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Solutions to Climate Change are Not in Regulation

Earlier this month my paper on “New Technologies for Coping with Climate Change in Virginia” was published by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy (read here). After re-reading the paper, receiving many favorable comments, and presenting it in public forums, several important realizations have come to light. Virginian’s should especially take note because our coal and port industries may be slated for extinction or severe harm, and as a net importer of energy, our electric rates and the ability of lower income Virginia’s to pay their electric bills is at stake.

First, is that the huge cost of regulations to reduce carbon dioxide (N02) and compacts with China to reduce emissions are wasteful and misguided efforts that will only lead to economic dislocation and harm to our economy and those companies we are trying to regulate. I carefully reviewed the Obama Administration’s cost benefit analysis and comments by climate change experts on them, and was astounded to learn how they came to a conclusion that N02 regulation would save our economy $67 billion per year. This in contrast to the National Association of Manufacturer’s claim the regulations would cost our economy over $3.4 trillion. The Administration claims a worldwide benefit in reduced health care costs would save untold lives and billions of dollars. They argue that reducing N02 emissions here would also end up reducing them across the globe and that cost savings via reduced asthma and lung disease in China, Africa and Europe should be credited here. Our media cannot let these ridiculous assertions go unchallenged… not when our Administration by regulation will be destroying jobs and signing agreements so one sided they threaten the fabric of industry here at home.

Second, alternatives to severe and misguided regulation do exist, but have been overlooked by this Administration and frankly given up on by a divided and stalemated Congress. Yes, technology is one key, but those technologies may never see the light of day unless incentives are provided to an already overregulated industry to innovate and test them. Industry is too busy working to comply with existing regulations, understand them, and fend off new and more onerous regulations. They are playing defense and allocating most resources to defense rather than finding solutions on their own… and with the huge expense involved, who can blame them? A new and bold investment tax credit or negative depreciation mechanism should be enacted providing industry with the incentive of reducing our high corporate tax burdens for designing and implementing new technologies to operate more efficiently or reduce truly harmful emissions.

Finally, rather than spending countless hours, manpower and misdirected efforts toward overregulation and potential economic destruction of our energy and manufacturing sectors, the Administration should work towards a plan to uniformly test and evaluate new technologies that can improve efficiency and turn pollution into power. A new “Manhattan Project” should be considered via the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program (Advanced Research’s Project Agency) and should be funded like never before to evaluate and bring game changing environmental technologies into play. Having examined with former Energy Department leaders some of these technologies I will now briefly describe.

Advanced Thermovoltaic Waste Heat Recovery – A technology ready for commercialization on a grand scale will revolutionize and streamline power requirements and efficiency in industrial and power production… and perhaps save Virginia’s coal industry. Berken Energy of Ft. Collins, CO, which has presented the technology to Dominion Power, manufactures a solid state electric generator with no moving parts that operates by capturing wasted heat from power or industrial production. This technology, currently used on the Space Station, has been refined and advanced to where it can increase industrial and power generation efficiency by close to 20% by taking waste steam and heat and turning it into power by capturing electricity created by the differential between temperature gradients.

Imagine capturing wasted heat from our coal fired power plants, and creating 20% more electricity than they currently produce? Increasing their efficiency by 20% with zero fuel costs will return immense benefit to consumers and perhaps save Virginia’s coal industry. One day, Berken’s technology will capture waste heat from our home furnace and stove flues and dryer vents, and even auto exhaust, returning immense amounts of almost free energy right back to us.

Conversion of Flare Gas, Diesel and Liquid Fuels to Natural Gas – LPP Combustion LLC of Columbia, MD has patented and perfected a technology to capture flare gas that is currently being burned into the atmosphere and convert it to clean burning natural gas. It will also convert dirty diesel and other fuels into natural gas reducing emissions by up to 90%. With nearly $100 million in flare gas burning from North Dakota’s Bakken Fields alone each month, and visible from outer space, this technology can capture that gas; turn it into electricity on site and save millions for producers while eliminating emissions almost completely.

With Fracking now approved for small areas in Virginia, and with flaring from West Virginia and Pennsylvania close by, Virginian’s can directly benefit from this new technology in lower production costs, reduced pollution, and lower electricity rates for gas fired power production.

Recovery of Discarded Electrical Waste (eWaste) – eCycling USA of Vienna, Virginia turns discarded eWaste (washers, dryers, computers, TVs, and anything with a plug) into raw materials by using a German technology to shred, sort and grind them. Currently, municipalities, typically pay others to haul them away or bury them. eCycling USA can turn eWaste into a new revenue stream for local governments. It takes only 300,000 residents to create $30 million in revenue from eWaste. Currently, such waste is mostly put in landfills or shipped overseas. eCycling’s technology, just coming to the U.S., creates zero emissions and is in use across Europe.

These are just a few technologies, which if implemented on a wide scale, would save untold billions for consumers, industry and localities, while cleaning up the environment. Perhaps efforts toward costly regulation should be shifted to efficient innovation.

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