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Resource to stop gas-fired power plants, fossil fuel burning, GHG pollution & man-made climate change

by Open-Publishing - Sunday 27 February 2011

Energy Gideon Polya

The World is facing a Climate Emergency and a worsening Climate Genocide due to Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) from man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and from GHG-producing agriculture and forestry practices.

The World must cease fossil fuel burning and that means that it should stop building new fossil fuel-burning power plants.

However there is a big push around the World for a shift to gas burning from coal burning based on the utterly false premise that “gas is clean energy”. Natural gas (mainly methane) is dirty energy, it is not clean energy and indeed GHG-wise gas burning can be as dirty as coal burning.

Gas burning indeed yields less in the way of deadly pollutants than coal burning but because of significant industrial leakage of natural gas (mainly methane) and because methane is 72 times worse than carbon dioxide (CO2) as a GHG on a 20 year time scale, burning gas can be as dirty GHG-wise as burning coal.

This article is written as a resource to enable people around the world to effectively oppose the further expansion of fossil fuel burning and especially burning of gas from coal gasification to syngas coal seams (e.g. from “fracking” as described in the movie “Gasland”) and coal gasification.

Already about 20 million people die avoidably each year from deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease (see my book “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”: http://globalavoidablemortality.blo...) and this is already being impacted by man-made climate change.

However Both Dr James Lovelock FRS (Gaia hypothesis) and Professor Kevin Anderson ( Director, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester, UK) have recently estimated that fewer than 1 billion people will survive this century due to unaddressed, man-made global warming – noting that the world population is expected to reach 9.5 billion by 2050, these estimates translate to a climate genocide involving deaths of 10 billion people this century, this including 6 billion under-5 year old infants, 3 billion Muslims in a terminal Muslim Holocaust, 2 billion Indians, 1.3 billion non-Arab Africans, 0.5 billion Bengalis, 0.3 billion Pakistanis and 0.3 billion Bangladeshis (see “Climate Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/clima... ).

The World must respond urgently to the worsening Climate Emergency in the following ways: (1) Change of societal philosophy to one of scientific risk management and biological sustainability with complete cessation of species extinctions and zero tolerance for lying; (2) urgent reduction of atmospheric CO2 to a safe level of about 300 ppm as recommended by leading climate and biological scientists; and (3) a rapid switch to the best non-carbon and renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide and hydro options that are currently roughly the same market price as coal burning-based power) and to energy efficiency, public transport, needs-based production, re-afforestation and return of carbon as biochar to soils coupled with correspondingly rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, methanogenic livestock production and population growth.

Clearly there should be a halt to new coal-fired power plants and also to new gas-fired power plants. My “big picture” objections to proposals for a coal burning to gas burning transition fall into 4 major areas, specifically:

(a) Humanity in general, should be urgently decreasing and certainly not increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in order to to return atmospheric CO2 to 300 parts per million (ppm) from the present damaging 392 ppm;

(b) gas (mainly methane) is not clean energy greenhouse gas (GHG)-wise;

(c) pollutants from gas leakage and gas burning pose a chemical risk to residents, agriculture and the environment; and

(d) man-made climate change is already connected with increases in severe floods, high energy cyclones and area burned by forest fires (see Professor John Holdren, “The science of climatic disruption”: http://www.usclimateaction.org/user... ).

The following is provided as resource for responsible people around the World faced with a proposal for a gas-fired power station in their neighborhood. Thus in Victoria, Australia, there is a Federal and State Government-subsidized proposal to dry and convert brown coal to syngas to be burned together with natural gas to generate electricity in a $750 million 550 MW power plant (see: http://www.australianminesatlas.gov... ).

However the following document relates specifically to the proposal to build a 1000 MW gas-fired power station near the town of Gatton in the Lockyer Valley, Queensland, Australia, the site of a huge flood disaster in January 2011.

Please use this resource in writing your detailed objections to fossil fuel-burning plants in your neighbourhood. Keep fossil fuels in the ground!

Objections to proposed Gatton gas-fired power plant.

A proposal for a 1,000 MW gas-fired power plant to be built 1.5 kilometres from the Lockyer Valley town of Gatton (Queensland, Australia) has drawn the ire of local residents. The local Lockyer Valley Regional Council (LVRC) has rejected an application from the proponent to build the plant. The proponent is appealing this decision of the council

The local opposition to the gas-fired power plant has been stated by Chris Hall of Keep Lockyer Rural: “[ re LVRC’s planning department approval] This is despite the councillors unanimously voting to refuse the application and it therefore creates internal problems. There is a real need for community-minded people to let the councillors know that they are supported by the majority of local residents, especially those who reside close to the power plant site. However many people don’t realise that this 1000 megawatt plant generates a massive amount of electricity. There will be a need to run long cables upon very large towers to carry this power… In light of recent overseas explosions and fires that have killed many and destroyed major areas of residential homes some people are more than just a little concerned. The pipeline that would supply power to the proposed plant is getting old and the Westlink people wish to increase the pressure to get the gas needed to power the plant. As the plant would be within 1.5km of the Gatton township and only half a kilometre from popular recreational and sports areas, parents are forming groups to ensure safety factors are being put in place.” [1].

I was alerted to this situation by a very solid, accomplished and responsible local resident and what follows is a summary of my “big picture” view from afar as a 5-decade career biological chemistry scientist. I must state at the outset that I appreciate that there may be many specific objections to the proposal ranging from the technical and environmental to the aesthetic and cultural and which are adumbrated by relevant Queensland legislation and call for specific relevant expertise.

My “big picture” objections to the proposal fall into 4 major areas, namely (A) Australia, and Humanity in general, should be urgently decreasing and certainly not increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution; (B) Gas (mainly methane) is not clean energy greenhouse gas (GHG)-wise; (C) Pollutants from gas leakage and gas burning pose a chemical risk to residents, agriculture and the environment; and (D) Man-made climate change impacting severe floods and cyclones and hence sensitivity says don’t build it in the Lockyer Valley nor in Queensland.

(A) Australia should be decreasing and not increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution.

Both Dr James Lovelock FRS (Gaia hypothesis) and Professor Kevin Anderson ( Director, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester, UK) have recently estimated that fewer than 1 billion people will survive this century due to unaddressed, man-made global warming – noting that the world population is expected to reach 9.5 billion by 2050, these estimates translate to a climate genocide involving deaths of 10 billion people this century, this including 6 billion under-5 year old infants, 3 billion Muslims in a terminal Muslim Holocaust, 2 billion Indians, 1.3 billion non-Arab Africans, 0.5 billion Bengalis, 0.3 billion Pakistanis and 0.3 billion Bangladeshis. Already 16 million people (about 9.5 million of them under-5 year old infants) die avoidably every year due to deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease – and man-made global warming is already clearly worsening this global avoidable mortality holocaust. However 10 billion avoidable deaths due to global warming this century yields an average annual avoidable death rate of 100 million per year. [2].

Collective, national responsibility for this already commenced Climate Holocaust is in direct proportion to per capita national pollution of the atmosphere with greenhouse gases (GHGs). Indeed, fundamental to any international agreement on national rights to pollute our common atmosphere and oceans should be the belief that “all men are created equal”. However reality is otherwise: “annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution” in units of “tonnes CO2-equivalent [CO2-e] per person per year” (2005-2008 data) is 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), less than 3 (many African and Island countries), 3.2 (the Developing World), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 27 (the US) and 30 (Australia; or 54 if Australia’s huge Exported CO2 pollution is included). [2].

However expansion of Australia’s GHG pollution is occurring through increasing black coal, liquid natural gas (LNG) and dried brown coal exports and increased pollution domestically through new fossil fuel power plants (coal and natural gas). Thus exports of brown coal from Victoria to Asia are expected to reach 20 million tonnes [Mt] per year (74 million tonnes CO2-e). [3].

If this is achieved by 2020 then Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution in 2020 will be 1245.4 Mt + 74 Mt = 1319.4 Mt = 149% of that in 2000. The Australia Federal Government’s derisory pledge of “5% off 2000 level by 2020” in actual reality seems likely to be about “150% of 2000 level by 2020”. [4].

Based on UN Population Division population projections, Australia’s 2020 annual per capita Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution is accordingly projected to reach 1319 Mt CO2-e/ 23.4 million people = 56 tonnes CO2-e per person per year, 62 times that of Bangladesh, a densely populated country acutely threatened by inundation from mainly First World-imposed GHG pollution. [4].

Leading climate scientist Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber CBE (Director of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research [PIK], Germany and variously associated with the University of Manchester, University of East Anglia and Oxford University) has estimated that for a 67% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2 degree Centigrade temperature rise (the EU target; would you board a plane if it had a 33% chance of crashing?) the World has to cease CO2 emissions by 2050. “All man are created equal” means that all human beings must be allotted equal shares of CO2 pollution until 2050. This means that high per capita countries such as the US and Australia must reach zero CO2 emissions by 2020 while low per capita emitters (e.g. India and Burkina Faso) can increase their emissions until finally reaching zero emissions by 2050. [5].

It must be noted that other leading climate scientists have reached similar conclusions about the urgency of achieving zero emissions. Thus Dr Vicky Pope (Head of Climate Change Advice, UK Met Office Hadley Centre): “Latest climate projections from the Met Office Hadley Centre show the possible range of temperature rises, depending on what action is taken to reduce Greenhouse gas emissions. Even with large and early cuts in emissions, the indications are that temperatures are likely to rise to around 2 °C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. If action is delayed or not quick enough, there is a large risk of much bigger increases in temperature, with some severe impacts. In a worst-case scenario, where no action is taken to check the rise in Greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures would most likely rise by more than 5 °C by the end of the century. This would lead to significant risks of severe and irreversible impacts. In the most optimistic scenario, action to reduce emissions would need to start in 2010 and reach a rapid and sustained rate of decline of 3 per cent every year. Even then there would still only be a 50-50 chance of keeping temperature rises below around 2°C. This contrasts sharply with current trends, where the world’s overall emissions are currently increasing at 1 per cent every year.” [6].

Similarly, Professor Kevin Anderson and Dr Alice Bows (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK): “According to the analysis conducted in this paper, stabilizing at 450 ppmv [carbon dioxide equivalent = CO2-e, atmospheric concentration measured in parts per million by volume] requires, at least, global energy related emissions to peak by 2015, rapidly decline at 6-8% per year between 2020 and 2040, and for full decarbonization sometime soon after 2050 …Unless economic growth can be reconciled with unprecedented rates of decarbonization (in excess of 6% per year), it is difficult to envisage anything other than a planned economic recession being compatible with stabilization at or below 650 ppmv CO2-e ... Ultimately, the latest scientific understanding of climate change allied with current emissions trends and a commitment to “limiting average global temperature increases to below 4oC above pre-industrial levels”, demands a radical reframing of both the climate change agenda, and the economic characterization of contemporary society.” [7].

Dr James Hansen, (heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University) has concluded: “After the ice has gone, would the Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I’ve come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas , and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty”. [8].

However, achieving zero CO2 emissions is just the start. Many top climate scientists and biologists state that atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration (currently a damaging 392 ppm and increasing at about 2 to 2.5 ppm per annum) must be urgently reduced to about 300 ppm for a safe planet for all peoples and all species. [9].

At current CO2 pollution rates, in about 30 years the atmospheric CO2 concentration will reach 450 ppm, a level at which the Great Barrier Reef coral and indeed most coral around the World is doomed from the dual effects of warming and ocean acidification. [10].

The message from science is unequivocal. High per capita GHG polluter Australia is obliged top cease CO2 pollution by 2020. Accordingly any further expansion of Australian Domestic or Exported GHG pollution is absolutely contra-indicated.

A key part of achieving 100% cessation of CO2 pollution by 2020 is installation of 100% renewable energy. Professor Peter Seligman (bionic ear electrical engineer. University of Melbourne) has published a book setting out how Australia can get 100% renewable energy by 2030 at a cost $253 billion, his scheme involving a mix of wind, concentrated solar thermal and other technologies with hydrological energy storage for 24/7 baseload operation. [11].

An Australian engineering team called Beyond Zero Emissions has released its 5 year study on Zero Carbon Australia by 2020 (ZCA2020) Report) that shows how Australia can have 100% renewable energy by 2020 for $370 billion using renewable technologies of wind power and concentrated solar thermal with molten salts energy storage for 24/7, baseload operation. [12].

Professor Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, California, and Mark A. Delucchi of University of California Davis have produced a plan for 100% renewable energy plan for the whole world by 2020. [13].
Unfortunately the clear message from top scientists is being ignored because of the lobbying power of “business as usual” and fossil fuel vested interests. Dr James Hansen in answer to the question “Is there any real chance of averting the climate crisis?”, has stated: “Absolutely. It is possible – if we give politicians a cold, hard slap in the face. The fraudulence of the Copenhagen approach – "goals" for emission reductions, "offsets" that render ironclad goals almost meaningless, the ineffectual "cap-and-trade" mechanism – must be exposed. We must rebel against such politics as usual.” [14].

(B) Gas (mainly methane) is not clean energy greenhouse gas (GHG)-wise.

The Australian Labor Government is utterly incorrect in its repeated assertion that “natural gas is clean energy”. However this untruth remains formally uncorrected and is now spreading through society, through media and even into the environment movement. [15].
The truth is otherwise – natural gas is dirty energy and on combustion is twice as carbon dioxide (CO2) polluting as brown coal on a weight basis. Further, in Victoria the carbon pollution currently ranges from 1.2-1.5 tonnes C/MWh for major brown coal plants and 0.6-0.9 tonnes C/MWh for major gas-fired plants – gas may be “clean-er” on this basis but is certainly not “clean”. [16].

However even the asserted “clean-er” status of gas as a fossil fuel is belied by the recent analysis by Professor Robert Howarth of Cornell University, New York, USA, who concludes that when one factors in industrial gas leakage “natural gas may be worse [than coal] in terms of consequences on global warming.” [17].

A further re-assessment by Professor Robert Howarth (notably taking into account recovery of methane from coal mines) concluded that : “A complete consideration of all emissions from using natural gas seems likely to make natural gas a far less attractive than oil and not significantly better than coal in terms of the consequences for global warming.” [18]

Natural gas (mostly methane, CH4) yields carbon dioxide (CO2) on combustion as does black coal (mostly Carbon, C) and brown coal (65% water, H2O).

The molecular weights of CH4 and CO2 are 16 and 44, respectively. The atomic weights of oxygen (O), carbon (C) and hydrogen (H) are 16, 12 and 1, respectively.

Burning 16 tonnes of CH4 yields 44 tonnes CO2 (i.e. burning 1 tonne of natural gas yields 2.8 tonnes CO2).

Burning 12 tonnes of C yields 44 tonnes of CO2 (i.e. burning 1 tonne of coal – assuming it to be 100% carbon – yields 3.7 tonnes of CO2).
Brown coal (that is burned to produce most of the electricity in Victoria, Australia) has a water (H2O) content of about 65% and thus burning 1 tonne of brown coal would yield 0.35 x 3.7 = 1.3 tonnes of CO2, or about 46% of that produced by burning 1 tonne of natural gas (2.8 tonnes of CO2).

Clearly, on a weight basis, burning natural gas (CH4) yields twice as much CO2 as burning brown coal. However proponents of gas burning assert that it is only 50% as polluting as black coal and only 30% as polluting as brown coal in terms of grams CO2 generated per million joules of energy.

Methane (CH4) has a molecular weight of 16 and carbon dioxide (CO2) has a molecular weight of 44.

When you burn CH4 you get CO2: CH4 + 2O2 -> CO2 + 2 H2O.

Accordingly burning 16 tonnes of CH4 yields 44 tonnes of CO2 and burning 100 tonnes of CH4 yields 100x 44/16 = 275 tonnes of CO2.

However if there is industrial leakage of CH4 (estimated to be at least 2.2% by the US EPA) then one must consider the greenhouse gas effect of the released methane (72 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas on a 20 year time scale).

Of our 100 tonnes of CH4, how much CH4 leakage (y tonnes) gives the same greenhouse effect (in CO2 equivalents or CO2-e) as burning the remaining CH4?

y tonnes CH4 x (72 tonnes CO2-e/tonne CH4) = (100-y) tonnes CH4 x (2.75 tonnes CO2-e/ tonne CH4).
72y tonnes CO2-e = (100-y) 2.75 tonnes CO2-e
72y = 275 – 2.75y
74.75y = 275
y = 275/74.75 = 3.68 i.e. a 3.7% leakage of CH4 yields that same greenhouse effect as burning the remaining CH4 (check: 3.68 tonnes leaked CH4 corresponds to 3.68 tonnes CH4 x 72 tonnes CO2-e/ tonne CH4 = 265 tonnes CO2-e . Burning the remaining 96.32 tonnes of CH4 corresponds to 96.32 tonnes CH4 x 2.75 tonnes CO2/tonne CH4 = 265 tonnes CO2). [19].

The US EPA has recently re-assessed the percentage (%) of natural gas (mostly methane) that leaks industrially. According to David Lewis of the Energy Collective this re-assessment means that 3.25 % of US natural gas production leaks into the atmosphere as methane gas. In contrast, the industry has been saying the leaks are tiny, less than a fraction of 1%. [20].

There is no point spending billions of dollars replacing coal with natural gas and locking us into something essentially as bad as coal for decades more. Top climate scientists say that we must urgently reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration from the current damaging 390 parts per million (ppm) to a safe and sustainable 300 ppm for a safe and sustainable planet for all peoples and all species.

(C) Pollutants from gas leakage and gas burning threaten residents, agriculture and the environment.

Natural gas is not necessarily cleaner than coal for power generation in terms of greenhouse gas pollution (see part (B) above). However the bottom line in any analysis of any social policy is avoidable human morbidity (sickness) and mortality (death) (see Gideon Polya, “Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, G.M. Polya. Melbourne, 2007). That fundamental consideration and other environmental impacts of gas burning heavily inform the following numbered concerns about the threat of gas burning to residents, agriculture and the environment. [20].

1. It can be proportionally estimated from Canadian and New Zealand epidemiological data that about10,000 Australians die annually from the effects of carbon burning pollutants, the breakdown being about 5,000 (coal and gas burning for electrical power), 2,000 ( vehicle exhaust) and 3,000 ( other fossil fuel combustion excluding bush fires). Accordingly any increase in fossil fuel burning is contra-indicated. [21-26].

2. International comparisons of fossil fuel-based power pollution deaths can be made. “Annual coal-based electricity deaths” [“total annual fossil fuel-based electricity deaths”] are 170,000 [283,000] (the World), 11,000 [13,000] (India), 47,000 [47,500] (China), 49,000 [72,000] (the US), 3,400 [6,900] (the UK), 4,900 [5,400] (Australia) and 2,700 [3,800](Canada) as compared to 110 [360] (heavily renewable-based New Zealand). These estimates of total fossil fuel-based deaths (i.e. from coal burning plus gas burning) are simply ball-park upper limits deriving from a crude assumption, in the absence of readily available data otherwise, of the same mortality from gas burning as from coal burning. In reality, since pollutants are much lower from gas burning (see #3 below) one expects deaths from gas burning for power to be lower than for coal burning. However while transition top gas burning might be expected to decrease mortality from fossil fuel burning for power, clearly gas burning will contribute to such mortality. A direct transition from coal burning to renewables is clearly highly desirable from the perspective of avoiding human and environmental impacts . [24-26].

3. Pollutants (pounds per Billion Btu of energy input) from gas, oil and coal burning are as follows: carbon dioxide (CO2) (117,000, 164,000, 208,000, respectively); carbon monoxide (CO) (40, 33, 208), nitrogen oxides (N2O, NO2 and NO i.e. NOx) (92, 448, 457); sulphur dioxide (SO2) (1, 1122, 2591); particulates (7, 84, 2744); and Mercury (0.000, 0.007, 0.016) i.e. deaths from gas burning for power may be expected to be lower than for coal burning. However CO pollution and NOx pollution from gas burning for power is about 20% of that from coal burning i.e. gas burning produces substantial quantities of dangerous pollutants. [27, 28]

4. In addition to methane and other aliphatic (non-aromatic) hydrocarbons, natural gas can contain toxic materials such as aromatic organics (e.g. benzene, toluene, ethylbenze and xylene), radon (and other radioactive materials), organometallics (e.g. methylmercury , organoarsenic compounds and organolead compounds). Incomplete combustion and industrial leakage of natural gas (estimated by the US EPA to be at least 2.2% globally; see section (B) above) will pollute the local environment with these toxic substances. Radon and other radioactive materials are mutagenic and carcinogenic. Aromatic organics are carcinogenic. Organometallics are fat soluble, leading to longterm storage in human fat tissue. Methylmercury is neurotoxic (e.g. as in Minamata syndrome) . Organoarsenic and organolead compounds are variously toxic. Arsenic is toxic, teratogenic (yielding birth defects) and carcinogenic. [27].

5. Nitrous oxide (N2O), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO) (collectively described as NOx) are major products from natural gas combustion. According to the US EPA: “NOx react with ammonia, moisture, and other compounds to form small particles. These small particles penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs and can cause or worsen respiratory disease, such as emphysema and bronchitis, and can aggravate existing heart disease, leading to increased hospital admissions and premature death.” [28, 29]..

6. According to the US EPA: “Ozone is formed when NOx and volatile organic compounds react in the presence of heat and sunlight. Children, the elderly, people with lung diseases such as asthma, and people who work or exercise outside are at risk for adverse effects from ozone. These include reduction in lung function and increased respiratory symptoms as well as respiratory-related emergency department visits, hospital admissions, and possibly premature deaths.” [29].

7. Nitrogen oxides can seriously injure vegetation, bleaching or killing plant tissue, causing leaf fall and reducing growth rate. Ozone pollution damages photosynthesis by plants. NOx air pollution contributes to acidifying nitrate deposition (with fish kills and reduction in plant growth), causes excess soil nitrification in ecosystems (with damage to vegetation, loss of biodiversity, increased GHG pollution) and is regarded not just a s a threat to agriculture and forestry but also to as a major threat to national parks and wilderness areas . [30, 31].

8. Gas burning-based power generation at a 1000 MW level in an urban environment can have very serious health consequences. Thus the City of Sydney (New South Wales, Australia) has pledged to install more than 100 trigeneration gas-burning turbines which burn gas to generate electricity and then capture the exhaust to heat and cool buildings as necessary. NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change has slammed this proposal saying that emissions from just 10MW of "co-generation" (a similar engine that heats but doesn’t cool buildings) could exceed health limits and that 200 MW generation would certainly do so: “On an hourly basis 330MW of gas-fired co-generation [the amount envisioned] could emit up to 660kg per hour of NOx; this is more NOx than the combined emissions from the Shell and Caltex oil refineries in Sydney…As a result there is little ’headroom’ available to accommodate uncontrolled emissions from cogeneration without causing local health impacts.” The National Environment Protection Council sets a limit of 0.03 parts per million (ppm) for allowed levels of NOx release average over a year. The proposal for 1,000 MW gas-fired power plant to be built 1.5 kilometres from the Lockyer Valley town of Gatton (Queensland, Australia) is contra-indicated on the basis of NOx pollution health effects on the nearby community. [1, 32].

9. A further threat from gas fired power generation comers from the generation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. A study of pollution from a 70-year-old natural gas-fired power station in Canada stated: “This paper presents the results of a risk assessment study made using CalTOX, a multimedia, multiple pathway risk assessment model. The case study is based on the Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) soil contamination resulting from the activities of a natural gas power station over a period of 70 years. It describes model characteristics and input parameters such as physico-chemical properties, landscape description, and human exposure factors. Model simulations and risk estimations corresponding to different remedial scenarios in an industrial zone are also presented. These estimations were based on soil contamination by 16 PAHs in the root-zone and vadose-zone layer. Results show that adult exposure (workers) to contaminated soil will lead to a potential health risk of carcinogenic effects, and to no potential risk of non-carcinogenic effects. On the other hand, the addition of 10 cm of clean soil over the contaminated soil (mitigated scenario) decreases the lifetime cancer risk to an acceptable level. The sensitivity analysis showed that the half-life of benzo[a]pyrene in the root-zone soil is the most sensitive parameter and that it contributes significantly to the variability of the cancer risk estimation. [33].

(D). Man-made climate change impacting severe floods and cyclones and hence sensitivity says don’t build it in the Lockyer Valley nor in Queensland.

Because the day to day weather is highly variable one cannot attribute any specific weather event (such as the current Asian, South American and Australian floods) to man-made global warming. However increased greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution leads successively to global warming, increased sea temperature, increased evaporation and thence to increased precipitation. Indeed the incidence of floods has greatly increased throughout the world over the last 60 years. Accordingly one cannot exclude the likelihood of a contribution of man-made global warming to extreme precipitation events.

The 2010-2011 Queensland, Australia, flood disaster has killed 35 people, forced thousands from their homes, adversely affected 70 towns and 200,000 people, flooded major parts of the capital city Brisbane, including the Central Business District, and cost circa $13 billion. [34].

This present Queensland and Eastern Australian disaster - coming shortly after the disastrous 2010 Russian heat wave (1/3 of the Russian wheat crop destroyed in fires) and the horrendous 2010 Pakistani floods (24 million homeless) and contemporaneous with the Brazil floods (500 dead, thousands homeless), Sri Lanka floods (23 dead, 1 million homeless) and Philippines floods (42 dead, 400,000 displaced) - has again raised concerns about the connection between man-made global warming from greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution and extreme weather events such as floods and drought.

For advice we must turn to expert climate scientists, meteorologists and other science-informed citizens. At the outset it must be clearly re-iterated that weather is variable and accordingly one cannot say that the severity of a specific event such as the La Niña-associated Queensland floods can be attributed to climate change. However increased precipitation derives from increased sea temperature and increased evaporation and accordingly man-made global warming to a global average of +0.8C above the 1900 value is contributing to extreme precipitation events (more heat means more evaporation and hence more precipitation).

In the public interest I have set out a compendium of over 6 dozen expert, science-informed, referenced opinions about the link between man-made global warming and increased precipitation events. [35].
Thus, for example, Professor John Holdren (Professor of Environmental Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; Director of the Woods Hole Research Center; recent Chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and President Obama’s chief scientific adviser) in a lecture entitled ”The science of climatic disruption” has indicated that the number of severe flood events has variously increased 4- to 10-fold around the world and that the energy released from tropical cyclones has doubled over recent decades. [36].

Various eminent scientists, in addition to Professor Holdren, have made a connection between man-made climate change and an increased incidence of severe cyclones. In the public interest I have set up a compendium of over 2 dozen scientist and science-informed opinions on this matter. [36, 37].

In summary, there is disagreement among the experts in this area over present and past comparisons arising from differences in available technology now and technology used in previous decades. However there is agreement among the experts in this area that their climate change modeling predicts substantial increase in the frequency of the most intense cyclones and of attendant precipitation. This international expert consensus is summarized here (from Knutson et al, 2010): “Whether the characteristics of tropical cyclones have changed or will change in a warming climate — and if so, how — has been the subject of considerable investigation, often with conflicting results. Large amplitude fluctuations in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones greatly complicate both the detection of long-term trends and their attribution to rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Trend detection is further impeded by substantial limitations in the availability and quality of global historical records of tropical cyclones. Therefore, it remains uncertain whether past changes in tropical cyclone activity have exceeded the variability expected from natural causes. However, future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2–11% by 2100. Existing modelling studies also consistently project decreases in the globally averaged frequency of tropical cyclones, by 6–34%. Balanced against this, higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm centre. For all cyclone parameters, projected changes for individual basins show large variations between different modelling studies.” [38].

In view of this expertly-assessed link between man-made climate change and severe flood events and with increased frequency of the most severe cyclones, sensitivity would suggest that a fossil fuel-powered power station should not be built in the floods-devastated Lockyer Valley nor in the repeatedly floods- and cyclone-devastated state of Queensland.

In summary, this document sets out 4 major reasons why a gas-fired power stations should not be built on the outskirts of Gatton in the Lockyer Valley, Queensland. This is my view from afar as a 5-decade career biological chemistry scientist. No doubt experts in specific areas of toxicology, rheology, engineering, agricultural science, and climate science would be able to comment expertly on specific technical aspects. My objections to the proposal fall into 4 major areas, namely (A) Australia, and Humanity in general, should be urgently decreasing and certainly not increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution; (B) Gas (mainly methane) is not clean energy greenhouse gas (GHG)-wise; (C) Pollutants from gas leakage and gas burning pose a chemical risk to residents, agriculture and the environment; and (D) Man-made climate change is impacting severe floods and cyclones and hence sensitivity says don’t build it in the Lockyer Valley nor in Queensland. Indeed if I were on the board of a major power company I would not support such massive investment in fossil fuel burning in the knowledge that it is contraindicated by top climate scientists around the world who are saying that we must cease CO2 pollution by 2050 and that the atmospheric CO2 concentration must be reduced from the current 392 ppm to 300 ppm for a safe planet for all peoples and all species. [9].

This has been written in the public interest.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Gideon Polya
Melbourne, Australia

Dr Gideon Polya currently teaches agricultural science students at a major Australian university. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has recently published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contributions “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007): http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/oc... ) and “Ongoing Palestinian Genocide” in “The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/4... ). He has just published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot..com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: http://www.open2.net/thingsweforgot... ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya’s huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: http://sites.google.com/site/artfor... and http://www.flickr.com/photos/gideon... .


[1]. “Residents rally against station”, [Gatton, Lockyer and Brisbane Valley] Star, 26 December 2010: http://www.gattonstar.com.au/story/... .

[2]. “Climate genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/clima... .

[3]. Adam Morton and Tom Arup, “”Greens slam Gillard on brown coal export deal”, The Age, 26 June 2010: http://www.theage.com.au/national/g... .

[4]. Gideon Polya, “Australia’s “5% off 2000 level by 2020” endangers Australia, Humanity and Biosphere”, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: https://sites.google.com/site/yarra... .

[5]. Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, “Terra quasi-incognita: beyond the 2 sdegree C line”< 4 Degrees & Beyond, International Climate Conference, 26-30 September 2009, Oxford University, UK:
http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/4degrees/pp... .

[6]. Dr Vicky Pope, “Met Office warn of “catastrophic” rise in temperature”, The Sunday Times, 19 December 2008: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/ne... .

[7]. Kevin Anderson & Alice Bows, “Reframing the climate change challenge in light of post-2000 emission trends”, Proc. Trans. Roy. Soc, A, 2008: http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.... .

[8]. James Hansen, “Storms of My Grandchildren. The truth about the coming climate catastrophe and out last chance to save humanity””, Bloomsbury, London & New York, 2009: http://www.stormsofmygrandchildren.com/ .

[9]. “300.org – return atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppm”, 300.org: https://sites.google.com/site/300or... .

[10]. Professors O. Hoegh-Guldberg, P. J. Mumby and colleagues, “Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification”, Science 14 December 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5857, pp. 1737 – 1742: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/conte... .

[11]. Professor Peter Seligman, “Australian Sustainable Energy – by the Numbers”, Melbourne Energy Institute, University of Melbourne, 2010: http://energy.unimelb.edu.au/ozsebtn/ .

[12]. .Beyond Zero Emissions, “Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan”, 2010: http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org/... .

[13]. Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, “A path to sustainable energy by 2030”, Scientific American, November 2009,p(p 58 – 65: http://www.scientificamerican.com/a... .

[14]. James Hansen, “Copenhagen summit – Is there any real chance of averting the climate crisis?”, Guardian, 29 November 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentis... .

[15]. Gideon Polya, “Correcting the Australian Government – natural gas is NOT clean energy”, Open Forum, 7 February 2010: http://www.openforum.com.au/natural... ).

[16]. Green Energy Markets, “Fast-tracking Victoria’s clean energy future to replace Hazelwood”, 2010: http://www.environmentvictoria.org.... .

[17]. Professor Robert Howarth, “Preliminary assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing”, Cornell University, 17 March 2010: http://www.eeb.cornell.edu/howarth/... .

[18]. Professor Robert Howarth, “Preliminary assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing”, Cornell University, 1 April 2010: http://www.technologyreview.com/blo....

[19]. Gideon Polya, “Gulf oil & gas disaster, lobbyists, Obama and huge threat of natural gas (methane) to Humanity and Biosphere”, Bellaciao, 19 June 2010: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?ar... .

[20]. David Lewis, "EPA confirms natural gas leakage rates" (The Energy Collective, 7 December 2010: http://www.theenergycollective.com/... .

[21]. Gideon Polya, “How many people die from carbon burning and climate change each year?”, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: https://sites.google.com/site/yarra... .

[22]. G.W. Fischer et al., “Health effects due to motor vehicle air pollution in New Zealand”, Report to the Ministry of Transport, 2002: http://www.transport.govt.nz/resear... .

[23]. Paul Gipe, “Ontario study identifies social costs of coal-fired power plants”, EV World, 7 July 2005: http://www.evworld.com/news.cfm?new... .

[24]. Gideon Polya, “Pollutants from coal-based electricity generation kill 170,000 people annually”, Greeblog, 14 June 2008: http://www.green-blog.org/2008/06/1... .

[25]. Gideon Polya, “Coal is king. AustraliaCO2 pollution fact sheet”, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: https://sites.google.com/site/yarra....

[26]. Gideon Polya, “Pollution deaths from fossil fuel-based power plants”, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: https://sites.google.com/site/yarra... .

[27]. US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data quoted in “Natural Gas and the Environment”, Natural Gas.org: http://www.naturalgas.org/environme... .

[28]. Agnes Malouf and David Wimberley, “Health hazards of natural gas”, Environmental health, 2001 http://www.environmentalhealth.ca/s... .

[29]. US EPA, Nitrogen dioxide, 20 October 2010: http://www.epa.gov/air/nitrogenoxid... .

[30]. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, “Oxides of Nitrogen”: http://dnr.wi.gov/air/aq/pollutant/... .

[31]. Environmental defence, “Nitrogen oxides air pollution”, November 2003: http://www.edf.org/documents/3351_F... .

[32]. Drew Warne-Smith, “Health fears over gas-fired generators”, The Australian, 12 November 2010: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/new... .

[33]. S. Loranger and Y. Courchesne, “Health Risk Assessment of an Industrial Site Contaminated With Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons Using CalTOX, an Environmental Fate/Exposure Model”, SAR and QSAR in Environmental Research, Volume 6, Issue 1 &2, April 1997 , pages 81 - 104 http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/co... .

[34]. 2010-2011 Queensland floods, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010%E... .

[35]. Climate change and floods, c/- 300.org: https://sites.google.com/site/300or... .

[36]. Dr John Holdren (2008), “The Science of Climatic Disruption” (power point lecture): http://www.usclimateaction.org/user... .

[37]. “Scientists: cyclones and man-made climate change”, c/- 300.org: https://sites.google.com/site/300or... .

[38]. Thomas R. Knutson, John L. McBride, Johnny Chan, Kerry Emanuel, Greg Holland, Chris Landsea, Isaac Held, James P. Kossin, A. K. Srivastava & Masato Sugi, “Tropical cyclones and climate change”, Nature Geosciences, 3, 157 - 163 (2010): http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/... .


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