Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On basic chemistry

Al Gore's Repower America project, which I registered for some time ago and receive e-mail updates from, asked me to write letters to the editor supporting the idea of a cap on carbon emissions. I happily obliged them with the following:
Subject: Carbon dioxide is NOT a pollutant, and cap-and-trade restrictions on it will kill the economy.

The Alliance for Climate Protection is currently trying to stir up more hysteria about the "pollutant" carbon dioxide, calling for a cap on "emissions" immediately. This is nonsensical.

First, anyone who knows basic chemistry understands that incomplete, inefficient combustion of hydrocarbon fuels(coal, oil or gas) creates real pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and oxides of nitrogen.
Complete combustion produces that bogeyman, carbon dioxide, and the horribly toxic compound, water vapor(incidentally many times better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide).

Second, carbon dioxide is as necessary for plant life as oxygen is for animals. Without it, photosynthesis cannot occur and the plant will die. A GE commercial within the past year showed an anthropomorphic tree embracing an "energy efficient house" with it's limbs, but a more accurate depiction would have had the tree gasping for the precious carbon dioxide that the house was no longer emitting.

In the end, it's rather unfortunate that most of the folks in Washington and in the anti-AGW movement don't seem to be in the category "anyone who knows basic chemistry", for then the ridiculous plan to restrict a compound so essential to life, and handicap future economic growth in the process, would be found strictly on the lunatic fringe where it belongs.

Christopher Renner

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