the install. PG&E’s efforts don’t have much effect on electrical energy generation mercury savings (as PG&E only get 1% of it power from coal- http://www.pge.com/myhome/edusafety/systemworks/electric/energymix/ )

  2. March 16, 2012 3:37 pm

    Interesting, especially noting that all the effort amounted to virtually nothing with PG&E getting only 1% of generation from coal.

    • kakatoa permalink
      March 16, 2012 7:02 pm

      Donn,

      Out here in CA our electrical service providers are required to put “energy efficiency” programs in place as noted here for PG&E- http://www.pgecorp.com/corp_responsibility/reports/2009/en03_cee.jsp The focus for our providers (as per the legislature and then the CPUC) is CO2 reductions- via the 33%RES and our 80% reduction in CO2 goals by 2050. The providers are keeping track of how many kwh’s of total capacity that they don’t have to build based on some assumptions on the benefits of their EE programs. The EE programs are paid for via a surcharge on customers bills via a line item called “public purpose programs.”

      You are correct the new LED lighting at the gas stations will take some time to pay back in both dollars and CO2 reductions if one takes total costs into account.

  3. March 16, 2012 7:17 pm

    Interesting information, thanks.
    Donn

  4. kakatoa permalink
    March 19, 2012 12:00 pm

    Donn,

    I just came across this paper-
    “Renewable Minnesota:
    A technical and economic analysis of a
    100% renewable-energy based electricity system for Minnesota

    by Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D.
    Christina Mills, J.D.
    (Institute for Energy and Environmental Research) and
    M.V. Ramana, Ph.D.
    ( Princeton University)
    March 13, 2012″

    http://www.ieer.org/reports/renewableminnesota.pdf

    Thought you might like to have a reference to the document. I think a few of the technical and economic assumptions in the report could use a bit of expert in the field review.

  5. March 19, 2012 12:27 pm

    Thanks.
    I’ll look at it.
    Donn

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