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Memo to PBS’s NewsHour: You can do better than “carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas thought to contribute to global climate change.”

By Joe Romm  

"Memo to PBS’s NewsHour: You can do better than “carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas thought to contribute to global climate change.”"

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So I’m watching an otherwise interesting story on “efforts to convert algae into clean fuel,” by the otherwise very solid Tom Bearden of PBS’s NewsHour.  Then, boom, he drops the media’s favorite wishy-washy hedge:

Wells also produce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas thought to contribute to global climate change.

C’mon.  I think we are at least one decade, if not two decades or more, passed a time when the words “thought to” are justified.

Note to Beardon:  Why exactly do you think it is called a greenhouse gas?

This hedge remains all too common in the media — see Memo to Wall Street Journal: You can do better than “greenhouse gases, which are believed to contribute to climate change.”

As I wrote in that earlier post, this hedge is especially pointless and misinforming because of the second hedge “” “contribute to.”  All but the most extremist deniers of the basic climate science accept that carbon dioxide contributes to global climate change.

So perhaps the NewsHour might catch up with the scientific understanding and write some variation of:

“¦ carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that causes the global climate to change.

And people wonder why the public is still underinformed on this subject.

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7 Responses to Memo to PBS’s NewsHour: You can do better than “carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas thought to contribute to global climate change.”

  1. Aaron Lewis says:

    Who sponsors the “NewsHour”?

    ExxonMobile, Chevron, and NMA. The folks at Newshour claim it does not affect editorial content, but they do not seem to do many climate change stories and the ones that they do run. . . .

  2. ken levenson says:

    It seems to me that that the science and public acceptance of AGW is akin to the process of humanity realizing that it was germs and viruses causing disease and death.

    To deny the effects of man made carbon emissions is now the equivalent of denying the effects of germs and viruses on our health.

    And those who hedge this point are not “being smart” they are being stupid.

  3. Wes Rolley says:

    Yeah, even their interactive web discussion on climate change quotes Ben Liebermann and only references the IPPC reports.

    Have we reached the point where being seen as politically balanced has more power than the search for truth?

  4. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    Joe, I found something much more troubling about the NewsHour algae story than just the writing, and perhaps one of you could elaborate on this for me.

    Many already understand that old-school biofuels are out because, “well to wheels”, they produce too much CO2. And so the promise of an algae for a bio-diesel or a switchgrass for an ethanol, when made in an exact way, could be carbon-neutral — releasing the same mount of CO2 when processed and burned, that was absorbed by the plant to begin with.

    But this NewsHour report clearly shows the intention to use UNDERGROUND CO2 from a nearby oil/gas well for its CO2 stock, to feed the algae. How does that work? How is that OK? That’s OLD CO2, isnt it? Not CURRENT atmospheric CO2. This completely negates the entire idea, doesn’t it?

    Tell me I’m missing something.

    [JR: Yes, that's lame.]

  5. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    Just to make the point clear, this is from the transcript of the NewsHour report. This section contains both the quote Joe is concerned about and the description of the baffling use of underground CO2, which may make for a very *carbon-positive* process if I’m reading this correctly.
    ___________________________________________________
    An unlikely partner

    TOM BEARDEN: Eventually, they ran up against the limits of the test tank, and went looking for capital to build a larger facility. Solix found a seemingly unlikely partner in the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, one of the country’s wealthiest. About 1,400 tribal members live on the Southern Ute Reservation near Durango, which sits on top of an enormous natural gas field.

    The reservation has what the Solix process needs: land, carbon dioxide, and water. One of the Ute Tribe’s natural gas wells sits right next door to the Solix project. It’s not an accident. Oil and gas deposits are often surrounded by underground water, which is brought to the surface when the fuels are extracted.

    This brackish or saline water is called produced water, and environmental laws require special handling, so it doesn’t contaminate the surface. Wells also produce carbon dioxide, *a greenhouse gas thought to contribute to global climate change.*

    The Solix technology uses both of these waste products to accelerate the growth of the algae. The produced water and CO2 are piped to the Solix project. The water fills the tanks. The CO2 is injected into the bags to nourish the algae.

    BRYAN WILLSON: In order to get high growth rate, we have to supply CO2 to the algae. And that happens in the very bottom of the panels. And what we have here is the air that is mixed with the CO2 is existing the panels through these tubes.

    TOM BEARDEN: So, it bubbles up through the bottom?

    BRYAN WILLSON: Bubbles up through the bottom.

    TOM BEARDEN: The algae feeds on the CO2, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere.

    [...until it's burned in an internal combustion engine ! -CSJ]

    Rebecca Kauffman is the president of Southern Ute Alternative Energy, which oversees the tribe’s energy investments.

    REBECCA KAUFFMAN, Southern Ute Alternative Energy: In looking at algae growth, when you see what the inputs are, its a great match with the gas industry, which is kind of nice.

    If we can take output from one industry or one sister company and use it, and make money off it in another way, that’s great. Why wouldn’t we do it?

    [Because its the very definition of carbon-positive? -CSJ]
    _________________________________________________________

    I’m not an expert on this and I hope to God I’m wrong and missing something. If it’s OLD CO2 from the gas well then it can’t be atmospherically neutral.

    -Christopher

  6. Dano says:

    Such phrases are the result of Newt’s “contract on America” and threatening PBS funding and inserting Republican shills into the organization.

    No surprise at all.

    Best,

    D

  7. Charlie says:

    How about “Gravity, a force that is thought to contribute to things falling down.”