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Estimating the Ambient Carbon Dioxide (CO2) level using the Ambient Carbon Monoxide (CO) level

[December 4, 2010 --- There was a mistake in some of my analysis below. In some cases, I took the ratio of weights. This is being corrected to show the ratio of parts, the relative numbers of molecules, i.e., by volume not weight. Not all ratios are affected and the net change should not be too great as the figures chosen were quite conservative. Some "tightening" should balance things out].


We are constantly bombarded with items about the “atmospheric” CO2 level, how it is rising, and the problems that will cause. We never hear about the local or ambient level of CO2. (We heard a lot about the ambient level of CO and how dangerous it was when we were first forced to convert our emissions to CO2 from CO, especially when there was a temperature inversion).

There are no ambient measurements of CO2 available. I have been told that the Washington State Department of Ecology has refused to test the ambient CO2 level around the Port Townsend Mill, and they get nervous when the subject is mentioned.

CO2 monitors are expensive. What can we do? Use our heads and the following ---

The CO2 that is supposed to be increasing the “atmospheric” level comes from some relatively concentrated areas considering the total area of the globe. CO2 is somewhat slower to disperse than CO. It weighs over 57 percent more than CO and disperses 25.4 percent more slowly, which means there will be at least 25 percent more CO2 (minimum) in a given area if the same quantities are being released per unit of time.

If our CO emissions affected the ambient level, the local level near the source, then our CO2 emissions must do likewise, especially when there is little wind or a temperature inversion. The presumed danger from CO was always only the local, ambient, level because there really is no “atmospheric” level. There is only a trace. There is less CO in the air than there is Xenon, which is usually the last one listed in the components of air. Xenon is 0.0000087 percent by volume. (That is 87 parts per billion).

You may be wondering how it was that all the CO we used to make failed to raise the global "atmospheric" level beyond the parts per billion "trace" level. If it didn't, why is all the CO2 we are now making increasing the global "atmospheric" level by many parts per million? The answer is that the increase isn't from what we are making, but there are some interesting twists. The authorities can't afford to disclose those either. I would add this --- some writings by the "over population" bunch were discussing the impact of "global/atmospheric" CO2 on climate at least as early as 1970 before the change in emissions really got underway. They just couldn't decide if it was going to get colder or warmer!

Assumptions and Data:

(Note: There are some gaps here. This is intended to provide a method to approach the problem. I am confident you can refine it. Its purpose is to give you something so you can demand ambient measurements from the authorities. Let the burden fall on them to show there is no problem. Make them show there is something wrong with this approach --- after the measurements).

The percentages below for residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation are computed from eia.doe.gov CO2 emissions for 2008 in the whole U.S..

(1). Residential use is responsible for 21.0 percent of CO2 emissions in the U.S.. That’s undoubtedly lower in Washington because of cheap hydroelectric power. (Remember, this is just for a “guesstimate.” Put Ecology on the defensive. The electricity isn’t making CO2 and it also isn’t making CO). Natural gas should have a very high ratio. The new oil burners might be better than cars. Electricity and natural gas heat over 85 percent of Washington homes. Use a ratio of 1,500:1.

(2). Commercial use is responsible for 18.5 percent of CO2 emissions. Let’s use a ratio of 1,000:1, just because commercial should be better than industrial --- see my gyrations below.

(3) Industrial uses 27.3 percent. Let’s use a ratio of 800:1. Emissions change has been quite effective. Oil used in industry should have a higher ratio than coal and wood.

It is hard to find CO output data. The Massachusetts Environmental Energy Alliance claims that 135 Megawatts of Biomass energy generation will produce 2.2 million tons of CO2 and 617 tons of CO. This is a ratio of 3,565:1, which makes it suspect. [This is one of those ratios of weights not volumes. Divide each by their own atomic weight then divide the answer for CO2 by the answer for CO. You should get a ratio of about 2,268:1. Neither this ratio or the original 3,565:1 were used].

[The following is going to be left untouched (for historical purposes). I prefer to reveal my errors rather than bury them. I believe this is a better teaching method. (My hope is that some of you will appreciate this and become inspired). Corrections will follow just before item 4, transporation].

Other information, a number used for Biomass burners with catalytic converters, 0.1 lb/MMBtu/hr (see Nippon's discussion), suggests the ratio could be about 1,772:1. It is doubtful that it is better than cars (Wait a minute, it may not be. If I assume my car made only 85 ppm of CO, then its ratio is 1,765:1. If I assume it made 42 ppm, then the ratio is 3,571:1. I was being conservative using 100 ppm for a ratio of 1,500:1. All that was known was that its CO was between 0 and 99. We might even try 15, 10 or 1 ppm). Some claim converters are impractical for biomass and believe the best is 0.35 lb/MMBTU/hr. That would give a ratio of about 500:1. There is also some indication 0.35 is not using the “best available technology,” but is desirable because it lowers SO2. I made some adjustments to Nippon’s Environmental Impact statement. Their 160,000 tons per year of wood is too low. I adjusted it to 210,000 tons based on the number of trucks they were figuring and the load capacity per truck. (There is other justification for doing this, for example, the requirements of 420 MMBtu/hr of heat input). Accepting their high CO output of 643.9 tons gives a ratio of about 600:1. (Note: Assumed down time of 2 weeks plus a day).

20 trucks/day x 30 tons/truck = 600 tons/day

600 tons/day x 350 days/year = 210,000 tons/year, or 10,500 tons/Mw

210,000 tons/year x 50 percent carbon = 105,000 tons C

(Atomic weight of CO2 = 44; C = 12)

105,000 tons C x 44/12 = 385,000 tons CO2

385,000 / 643.9 = 598/1, or 598:

Corrections: In arriving at the 643.9 tons of carbon monoxide, Nippon assumed 365 days of operation, so we must do likewise with our calculation of the amount of carbon. Do you arrive at 109,500 tons of carbon?(Instead of 105,000 tons as abouve). Divide the 643.9 tons of CO by 28 and then multiply it by 12. You should get 276 tons of carbon that goes to making CO. Subtract that from 109,500 tons of total carbon and get 109,224 tons of carbon available for making CO2. Now divide the 109,224 by 276 to get the proper ratio of 396:1 (If you are a purist, you may divide both by 12 before computing the ratio). Well, about 400 is different than about 600. But, again, I didn't rely heavily on 600. Nippon's 0.35 lb/MMBtu/hr is 3.5 times as much as the 0.1 lb/MMBtu/hr figure. Multiply 396 by 3.5 and get 1,386:1. I have no problem with my original 800:1 choice for a ratio. Do you? I think you will find most industry is well within the 0.1 lb/MMBtu/hr figure. Those coal-fired electricity generators must do better.

(4). Transportation accounts for about 33.2 percent of our CO2. Cars now produce C02 in relation to CO (CO2:CO) at more than 1,500:1. (Perhaps much more --- see my report on my emissions test). Diesels may be better or worse. Aircraft aren’t generally impacting the ambient level. Let’s try a 1,200:1 ratio for transportation.

Putting it together: Let’s compute a weighted average.

Residential 21.0 percent x 1,500:1 ratio = 315

Commercial 18.5 percent x 1,000:1 ratio = 185

Industrial 27.3 percent x 800:1 ratio = 218

Transportation 33.2 percent x 1,200:1 ratio = 398

Now, adding all the products gives us an overall ratio of 1,116:1.

But, we aren’t done yet. Because of the longer “hang around our breathing space time” for CO2, we must increase our result by 25 percent to 1,395.

What do we do with that? Well, if we knew the ambient CO, we could multiply it by 1,395 to estimate the ambient CO2 level. You can buy a CO monitor with digital readout for about $20. You can get the more expensive model for about $40. Forget the monoxide monitor. They are only good for above 30 ppm unless you spend a lot, in which case you could afford the CO2 monitor. Outside, not inside, a measurement of 30 ppm of CO (while not desirable is not immediately dangerous. It is less than the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries standard) could possibly mean you are already dead from the CO2!

Skip this. There's a better way. I'm leaving it here for historical purposes, so you can see where I got some numbers below. [Google the name of your air quality control agencey, for example ORCAA. Find the “current air quality” link. Right down the AQI.Use the on-line AQI index from you local air quality agency. Some use WACA. That makes comparisons between areas complicated (probably the real intent). You have to find it first. It isn’t easy].

An easier and more universal method is to go to www.airnow.gov. Click on the map for your location. This eliminates and/or gives you a way to compare the WACA). Now, google “aqi to concentration.” Make sure you get the aqi to concentration calculator, not vice-versa. Select carbon monoxide from the drop down menu and enter the aqi. Voila!

Take the answer and multiply it by 1,395. As I am writing this, 4pm, October 19, 2010, the WAQA (not aqi) for Port Townsend is 36. For Port Angeles, it is 23. There is no WACA calculator. Let Ecology try to talk their way out. The CO concentrations are 3.1 and 2 ppm, respectively. Using the AQI calculator results in CO2 concentrations of 4,325 and 2,790 ppm, respectively.

That’s pretty wild and I don’t believe it is that high. We are starting to get a lot of wood stove fires around. I went to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and picked the worst readings there, in aqi numbers. South Park, Tacoma Tideflats, and South Tacoma were all about 68. That gives a CO of 6.2 ppm on our trusty AQI to Concentration calculator, or CO2 of 8,649! Still unbelievable. These are areas of more industry, and fewer homes, so therefore, fewer woodstoves and fireplaces. Suggestion: Adjust your weighted averages for the most prevalent source in your area. Let's weight this last one closer to 800:1 because of so much industry and see the result. Well, we're down to about 5,000.

Perhaps someone is boosting the CO data.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with the methodology.

Ecology claims that wood stoves and fireplaces are major polluters and wood smoke is one of the main sources of pollution. What percentages? Let’s say that half of the CO comes from them. Only use one half of what the AQI tells you. How about one fourth? That would take that 5,000 down to 1,250.

We still need to put the burden on our officials for accurate ambient monitoring.

Caution: I have it on good authority that many places calibrate the monitors they service by taking them outside and adjusting them to 400 ppm!

Oops! I forgot, we need to now add 350 ppm or so for the CO2 that is already in the air --- the base or background level known as the “atmospheric” level. And, that 5,000, which went to 1,250, now goes to 1,600!

What does that level mean? It means that the outdoor air is at a level that many people complain about when they encounter that much indoors.

Now, let’s add it to the level in your home (unless you live in a lean-to or on a park bench). I may be off base here, but I think homes are now designed for something like a 2,000 ppm level inside on the assumption that the outside level is about 400 ppm. Check it out. The 2,000 ppm level itself is way too high, but it is the minimum necessary if “energy efficient” design and “weatherization” are to save any energy at all. Your 2,000 ppm home is now 3,200, (1,600 – 400 + 2,000).

If we use 800:1, we can exceed the OSHA limit for CO2 in the workplace (5,000 ppm, 8 hours, for a healthy adult) while the AQI is in the yellow (moderate) range. If we return to our 1,395:1, we can exceed the OSHA limit even while in the green (good) range. Worse yet, if this ratio holds, we would probably all be dead from CO2 when the AQI is in the 'Very Unhealthy' range. That's the one before the 'Hazardous' one! Since toxic substances in the air are as if 2 to 3 times as strong when applied to children, we could lose some of them (and some elderly) when the AQI is 'Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups,' the next stage after 'Moderate.'

We don't really need the numbers in my estimation. Go back and read our 'Temporary Homepage,' "Biomass, an overdose (crushing the timed-release pills)." Is it probable that there is something besides CO2 responsible for all those things that were blamed on CO2? Is not CO2 the common denominator in all of them? What can you observe? At what point does "a clear preponderance of the evidence" change to "beyond a reasonable doubt?"

When you consider crowding and the effect of CO2 with and without crowding, what is the impact of some 20 million illegals on both crowding and the local CO2 level? Why are some pushing for more --- more crowding, more local CO2, and more illegals? Why?

None of what we are told lately is about the environment or about “green jobs.” It is about evil. It always was.

It seems we now have a dilemma. Would you really trust any measurements Ecology would throw out at you? At this stage, the important thing to do is shake the tree, rattle their cages. Make a lot of noise about the ambient CO2 level. Start talking about Nuremburg. Some people doing this to us know what is going on. Make these people lose sleep. Let them worry about whether their off-shore bank accounts contain enough money. When is the last safe moment to purchase and use a one-way airfare to Argentina? (There are probably better places to go now, but some of you will "catch my drift." A fragment of a line from a Harry Belafonte song, "... run Venezuela!" comes to mind. Very fitting if you know Harry. I had to look it up --- the song is "Matilda!" How could I forget? "She take me money and run Venezuela." I think someone did a follow on song; a country western one --- "Thank God and Lufthansa, she's gone")!

I am reminded of this because of what happened when things unraveled at Biosphere II. The Director 'high-tailed it' for Mexico! Did you hear about that? No?

Columbia University acquired Biosphere II. Things quieted down. The truth was hidden. Columbia University hired Al Gore. More lies.

Copyright © 2010 Donald Beeman. All rights reserved.