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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mercury Theatre

Timothy Birdnow

This from SEPP:

By Ken Haapala, Executive Vice President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

EPA Skinning the Cat: After cap-and-trade failed to pass the Senate controlled by his own party, President Obama famously stated there is more than one way to skin the cat. The cat, of course, is the American public and its use of energy. The preferred skinner is the EPA, which has launched a series of intensified regulations to drive up the cost of energy use to the public, emphasizing the consumption of electricity from coal fired utility plants. As described in prior TWTWs (e.g. July 9, Aug 6) , the EPA rule for cross-state emissions was one such example of skinning the cat that depended on double and triple counting of its benefits. The benefits largely came from reductions of emissions from soot, which are controlled by a totally separate set of regulations. The other set of supposed benefits are a reduction of "acidic gases", namely sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides. The claim is that reducing these gases will reduce new cases of childhood asthma, yet the statistical relationship between these gases and asthma is the opposite of what EPA claims. These cross-state regulations are now tied up in court.

The latest EPA effort to skin the cat are the new Mercury and Air Toxics rules (Utility MACT) announced just before Christmas. These include the double and triple accounting as the prior rules but also include the supposed benefits of reduction in mercury. And herein is the tale of two islands.

As published in the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere, Willie Soon analyzed the proposed mercury rules. Below is a brief summary of one point in the Soon study. Mercury is a naturally occurring metal, found in the earth, seas, and the atmosphere. For many years mercury was used in thermometers, oral, indoor, and outside. It is used in fluorescent light bulbs. Certain compounds of mercury are toxic to humans, but humans evolved certain defenses against it.

A study of the mercury level in the blood of residents of the Faroe Islands, in the Norwegian Sea between Scotland and Iceland, indicated that the children may suffer from impaired cognitive functions from their mothers eating large amounts of seafood and having a certain level of mercury in their blood as a result.

A study of the mercury level of the residents of the Seychelles Islands off the east coast of Africa, the Seychelles Children Development Study, found no such impaired cognitive functions even though the residents eat large amounts of sea food. Similarly, no impaired cognitive functions have been found in populations of other nations consuming large amounts of sea food – except where toxins have been dumped into the local waters.

A scientific organization would have explored the difference between the eating habits of the residents of the Faroe Islands and the Seychelles Islands, and, perhaps, discovered that the residents of the Faroe Islands eat fish and whale meat and blubber where the residents of the Seychelles Islands eat fish but no whale meat and blubber. It turns out that whale meat and blubber are heavy in other toxins and have little selenium which binds to mercury and renders it largely non-toxic to humans.

The EPA did not perform a rigorous independent study of the science used in making its new rules. The EPA chose the Faroe Islands study to substantiate its pronouncements on acceptable mercury levels and ignored the Seychelles Islands study. Of course, Americans eat virtually no whale meat and blubber. Please see links under "EPA and other Regulators on the March." The complete Soon report can be found at:


Interesting, articles are appearing blaming mercury for the Great Dying (which killed off a majority of all life on Earth 250 million years ago) at a time when the Obama EPA is trying to issue draconian controls ostensibly to reduce mercury in the environment.

If mercury is so bad, why are they insisting we bring it home with us, and plug it into our light sockets? You cannot even buy a mercury thermostat anymore; you have to purchase a digital one that requires a battery. I know; I just had a new furnace installed last year and tried to get them to put in an old-fashioned thermostat. It was banned because of the tiny amount of mercury in it - while we are supposed to put a dozen light bulbs filled with mercury in our sockets, bulbs which have to be changed and often break. Great idea!

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