The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a final rule on Thursday for regulating major emitters of greenhouse gases, like coal-fired power plants, under the Clean Air Act.
Starting in July 2011, new sources of at least 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year and any existing plants that increase emissions by 75,000 tons will have to seek permits, the agency said.
As I’ve been saying, EPA’s focus will be new sources of emissions. If you want to sharply reduce emissions from existing facilities, you’re going to need a climate bill like, say, the American Power Act. The story continues:
In the first two years, the E.P.A. expects the rule to affect about 15,550 sources, including coal-fired plants, refineries, cement manufacturers, solid waste landfills and other large polluters, said Gina McCarthy, the agency’s assistant administrator.
She said the rule would apply to sites accounting for about 70 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. “We think this is smart rule-making, and we think it’s good government,” she said.
Last fall the E.P.A. had indicated that the bar would be set at 25,000 tons a year, which would have imposed the permit requirement on smaller entities like family farms and large apartment buildings. “What we realized at the 25,000 level was that we were going to be actually reaching sources that we did not intend to reach,” Ms. McCarthy said.
The announcement came a day after a climate and energy bill was introduced in the Senate, one that would effectively shift regulatory power over greenhouse gases to Congress from the E.P.A.
Last year the agency issued a finding that carbon dioxide and other climate-altering gases posed a threat to human health and welfare. Under the Clean Air Act, that gave it the authority to issue regulatory measures like the one announced Thursday.
The Obama administration made clear last year that the finding was intended to goad Congress into superseding the agency and adopting emissions limits of its own. The E.P.A.’s regulatory move faces stiff opposition from industry groups.
Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and one of the two sponsors of the climate bill, seized on Thursday’s announcement to argue for the urgency of passing it. “Today we went from ‘wake-up call’ to ‘last call,’ ” he warned in a statement.
While the laws of physics weren’t made to be broken, sometimes they need revision. A major current law has been rewritten thanks to the three-port transistor laser, developed by Milton Feng and Nick Holonyak Jr. at the University of Illinois.
With the transistor laser, researchers can explore the behavior of photons, electrons and semiconductors. The device could shape the future of high-speed signal processing, integrated circuits, optical communications, supercomputing and other applications. However, harnessing these capabilities hinges on a clear understanding of the physics of the device, and data the transistor laser generated did not fit neatly within established circuit laws governing electrical currents.
“We were puzzled,” said Feng, the Holonyak Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “How did that work? Is it violating Kirchhoff’s law? How can the law accommodate a further output signal, a photon or optical signal?”
Kirchhoff’s current law, described by Gustav Kirchhoff in 1845, states charge input at a node is equal to the charge output. In other words, all the electrical energy going in must go out again. On a basic bipolar transistor, with ports for electrical input and output, the law applies straightforwardly. The transistor laser adds a third port for optical output, emitting light.
This posed a conundrum for researchers working with the laser: How were they to apply the laws of conservation of charge and conservation of energy with two forms of energy output?
“The optical signal is connected and related to the electrical signals, but until now it’s been dismissed in a transistor,” said Holonyak, the John Bardeen Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics at the U. of I. “Kirchhoff’s law takes care of balancing the charge, but it doesn’t take care of balancing the energies. The question is, how do you put it all together, and represent it in circuit language?”
Western wind turbine manufacturers are losing ground in China, the world’s fastest-growing green energy market.
The combined market share for companies such as General Electric Co. and its European rivals Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Siemens AG fell to 14 percent last year from 71 percent in 2005, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Sales are being eroded by local companies including Sinovel Wind Co. Ltd. and Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. Ltd.
“It’s a tough market,” said Jesus Zaldua, president of Gamesa Corp. Tecnologica SA’s Chinese subsidiary, which has four wind-turbine factories in the northeast city of Tianjin. “Some companies will have to leave China in the next five years.”
To get back in the game, the foreign companies are introducing newer technology. Siemens, based in Munich, expects to open an $80 million plant this year in Shanghai that can build 3.6-megawatt turbines. That’s bigger than anything now made by a Chinese company.
Gamesa plans to build 2-megawatt turbines after retrofitting its existing plants. It will also open its fifth factory in China next year. The Spanish company’s machines cost a third more and are more reliable than Chinese models, according to Beijing-based renewable consultancy Mint Research.
BP PLC continues to stockpile and deploy oil-dispersing chemicals manufactured by a company with which it shares close ties, even though other U.S. EPA-approved alternatives have been shown to be far less toxic and, in some cases, nearly twice as effective.
After the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and a deepwater well began gushing crude in the Gulf of Mexico three weeks ago, BP quickly marshaled a third of the world’s available supply of dispersants, chemicals that break surface oil slicks into microscopic droplets that can sink into the sea.
But the benefits of keeping some oil out of beaches and wetlands carry uncertain costs. Scientists warn that the dispersed oil, as well as the dispersants themselves, might cause long-term harm to marine life.
So far, BP has told federal agencies that it has applied more than 400,000 gallons of a dispersant sold under the trade name Corexit and manufactured by Nalco Co., a company that was once part of Exxon Mobil Corp. and whose current leadership includes executives at both BP and Exxon. And another 805,000 gallons of Corexit are on order, the company said, with the possibility that hundreds of thousands of more gallons may be needed if the well continues spewing oil for weeks or months.
But according to EPA data, Corexit ranks far above dispersants made by competitors in toxicity and far below them in effectiveness in handling southern Louisiana crude.
Of 18 dispersants whose use EPA has approved, 12 were found to be more effective on southern Louisiana crude than Corexit, EPA data show. Two of the 12 were found to be 100 percent effective on Gulf of Mexico crude, while the two Corexit products rated 56 percent and 63 percent effective, respectively. The toxicity of the 12 was shown to be either comparable to the Corexit line or, in some cases, 10 or 20 times less, according to EPA.
EPA has not taken a stance on whether one dispersant should be used over another, leaving that up to BP. All the company is required to do is to choose an EPA-approved chemical, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told reporters yesterday during a conference call aimed at addressing questions about dispersants being used in efforts to contain the Gulf spill.