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Did AEP commit the blunder of the century?

Published: Thu, August 9, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.

Did AEP commit the blunder of the century?
The Vindicator of Aug. 3 on page B12 had a short article about sulfuric acid clouds in Cheshire, Ohio. It was a very brief digest of a story that had appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal. It seems that the anti-pollution system intended to eliminate nitrogen oxide emissions from the furnaces of a large power plant is creating the clouds of sulfuric acid that in a temperature inversion prone area in the Ohio River valley are plaguing the city.
The other newspaper had a longer article that gave a more complete description of the equipment, and when I read that, my jaw figuratively hit the floor. It seems that the equipment, called selective catalytic reduction (SCR), works by injecting ammonia into the flue gasses, then passing it through a catalyst to break the gasses into elemental nitrogen and water. The catalyst in this operation is vanadium.
When I took general chemistry at Miami University in 1951, the textbook we used when telling about the various chemical elements and their compounds, also gave descriptions of how these compounds were made commercially. The process for manufacturing sulfuric acid involved taking sulfur dioxide with oxygen, passing it over a catalyst to oxidize it to sulfur trioxide, and dissolving that compound in water to form sulfuric acid. Two catalysts were mentioned as being commonly used, platinum and vanadium pentoxide. Didn't anyone at the EPA or at American Electric Power do their homework?
The selective catalytic reduction equipment does reduce the nitrogen oxides, which are somewhat loosely bound compounds. Then it takes the oxygen and oxidizes the ammonia, which is another loosely bound compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, into water, a more tightly bound together compound, and leaves the elemental nitrogen behind. The real sum of the process is oxidation, and while this is occurring, the catalyst also is taking the sulfur dioxide and oxidizing it to sulfur trioxide.
So, instead of successfully reducing atmospheric pollutants, American Electric Power has come up with a good candidate for blunder of the century. There is plenty of blame to pass around, both in the EPA and in AEP. Somebody, somewhere, should have caught it before they spent so much money on it. I suppose the "reduction" in the name, selective catalytic reduction, deceived them into thinking that was the sum and substance of the process.
I also see they are going to try to rectify the sulfuric acid problem by injecting magnesium hydroxide into the system. That will produce magnesium sulfate, lots of it. I suppose they could then inject it into abandoned mines to stabilize the mine subsidence.
Church, state separation have historical basis
James Madison, father of the Constitution, states without any reservations that "The number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of Church and State."
President Thomas Jefferson in his first inaugural address made a point of enumerating this protecting principle of the new republic, "Friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none." The same could be said about religions. "Friendships will all, entangling alliances with none."
Despite these statements, the chief justice of the United States alleges that the separation of church and state is a myth fostered by bad history.
Local politicians and judges entangle religion with government by posting their version of the Ten Commandments. Which version do they force upon the citizens of this democratic republic? The Hebrew, the Roman Catholic or the Protestant? They have learned nothing from religious history. Men never do evil so well as when they do it from religious conviction.
The government cannot tell us what to pray, where to pray, when to pray and how to pray. Majority rule does not prevail where religion is concerned. Religious symbols, slogans, et cetera belong in the home or the church or on private property.


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