Why Honeycutt Is Such an Alarming Choice for EPA's Science Advisory Panel
By Elena Craft
Michael Honeycutt—the man set to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) prestigious Science Advisory Board—has spent most of his career as a credentialed counterpoint against almost anything the EPA has proposed to protect human health.
Fortunately, his lone voice for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality rarely carried beyond the Lone Star State. Until now.
The EPA science advisory panel Honeycutt will chair is supposed to provide the agency with independent scientific expertise on a wide range of issues. In a highly unusual move, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt picked the Texan for the job even though he has never been a member of the board.
More than Honeycutt's inexperience, however, what worries me most is his faulty logic and what this means for science at the EPA.
#EPA to Limit Independent Science Advisors https://t.co/ea0aN9q1P3 @NRDC @SierraClub @MichaelEMann @ClimateNexus @350 @foe_us @greenpeaceusa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1509464847.0
Honeycutt downplays ozone dangers
A toxicologist by training, Honeycutt has criticized the EPA's health-based standards for ozone because "most people spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors," reducing their exposure to the ubiquitous pollutant.
Houston residents know differently. The city's worst day for lung-damaging ozone this year happened while many people were outside for long hours of cleanup after Hurricane Harvey.
Honeycutt doubled-down on his position that ozone is not harmful to human health in a 2014 interview with the Texas Tribune.
"I haven't seen the data that says lowering ozone will produce a health benefit," he said. "In fact, I've seen data that shows it might have a negative health benefit."
Honeycutt's statement suggests he believes that more air pollution might actually be good for you.
… even though ozone can cause premature death
I am a toxicologist in Texas, too, and here is the truth about ozone: The pollutant can exacerbate asthma, lung disease and heart disease—and even lead to premature death.
The current acceptable limit, recommended during the George W. Bush administration and set under Obama's in 2015, is 70 parts per billion, a standard that the public health community still believes is too high. The EPA's own science advisors had recommended a limit as stringent as 60 ppb to protect human health.
Honeycutt spent millions to refute science
In his Texas role, Honeycutt responded to the recommendation by paying more than $2.6 million for research that says tighter ozone rules would cost the state billions of dollars annually with little or no impact on public health.
"Every part per billion that they don't lower it is millions of dollars," Honeycutt told the Houston Chronicle. "So we think that the return on investment in this is just phenomenal. Just phenomenal."
And it's not just ozone that seems to be a target for Honeycutt. He also has issues with protections against mercury, particulate matter and air toxics.
The reality is, however, that by failing to improve air quality, we're paying more in health and social costs. This is real money lost on hospital visits, and on missed work and school days.
… and now he'll steer EPA science
All this matters because Honeycutt, as the board's chair, will help prioritize which issues the EPA decides to investigate. He will also pick the scientists who review studies and reports before they come to the full board.
We know that clean air and a strong economy go hand-in-hand—and that claims by industry doomsayers claims are unsubstantiated.
But none of that matters to an administration that scrubs qualified scientists from serving on advisory committees, that eradicates scientific data from websites that do not support the its agenda, and that does not want to be challenged.
Honeycutt's appointment is yet another attack against science. With American health at stake, we cannot stay silent about this latest EPA development.
Elena Craft is a senior health scientist at Environmental Defense Fund.
A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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