Skip to main content

The Carbon Emissions of the Long Distance Runner

joe_barton We’ve noticed several times an argument against regulating carbon emissions without actually noticing that it’s the same argument with different examples. For example, Here’s House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio):

The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you've got more carbon dioxide.

And Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.):

It's plant food ... So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere? ... So all our good intentions could be for naught. In fact, we could be doing just the opposite of what the people who want to save the world are saying.

At the time, we noted these comments lacked much in the way of logic or responsiveness to the issue. But this quote from Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) cinched it for us:

“So if you put 20,000 marathoners into a confined area, you could consider that a single source of pollution, and you could regulate it,” Barton says. “The key would be whether the EPA said that 20,000 people running the same route was one source or not.”

So that’s it. The argument is that any system intended to rein in carbon emissions (EPA regulation, cap-and-trade) will also cover the natural production of carbon dioxide – like you and I breathing in a crowd. We’re surprised Rep. Barton didn’t mention that any well-attended event puts masses of people together to release carbon dioxide pell-mell. So here comes the end of public attendance at football games and concerts-on-the-green. It’s a slippery slope: pretty soon, we’ll have to telecommute because we won’t be allowed out of our houses anymore.

The problem is that the argument is false, a straw man. Here’s what the EPA says about you and I and our devilish emissions:

Natural sources of CO2 occur within the carbon cycle where billions of tons of atmospheric CO2 are removed from the atmosphere by oceans and growing plants, also known as ‘sinks,’ and are emitted back into the atmosphere annually through natural processes also known as ‘sources.’ When in balance, the total carbon dioxide emissions and removals from the entire carbon cycle are roughly equal.

And then came the industrial revolution. (Now, all right, Boehner has a bit of a point about farm animals, but food supplements will likely put that one to bed.)

You may want to read the whole Newsmax story the above quote came from. You’ll get the fullest possible exposition of why the solution to carbon emissions is to do – nothing – because they’re not a problem. We don’t agree with much of it – and find the story’s good points rather buried in thick ideological honey, as is usual from NewsMax – but there it is.

Let’s see, we’ve used a picture of Rep. Boehner – and Rep. Shimkus – so here’s Rep. Barton. A sort of “twilight-of-the-gods” shot.


Anonymous said…
Argh, the fool doesn't know the difference between carbon dioxide and methane. Why should anyone even pretend to listen to him?

This is what happens when the government is full of lawyers instead of engineers.

Anonymous said…
And carbon dioxide is a carcinogen now?

And this is the house minority leader. The republican party has certainly fallen on bad times, brain-wise.

Anonymous said…
Well I guess the marathon runners are emitting CO2 at a higher rate during a race, since they are breathing harder.

I guess the argument is, that the congressman's friends in the coal industry have the 'right' to their emissions, just like you & I have the 'right' to breathe?
Anonymous said…
I actually like Rep. Barton's point. Remember, this is the same EPA that has mentioned regulating methane from cows so I wouldn't put it past them to desire to regulate something like that too once someone puts it in their heads. Too bad none of them can get it through their heads that CO2 is not a poison!
OneRunner said…
That our congressional leaders are having difficulty distinguishing between natural emissions, like breathing, and unnatural emissions, like factories and cars, is a little bit scary. We cannot stop breathing. As humans exercise is important and should not be sacrificed. Through human innovation we can circumvent many of the CO2 emissions while still accomplishing whatever the original goal was. We can make our factories and cars in such a way that they still manufacture and move without emitting as much, or at all. This is something that we should constantly strive towards as a society and a race. The industrial revolution was fantastic. It brought us to where we are now... Let's take the next step (pun intended) in moving forward as a species and society. As for the cows... the only reason they are on the CO2 emissions radar is because we have cut down so many carbon absorbing trees to make room for their pastures so that we can turn them into fast food... It's natural to have animals on the planet. It's unnatural to mass produce them to this scale at the expense of our rain forests. Once again, this challenge is something that human ingenuity can overcome. We can have our cake (or burgers) and eat it too with some planning, innovation, and good old fashion human ingenuity! Go Humanity!

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.

Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …