Dangling Rope Marina

Carol Browner's Follies:

Dangling Rope Marina


Greenhouse gas follies

Photovoltaic follies


540 tons versus 10 million tons

Diesel fuel follies

... What bout fuel for 325,000 boaters?


Nice words

... up to a point

EPA loves propaganda

Doing simple stuff

Devastating numbers

Phony numbers

The Environmental Protection Agency, headed by Clinton appointee Carol M. Browner, has recently been criticized by its own scientists for writing regulations that are inconsistent with the science. A Washington Times editorial of June 10, followed by a letter signed by 13 EPA scientists and staff members who put their careers at risk for doing so, talks of egregious misconduct, pervasive harassment, and threats of retaliation "at every management level," including "officials at the highest level including the office of Administrator Carol Browner."

Browner Saves the Earth from Global Warming

A small fraction of the EPA's politically motivated stupidity can be seen in their own publications. "Utah's Solar Project Helps Reduce Greenhouse Gases" is the pompous title of an EPA report (EPA 236-F-98-001) put out under the grandiose heading, Climate Change Solutions. You can find it at the EPA web site (www.epa.gov). It's all about the Dangling Rope Marina on Lake Powell in Utah, a tourist site accessible only by boat [The Energy Advocate, March, 1997].

The marina has undergone several changes that the EPA brags will be good for the environment: they have removed diesel generators, replacing them with an array of 384 large photovoltaic panels (backed up by a propane generator), and installed energy-saving retrofits to cut consumption of energy by a projected 36%.

Down with CO2!

Success has a thousand fathers; failure dies an orphan. One father of this project is the Department Opposed to Energy; another is Browner's EPA. Browner's claim to fatherhood in this dubious success comes from claims that the changes will protect The Environment. Annual emissions of carbon dioxide will be reduced by 540 tons!

It ought to be obvious that the outpost does not use a huge amount of energy, so the casual reader will note that the 540 tons of CO2 must be trivial compared to that produced in a fossil-burning power plant, of which there are thousands world-wide. A little arithmetic will show that one large coal-burning plant produces 10 million tons of CO2 per year. Somehow, one imagines Browner filing her fingernails before stepping on the bathroom scale.

Protect The Environment from Diesel Fuel!

Wonderfully, "Lake Powell is no longer at risk for diesel fuel spills," [emphasis added] on the grounds that diesel-fuel trucks will no longer have to make the trip on barges. Of course, no barges have ever plunged to the bottom of Lake Powell spilling the contents of the diesel trucks, but the EPA has saved Lake Powell from the risk, haven't they?

Not at all. Just below that is a photograph with a caption in italics, "Dangling Rope Marina, accessible only by boat, supplies food to more than 325,000 boaters a year and fuel for their boats." [emphasis added] Hmm. The good folks at EPA don't provide any data on this, but if they supply just one gallon of fuel per year to each of the 325,000 boaters, how does that compare with the 65,000 gallons of diesel fuel that they were burning to produce electricity? And how does that boat fuel get to the marina?

The EPA will probably have to fire whoever allowed those facts into the same report.

Improve Efficiency!

At undisclosed cost, the folks at the marina have installed "energy- saving retrofits for lighting, refrigeration, space and water heating, laundry dryers, and cooking appliances," to cut the annual usage of energy from 374,000 kWh to 280,000 kWh. Nobody can complain about this laudable goal, of course. If they had done nothing but the efficiency improvements, they would have cut their use of diesel fuel by the very same 36%, wouldn't they?

But Browner's EPA is not satisfied with obvious _ and probably not too costly _ improvements. They need to put up feel-good solar collectors at enormous cost to the taxpayers.

Making It Sound Good

Solar shysters invariably rely on the public's poor understanding of the distinction between energy and power, the rate at which energy is consumed. If a solar facility were to supply all of the energy needs of some business for a year, that would be truly impressive. However, if the solar installation could supply 100% of the power the business needed only at noon on a clear day, the right choice of words can make the mundane accomplishment sound fabulous.

Here are the words of the EPA: "The photovoltaic system was designed to supply up to 80 percent of the marina's power needs." [emphasis added]

In case there's any doubt about this report's purpose as a propaganda piece, we quote, "It also helps if the partners [who installed the solar collectors] receive other tangible benefits, such as high visibility."

The savings will come from increased efficiency, not from the solar toys. But confusion is the order of the day when the report says, "Savings from the new power plant are estimated at more than $3.2 million over its 20-year life."

Twenty years only? You've been telling us solar energy is forever!

Looking at the Numbers

Some of the EPA report requires a calculator for you to find the folly. We'll first look at the diesel generator they replaced. They burned 65,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year to generate 374,000 kilowatt-hours of energy. Now, the heat content of diesel fuel is about 140 MJ (megajoules) per gallon, and 1 kWh is 3.6 MJ. A little arithmetic shows that the overall efficiency of the generator was an unimpressive 14%. Merely replacing the generator with one getting (say) 30% would save them about half on fuel costs. Overall, with a more efficient generator and with the improved efficiencies of lighting, refrigeration, etc., they could save a whopping 65% on fuel bills, without bothering with the solar toys.

As we noted in March 1997, the price of the solar photovoltaic collectors is a whopping $13 per installed peak watt, and perhaps $60-$70 per around-the-year average watt. But to get their hands into the public till, past the watchful eyes of Al Gore and Bill Clinton, Carol Browner's EPA need only gin up phony numbers.

The EPA writes regulations and micro-managing specifications about everything that could possibly cause any pollution anywhere. In particular, they should be able to keep one lousy diesel generator at Lake Powell from spewing air pollution around. Nonetheless, they create an exaggerated and totally arbitrary guess about the "externalities" (costs to The Environment) caused by the generator to make a phony case about how much money they're "saving" with their enormous solar installation. We leave you with this final quote: "_ the agency estimates that the annual avoided cost of emissions at $98,000, making the photovoltaics even more cost effective."

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