The Gladys Kravitz Effect

Rich Trzupek08 Jul, 2023 5 Min Read
The process is the punishment. Enjoy!

Here’s the latest thing on an ever-lengthening list that is supposed to be bad for you: making pizza in a wood-fired stove. New York City is considering enacting a ban on some wood-fired pizza ovens, arguing that it’s not a ban, which it’s not, except in the sense that it actually is. In an age where there are people who are frightened of stoves burning natural gas it's no surprise that wood-fired pizza ovens would terrify people too. This is the Age of the 'Fraidy Cat.

So, if the New York City council enacts this ban what will that mean to the pizza industry in New York? If you have an older wood-fired pizza oven and you don't have air pollution controls on the exhaust the city will require you to hire someone to evaluate the feasibility of adding controls. That someone will presumably be a person with an engineering or similar degree who is familiar with air pollution control devices. Although I haven't read the entire proposal it's reasonable to assume that some bureaucrat in New York will be required to approve the engineer’s recommendations.

This probably sounds entirely reasonable to people unfamiliar with the way bureaucracies work. It sounds and it's meant to sound like government encouraging businesses to go greener if they possibly can. And if they can't? Well, we'll understand. Except that's not the way it works in the real world. With environmental regulations government rarely outright bans anything. What government does is to place enough impediments in the way of an industry or a process that they don't like so that what looks like a set of reasonable potential decisions actually forces the result that government wanted in the first place. The process, as they say, is the punishment.

Playing with fire, pizza-wise. Buon appetito!

I'm sure there will be engineers lining up to do these evaluations. The clever ones will do it at a very low cost, because they will have made deals with preferred vendors of air pollution control devices and will get a nice cut when their guy makes a sale. And no doubt city officials reviewing these reports will have a much different idea about what is affordable than most business owners will. So no, this won't be a ban per se, rather it will rather be a series of impediments that will have virtually the same effect.

The most puzzling question is why is New York doing this?

The answer seems to be that wood-fired pizza ovens emit pollution, which is true, and pollution is bad, which is also true, so reducing it is a good thing. I haven't found any story about this issue that speaks to the motivation for this ban in anything but these kind of totally subjective terms. Blech. I am a scientist. I like numbers. But no one involved in this stupidity is going to bother to look up relevant numbers for the very good reason that the data shows this measure is idiotic.

Check out this particulate matter!

The pollutant people talk about reducing the most in order to improve the environment and human health is particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in aerodynamic diameter, also known as PM-2.5. Environmental zealots will tell you that this pollutant contributes to wheezing, asthma, lung disease, cancer and a host of other ailments.

While there is a grain of truth in that statement it's not a completely honest assessment for two reasons. First the world we live in is full of sources of PM 2.5. Some of these sources are natural, many others are man-made. When we consider the man-made emissions we should consider them in context. That is we should ask ourselves how important to our happiness and well-being is the process or activity generating the emissions? Which brings us to our second point: how significant are the emissions generated in terms of all of the sources of the pollutant?

Let us consider the five boroughs that make up New York City. According to the E.P.A.'s latest National Emissions Inventory about 15,000 tons of PM 2.5 are generated in New York City annually. Uncontrolled wood-fired pizza ovens account for about 7 of those tons. If you're keeping score at home that's less than 0.05 percent of all PM 2.5 emissions in New York City. Defenders of the measure will argue that even though the total amount is small people who work in one of these restaurants or live nearby will be disproportionately affected. That argument doesn't hold up to scrutiny either.

What's more in your face then using gas-fired garden tools and snow blowers with two or four stroke engines? They account for 214 tons per year and 81 tons per year of PM 2.5 emissions in New York. Residential fireplaces are credited with 16 tons per year. Conveyorized charcoal grilling, used to produce a variety of delicious smoked products, gets credit for 984 tons per year.

The reason nobody talks about these numbers is because they know that if they try to take away your snow blowers and your gardening implements it will affect a lot of people. A lot of those people are going to be very angry about it, just as people who enjoy a fireplace or delicious smoked beef will get upset if you mess with their stuff. There's a limited number of old wood-fired ovens in New York. Not a voting bloc the pols and bureaucrats are going to worry about.

What I believe we're seeing here is what I have come to call the Gladys Kravitz effect, named after nosey neighbor on Bewitched who was constantly snooping around the Stevens household looking to get dirt on Darren and Samantha. This NYC silliness has Gladys' crackpot vibes all over it. Calling emissions from wood-"fired ovens toxic" has no scientific basis whatsoever. Good Lord, learning how to burn wood helped civilize mankind! Controls under this measure would do nothing to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from wood-fired ovens.

New York mayor Eric Adams has defended the measure saying: “Every toxic entity that we remove from our air is adding up to the overall desire to deal with shrinking our carbon footprint.” Now I sort of like Adams but that declaration was just silly. Adams was a cop and I think his response was a cop's response. It was the equivalent of dealing with a domestic dispute where the best outcome is a compromise that seems to satisfy everybody. You guys make up and I'll move on to more important matters.

Finally, burning wood does not put more carbon into the environment like burning fossil fuels does. Burning wood takes carbon that's already in the environment and puts it back in a different form. Environmentalists used to know that but in their increasing need to scare everybody all the time they seem to have forgotten the difference.

I have no idea how this story ends but it certainly will not be the last story like this. Not at all. Like her sister, Karen, whom we all met during the Covid hoax, Gladys is out there and you better watch out cause she's gonna be coming for you.

Rich Trzupek is a chemist and air quality expert who has worked with industry and the EPA for over thirty five years. He is the author of Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry and other works. He lives in the Chicago area.


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2 comments on “The Gladys Kravitz Effect”

  1. I spent my entire career in the energy/electric utility business, and at one point taught a college course on energy and environmental policy. But the latter was back in the 70s, when the preferred term was "alternative" sources of energy, not "renewables". And back then such "alternatives" included wood, peat, and exotic liquid fuels (of dubious net energy value), but at least the predecessors of today's "progressives" were willing to entertain their possibilities.
    Today nothing but wind and solar will do. Even the Irish are looking to phase out peat, a traditional source of home heating in Ireland since time immemorial, and clearly renewable.
    The real motivation of these people is to limit energy supply to only the most expensive and unreliable forms. This will result in excess deaths (as we saw in Europe last winter), but totally consistent with their primary goal of reducing the world's population to no more than 500 million. They call it "sustainability". I call it genocide.

  2. Your comment about sorta liking Adams because he is/was a cop is emblematic of not realizing not only who the enemy is but how far down into the abyss our Republic is. The clown was/is a full time quota hire whose peer group shoved him in an out of the way office, where for that time being the place where he could do the least damage, but where he could study for upcoming advancement test placement positions.
    Comey was/is ( in his own mind still not just a cop) but one with a higher truth and loyalty about his goodness. In truth he is and always was a bent cop whose only loyalty was and still is to his psychopathic vision of self. If a cop is bent or a quota hire its long past time “ to go to the mattresses” against them and their ilk that keep putting them into positions of power and influence. After all, is there really any difference between bent and quota hire in terms of the damage wrought?

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