An air quality permit was approved Friday afternoon for the huge new Volkswagen auto assembly plant at Enterprise South Industrial Park, though – to meet current EPA requirements to deal with paint fumes – greenhouse gas emissions from the facility will be high. Also, there will be nitrogen dioxide emissions contributing to the local ozone problem.
Some six thermal oxidizers that will burn natural gas will have to be installed at the plant to control emissions from the paint shop.
Officials said the entire plant will emit 128,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year as well as 80 tons each of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide.
Bob Colby, Air Pollution Control Bureau director, said the paints used at the plant will use low-VOC (volatile organic compound) waterborne coatings except for the clearcoating operation, which is used to seal the undercoating of paint. The sealant paint will be solvent-based.
Mr. Colby said under existing EPA rules that the oxidizers will be necessary to neutralize hazardous materials in the sealant paint that is designed to preserve the paint shine and prevent chipping.
But he acknowledged that the oxidizers are heavy greenhouse gas emitters and utilize large quantities of natural gas.
This has been a running problem since the 1970’s, when automakers were forced to drop the compression ratio to deal with NOx emissions in cars. This worsened the petrol mileage, which drove up CO2 and thus greenhouse gas emissions. And, as you can see, NOx are still getting in the way of combating global warming.
Colby puts the problem at its simplest:
Mr. Colby said, “We do have some concern that the oxidizers will create large amounts of carbon dioxide gas and use a finite energy source when it may not give us any significant environmental benefit. Those are the rules now and we have to abide by them.
“But there may come a point when the policymakers may need to change that policy.”
Don’t hold your breath. In a country where everyone is focused on “religious right” people and their “irrational thinking,” the environmentalists seem to get a pass, even from the secularists (most of the time.) And there’s little indication that will change any time soon.