Banning Dust

Civil Defense Perspectives July 2015 Vol 31 No 5 [published Nov 30, 2015]

Claiming a “climate emergency” caused by atmospheric CO2,  the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to impose the “Clean Power” Rule, which is supposed to save tens of thousands of lives because of decreasing “carbon”—not the life-giving gas but the elemental form, soot, that comes in small particulates less than 2.5 microns in size (PM2.5s). It happens that coal-fired electrical generating stations emit PM2.5s, as well as CO2, and health harm is said to come from the particle size, regardless of composition or source. It could be soot, diesel exhaust, or dust from storms or agriculture.

The reductio ad absurdum, used so brilliantly by 18th-century French economist Frédéric Bastiat, does not work well today, so accustomed are we, like the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass, to believing six impossible things before breakfast—as long as propounded by government-approved “scientists.”

These are some of the absurdities in the EPA’s position on PM2.5s: 1) Asthma will decrease with further reduction in PM2.5s, even though it has increased while visible air pollution has greatly decreased. 2) A person could die suddenly from breathing a few more tiny particles, while it takes decades to manifest the harm of deliberately inhaling tobacco smoke. 3) Reducing outdoor PM2.5s from burning coal will make a difference even though most people spend most of their time indoors, where the air is far dustier. 4) People are having fatal PM2.5-related strokes and heart attacks in California, but life expectancy in Shanghai, where the air is too polluted to see through, is longer than in U.S.

The Hypothesis

EPA’s argument resembles the linear no-threshold  theory (LNT) for radiation carcinogenesis: if exposure to x rads harms one person, exposure of 1,000 people to 1/1,000 x rads should have a similar effect on one of those people, and exposure of 1,000,000 people to 1/1,000 x rads should harm 1,000 people.

As with radiation, the relative risk (RR) of disease is calculated as a function of long-term, cumulative exposure quantified in terms of average daily exposure (Burnett et al., Environ Health Perspect 2014;122:397-403). Yet the EPA calculates benefits in such terms as preventing emergency visits for asthma attacks—as if an attack today were triggered by a few extra dust particles added to those inhaled over many years.

However, at high levels of pollution, the effect is not linear: adding still more pollution has a relatively small effect compared with that of making pristine air slightly less so. There is no significant increase in RR going from 50 to 500 μg/m3, while there is a 50% increase (to 1.5!) going from 5 to 50 μg/m3 (ibid.).

The Studies

Tens of millions of dollars have been spent over decades on studies in an effort to indict PM2.5s. Unlike Ebola or malaria or Parkinson disease, PM2.5s produce no body counts; victims are purely hypothetical. But like CO2, PM2.5s are ubiquitous and produced by all human activity and could thus be used as a pretext to regulate everything. Coal-burning plants are a two-fer for EPA.

Studies are massive data-dredging operations that look at death rates from various conditions in population tracts with different average PM2.5 exposure, with elaborate statistical modeling. The 2015 study by Thurston et al., “Ambient Particulate Matter Air Pollution Exposure and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Cohort” (http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1509676) looked at quintiles of PM2.5 exposure in μg/m3: 2.9-10.7; 10.7-12.6; 12.6-14.2; 14.2-15.9; and 15.9-28.0. The amounts, you will notice, are unimaginably tiny, as are the differences.

This study looked at death rates in about 500,000 subjects  aged 50-71 over the period 2000-2009. A statistically significant (P < .05) although tiny association was found between PM2.5 exposure and all-cause mortality (hazard ratio 1.05) and cardiovascular mortality (HR 1.10), but no significant association with respiratory disease deaths. Burnett et al. concluded that PM2.5 exposure increased death rates from ischemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer, and increased incidence of acute lower respiratory infection. Notably, the RR for active smoking was 9 to 25, vs. less than 2 for PM2.5s.

According to an evidence-ranking system called GRADE, adopted by more than 90 groups worldwide including the World Health Organization, epidemiologic studies showing RR < 5 provide only “low-quality” evidence.

Nevertheless, models and extrapolations from such evidence are being used to proclaim that outdoor air pollution with PM2.5s leads to more than 3 million premature deaths worldwide annually (Lelieveld et al., Nature 2015;525:367-371). Michael Jerrett called this a “wake-up call for policymakers” (Nature 2015;525:330-331). Although the studies and regulatory guidelines make the assumption that all particles are equally toxic, carbonaceous ones may be five times worse than crustal materials, nitrates, or sulfates—based on “expert elicitation.”

Lelieveld said that air pollution kills more people than AIDS and malaria combined (http://tinyurl.com/pvrcmqa).

The U.S. was said to rank seventh highest for air pollution deaths, with 54,905 [calculated] deaths in 2010 from soot and smog, with  16,929 deaths blamed on power plants and 16,221 on agriculture (http://tinyurl.com/negtzab).

How could inhaling dust or soot could have caused 1.3 million strokes? Milojevic et al. suggested disruption of the autonomic nervous system or inflammation. However, their study of 2 million emergency admissions and 600,000 deaths from cardiovascular events showed “no clear evidence” for effects of air pollution on heart attacks or stroke. Effects of various pollutants on health outcomes were generally small, insignificant, and in a favorable direction as often as in an unfavorable one (Heart 2014;100:1093-1098.  doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2013-304963).

Stanley Young notes that most data sets used in studies evaluating the relationships among air quality and public health outcomes are not publicly available, which makes reproducing the results nearly impossible. In a large study of mortality in California from publicly available data, he and coauthors conclude that air quality and PM2.5s are not causally related to acute deaths (http://tinyurl.com/na7dlvg). The EPA, however, ignores studies that do not support its agenda.

It appears that PM2.5s resemble demons dancing on pinpoints. Their effects are inferred by oracles, but not directly seen.

The EPA’s $160 Million PR Machine

Since 2007 EPA has spent more than $141 million in salaries and $1.5 million in bonuses on some 200 full-time public affairs officers, plus $15 million on outside public-affairs consultants since 2000.  EPA also has a $715 million police agency, a near $1 billion employment agency for seniors, and a $1.2 billion in-house law firm, said Adam Andrzejewski, the founder of Open the Books (http://tinyurl.com/qbsagsz).

Report from the Front Lines

Emergency physician John Dale Dunn, M.D., J.D., of Fort Hood, Texas, writes: “I have practiced medicine for 44 years and still have not seen a death from small-particle air pollution. There is no doubt at this time that claims of air pollution deaths are based on small associations in observational studies and mean nothing. The toxicology studies are equally unreasonable and unacceptable because they are based on extremely high dose exposures of rats and mice.”

RICO and Hypocrisy

The leader of the 20 scientists demanding prosecution of “climate skeptics” under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is Jagadish Shukla, professor of climate dynamics at George Mason University. A letter to President Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and White House Office of Science and Technology policy director John Holdren, signed by Shukla and 19 others, was briefly posted on the website of the Institute of Global Environment and Science, a tax-exempt organization founded by Shukla. Since 2001, IGES has received more than $63 million from taxpayers, and much of that has gone to Shukla and his family. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has opened an investigation because of concerns that IGES takes taxpayer money while  participating in partisan political action (National Review 10/1-2/15, http://tinyurl.com/ofp4w2j).

Solar Plant Subject to CO2 Emissions Controls

Once applauded by Obama as “a shining example of America’s clean energy future,” the massive Ivanpah Solar Power Facility that covers 5 square miles of the Mohave Desert emits enough CO2—50,700 tons in its first year—to be required to participate in California’s cap-and-trade program. The plant’s hundreds of thousands of mirrors focus sunlight on water tanks at the top of three towers to make steam. Natural gas is used to pre-heat the water and kicks in when clouds block the sun. The plant has received $1.6 billion in loan guarantees and $600 million in tax credits (IBD 10/19/15, http://tinyurl.com/pckb6uh).

Actual output was only 0.4 billion kWh in 2014, compared with a promised 1 billion kWh. Forty Ivanpahs, costing about $85 billion and having triple the carbon footprint, would be needed to replace the loss of the two reactors at California’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The environmental impact: Ivanpah uses 32 million gallons of ground water each year. It kills as many as 28,000 birds per year, compared with 161 killed in the latest oil spill off the California coast (Forbes 11/11/14, http://tinyurl.com/qypz7ve).

Cost of War on Coal: $650 Billion

The final rule for the Clean Power Plan, released in August, is projected to cost $650 billion and 125,800 jobs over the next decade, according to calculations by the American Action Forum based on EPA figures (Townhall 11/19/15, http://tinyurl.com/pf6963p). The most likely number of lives saved being 0, the cost: benefit ratio is infinite.

Secret Crony Collusion Fuels Clean Power Plan

A coordinated multimillion-dollar campaign by governors and wealthy donors to advance the Obama EPA’s Clean Power Plan began to take shape in a December 2013 White House meeting. Because of the harm the CPP would do to their state, governors could not support it publicly; Kentucky’s Steven Beshear even decried it as “disastrous.” So, in order to get funding from “major environmental donors” they are hiding behind non-governmental in-state “orchestrators,” writes Larry Bell. Donors include billionaire Tom Steyer, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson. Affiliated groups include NextGen Climate, Next Generation, and Advanced Energy Economy. Some governors are shielding their public records from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by various tactics (http://tinyurl.com/po4y6ch).

“The ultimate goal in this well-greased machine is for every cog to move in the same direction—without seeming like they’re coordinated,” writes Christopher Horner. America’s prosperity and future are being crushed in its gears.

California’s Diesel Rule Scam

The nation’s main transportation fuel is also under assault. California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) is exporting rules based on its “cargo cult” science, which was critiqued by John Dale Dunn (J Am Phys Surg, spring 2014, http://tinyurl.com/p5convz).

In 2008 CARB banned diesel engines manufactured before 2010 from California roads.  Under the rule, more than a million truckers who operate in California are required to replace their engines with a newer model or install a diesel particulate filter, which can cost more than their vehicles are worth.

The green police claim to be preventing 140 “premature” deaths per year despite the lack of correlation between particulate matter and mortality in the western U.S.

EPA is now demanding that a dozen interstate trucking  companies comply with California’s rule. The recent $390,000 settlement with Estes is what a CARB spokesman hopes is the first of many cases (WSJ 10/18/15).

Timeliness

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