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AQMD Headquarters: Critiquing the Critique

June 21, 1992

We applaud your attention to energy efficiency in new construction, as reflected in Leon Whiteson's on the new headquarters of the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Unfortunately, the article ignored a breakthrough technology used at the AQMD's headquarters that is both highly energy-efficient and virtually non-polluting--and having its first commercial use ever in the United States. That technology is the natural gas-powered fuel cell, which is supplying 10% to 20% of the AQMD's electric needs during the day and 100% of its electric needs during evenings and weekends.

Further, the article creates a false perception in its comparison of the environmental properties of electricity versus natural gas when it states, "Electric heating reduces costs and eliminates the pollution of gas-fired boilers."

Electricity's environmental record is only as good as the fuel source used to generate it. When coal or oil is used, electricity produces substantial pollution, perhaps not at the point of use, but at the source. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel known, with the added advantage of being abundantly available in the United States.

The fuel cell--while utilizing ample supplies of domestic natural gas--performs far better than conventional electric generation in energy efficiency and air quality emissions. The fuel cell unit at the AQMD converts 82% of the energy content of the natural gas it uses to electric power by recycling waste heat and steam in the unit.

The natural gas fuel cell is also 20 times cleaner than conventional electric generation, nearly eliminating production of nitrogen oxides and substantially reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

RICK TERRELL

News Bureau Manager

The Gas Co.

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