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Fox News on EPA endangerment finding: “Some skeptics say regulating carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, may be a difficult task, especially since people emit carbon dioxide with every breath”

By Joe Romm  

"Fox News on EPA endangerment finding: “Some skeptics say regulating carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, may be a difficult task, especially since people emit carbon dioxide with every breath”"


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http://www.getyouracton.com/past_events/outfoxed/OutfoxedSmall.jpgHow does the other side get their warped views?  Consider a Friday story from FoxNews titled, “Don’t Exhale: EPA Expected to Declare Carbon Dioxide a Dangerous Pollutant.  Here’s the opening:

Don’t exhale.

That advice may need heeding if the Environmental Protection Agency declares carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases dangerous pollutants, a move — expected in the next couple weeks — that would require the federal government to impose new rules limiting emissions.

But some skeptics say regulating carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, may be a difficult task, especially since people emit carbon dioxide with every breath.

And, no, sadly, this isn’t intended to be humorous story.  It’s just run-of-the-mill disinformation disguised as a “straight news” story.

Interestingly — or perhaps I should say typically — FoxNews doesn’t actually offer any “skeptics” who say regulating CO2 may be difficult because people exhale CO2.  It was apparently just the reporter’s own inane idea.

And speaking of inane, if you want to be simultaneously depressed and amused, read the comments on the article here.  The first one starts:

Really? I didn’t know that… What drivel. They talk to us like we are stupid.

And no, the “they” isn’t FoxNews.  Then there’s:

maybe regulating CO2 is the reason for the death panels in the health care bill?

A later comment on Kennedy is in astonishingly bad taste comment, which shows you why comments on news stories should be moderated.

The other interesting/typical thing about the story is the central argument FoxNew offers against the finding, which directly follows the opening lines:

“The EPA doesn’t have the manpower to implement the regulations the way they would have to be,” said David Kreutzer, senior policy analyst in energy economics and climate change at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Kreutzer said new regulations would trigger a flood of lawsuits, would create massive paperwork and the EPA should have no reasonable expectation that people would comply….

Aides say later rules will extend to other sources and require a permit from the EPA to build anything that emits more than 25,000 tons of these pollutants. That could include schools, nursing homes or a Walmart.known

Let’s frighten old people some more!  Of course, EPA isn’t going to regulate nursing homes for CO2.

And FoxNews just got that part of the story wrong.  The 25,000 floor would exclude virtually all small businesses.  As the WSJ reports:

Although the announcement didn’t disclose details about the rule, people familiar with the EPA’s work on the issue said they expected the agency’s proposal to call for regulating only facilities that emit 25,000 tons or more a year of carbon dioxide. That threshold would effectively limit the reach of new regulations to power plants, steel mills, and cement factories, people familiar with the matter said.

Anyway, it’s no mystery why “The Deniers are winning, but only with the GOP.”

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19 Responses to Fox News on EPA endangerment finding: “Some skeptics say regulating carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, may be a difficult task, especially since people emit carbon dioxide with every breath”

  1. Steven Leibo says:

    And of course we can’t forget how much “hot air” Fox itself sends out into the atmosphere each day! But more to the point, can I recommend the new book _Unscientific America_ which takes a close look at this important topic of how well the media deals with science. I have a comment on the book currently on my blog Leibo’s World Watch.

  2. alexy says:

    I did read some of the comments on the Fox News article. My reaction was not depression and simultaneous amusement. It was depression, disappointment, discouragement, frustration and anger, particularly at those comments with implicit or explicit death wishes. That we can find amusement in these comments perhaps provides insight into at least some portion of our inability to convince the doubters. By expressing amusement, are we demeaning the argument and the opposition, treating them with casual arrogance?

    [JR: Your point is well taken. That said, I don't think we can possibly convince the doubters -- only the people they listen to can. All one can do sometimes is laugh.]

  3. Jim Bouldin says:

    For every gullible one that buys into their lies, there’s another not-so-sure one that watches as they slowly but surely paint themselves into their corners.

  4. Kevin says:

    And why is it we don’t counter with “yes, you exhale it and it is natural. People also produce excrement — it’s natural. So does that mean I can dump a few tons of it in your drinking water, in your office, or in your basement?”

  5. Jeff Huggins says:

    Numbers Please

    Can someone with relevant expertise let us know how much CO2 a human, on average, exhales in a year?

    Of course, the CO2 we naturally exhale would not be regulated, as any reasonable person should know. And, animals exhale CO2 while plants “inhale” CO2, all as part of the natural balance: That doesn’t mean that we should (or can afford to) generate substantially excessive amounts of CO2 via our oil and coal and so forth, to such a degree that CO2 concentrations go way up, which is (as we know) what’s happening.

    Yet, I always like to see numbers, for context.

    According to a VERY simplistic calculation of mine (which could well be substantially “off”, since I don’t have a background related to human respiration), it seems that burning about 35 gallons of gasoline (three tank-fulls) would generate as much CO2 as a person exhales in an entire year. But as I say, that’s a rough estimate.

    That’s based on two numbers I got, quickly, from the web, along with other standard figures, if I did the calculation right.

    The two figures that relate directly to human breathing are the “minute volume” (I used 6.5 liters of gas exhaled per minute) and the concentration of CO2 in the exhaled gas (I used a figure of 4.5%). And, simplistically, I used those figures as if they applied 24-7, not changing them for rest periods or sleep or to take into account the diversity of human ages and weights and so forth.

    So, can someone give us better figures? In short, how much CO2 does an average person exhale in a year, in pounds or kgs or whatever you like?



  6. Leif says:

    I agree whole heartily with Kevin #4. I feel that the progressives leave way too many falsehoods out there that should be immediately countered with “in your face ” facts such as he describes. These should then be repeated over and over again by everyone that gets air time as the GOP do. A little humor goes a long way as well.

  7. Jim Bouldin says:

    Jeff, we don’t need numbers to counter this level of nonsense, except for the number zero (as in, it has zero effect and makes zero sense). Even if we added up all animal respiration on the planet, it pales in comparison to the microbial and fungal respiration of dead plant matter, and more to the point, is nothing more than the delay of that process via conversion from one form of organic carbon to another before returning to CO2. Human breathing is simply delayed vegetation decomposition. Why don’t they mention that it’s also going to be hard to regulate CO2 because humans die? (think it might be because they probably don’t realize that humans decompose to CO2 when they die?).

    As I said we can to some degree stand back and watch them indict themselves with their utter stupidity.

  8. Jeff, the difference is not just quantity. Another big difference is that:

    Burning fossil fuels releases co2 that was previously sequestered, increasing co2 levels in the air.

    Exhaling releases co2 as part of a loop that does not increase co2 levels in the air. Plants remove co2 from the air; when we eat and digest those plants, we put that same co2 back into the air by exhaling.

    Of course, our agriculture overall does increase levels of co2 and other greenhouse gases because it uses fertilizers and fossil fuels. But our eating plants and exhaling the co2 does not increase levels of co2.

  9. Bob Wallace says:

    Or put another way, plants and animals release CO2 into our atmosphere, and that’s a good thing. If they didn’t we wouldn’t have enough of a heat trapping atmosphere to keep us from freezing to death.

    That’s the blanket we need to keep warm.

    Problem is, we’ve now put way too much extra CO2 into the atmosphere and made the heat trapping atmosphere too efficient and we are on route to toasting ourselves.

    We’ve added one blanket too many.

  10. AlexJ says:

    Do these people realize how ignorant and/or uneducated they look? When will they understand that it’s the crazy rate at which we’re burning FOSSIL carbon that has pushed things out of balance. And that breathing is just a biological “recycling” of existing atmospheric carbon? It’s amazing that stuff like that still gets published.

  11. Jeff Huggins says:

    Dear Jim (7) and Charles (8),

    Thanks for your comments.

    I understand and appreciate your points. Believe me, I’m not asking for the number because I think it can prove or disprove any simplistic, singular, or incorrect point. I agree that their argument is ridiculous, for a range of reasons.

    But there is also another matter: There is a general absence of numbers — and even facility with numbers — on many of these climate and energy issues in the media coverage and public discourse today.

    It feels to me as though many people don’t think numbers matter, on anything or nearly anything, except perhaps when it comes to bank accounts, home equity, stock valuation, taxes, and age.

    Indeed, one of the major problems with the disinformation campaigns is that they make statements without numbers or they share one or two numbers without the others.

    So — as a general matter — it would help (I believe) for more people to get into the habit of stating a number (and hopefully a reasonably accurate and honest one) whenever they mention a factor whose entire relevance depends on how big or small it is — not by itself, but also in relation to the other numbers.

    For example, in your comments (and I’m not criticizing; I’m trying to illustrate a point), you list a number of factors that are part of the overall balances, but you do so qualitatively. Yet, even though different factors balance others, and some offset each other, and others are part of the natural “breathing in and out” of various forms of life, the qualitative list alone doesn’t tell the story: The numbers matter. Not any single number alone, of course, and certainly not a single number out of context. But ALL of them matter — or at least all of the significant ones matter.

    I’m trying to “encourage” the habit of putting numbers to factors when one “side” says, or implies, that one factor or another is important. You see, here we have one side making a point that “humans breathe out CO2″, and we have the more balanced and “aware” discussion here that such a point is part of the natural balancing of things (although still, numbers do matter). Yet, I’d bet that VERY few people know whether a human exhales 30 pounds of CO2 a year, or 300, or 3,000. And, because there are 6.8 billion of us (and not long ago, there were only 1 billion), those differences do or could matter. Although I agree with your points, what I’m saying (as a more general matter) is this: It helps to provide a relevant number when talking about a quantifiable factor. Again, one of the problems with the disinformation campaigns is that they don’t provide numbers, or they do so completely out of context.

    I hope that makes sense. I’m not disagreeing with your points. I’m simply saying that having a number would be nice, and that we should get into the habit of using numbers (at least simple ones) if we want people to understand the whole enchilada better.

    Cheers for now,


  12. Jim Bouldin says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I much agree with your points regarding the need for more and better quantification in general, and that discussions can be imprecise or even meaningless without them. But let me take a science philosophy prespective here, which I will summarize simply as the audacious statement: numbers are generally only a means to a qualitative understanding anyway. Their actual values are only important to the extent that they influence some other physical process or phenomenon that we are really interested in. Now this is a simplification, but generally what we are after is a ‘qualitative’ understanding of nature, although admittedly, whether or how the human mind differentiates quantitative, from quantitative, understandings is most certainly an excellent topic for debate, and I don’t claim to have any definitive answer.

    So in this situation, the amount of CO2 exhaled by 6.8 billion people is not important. Why? Because we know, qualitatively, that the CO2 being respired is NOT, unlike fossil fuel burning, ADDING to the atmospheric [CO2]–it is simply recycling that CO2 that was fixed into organic C some time in the recent past by plants. (And I realize that you understand this). If we need to get quantitative at all, we can simply use the reversible, summary, photosynthesis/respiration equations: 6CO2 + 6H20 C6H12O6 + 602 and our knowledge that the terrestrial biota (represented by the C6H12O6 term, i.e. organic carbon) cycles carbon with the atmosphere on a scale far, far, far faster than fossil fuels do, (although I agree that attaching some numbers there is helpful for those with no idea whatsoever on those rate differences).

  13. Jim Bouldin says:

    That is (above):

    6CO2 + 6H20 (DOUBLE HEADED ARROW HERE) C6H12O6 + 6O2

  14. “run-of-the-mill disinformation . . .”
    Even though it’s listed as fauxnews.com with no specific byline, this “article” has the distinct tobacco-scented aroma of pro-pollution propagandist Steven Milloy, The Junk Scientist, who writes frequently for them.

  15. Jim Edelson says:

    The EPA GHG rule down to the White House only regulates sources over 25000 tonnes per year. These fools on FOX just plain ignorant about how regulations work – and how could Heritage be called a think tank? The haven’t a clue what they are talking about. EPA has the manpower – it is estimated that only about 13000 sources would be covered.

  16. Mike#22 says:

    Big Oil: “A Carbon Tax is the simplest way to reduce people’s reliance on exhaling directly into the atmosphere.”

  17. Kevin says:

    Well, Lief (#6), looks like it is just us in the “in your face camp” on this one. I tend to think that when faced w/these kinds of completely empty arguments by the opposition that you know immediately you are not dealing with someone who knows what they are talking about nor will they listen to any kind of analysis or numbers. In that case, quick comebacks that show their position to be utterly ridiculous are what is called for. People should make it such that the folks who spout the “we exhale it” sort of argument are painted as the fools they are.

    Normally, I think respectful discussions are most helpful, but if you’re dealing with someone who clearly won’t operate in that camp, or you are only dealing with a propaganda machine, then it is time to resort to humor and ridicule.

  18. Jim Bouldin says:

    It’s also very important to make the distinction between those who are repeating nonsense in a sort of tentative way (like, “well I heard such and such”), in which they are actually soliciting maybe some better information from you, versus the airheads who are just propaganda mouthpieces. Have to be cognizant of possibly alienating the former.

  19. Kevin says:

    re #18, Yes, absolutely. I think the ridicule should be reserved primarily for those cases where we are clearly dealing with the source of the propaganda.