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Boehner on the Environment: Shit Happens

By John Fox · April 22nd, 2009 · Editorial

As Earth Day arrives once again, it’s comforting to know that our political leaders are safeguarding the environment for future generations. Take U.S. Rep. John Boehner, the pride of Southwestern Ohio.

“The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical,” he said on ABC’s This Week With George Stephenopoulos April 19. “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.”

No biggie, Boehner says, the climate changes all the time, people breathe and cows do what they do. Hey, shit happens — literally — so stop worrying.

That’s a slightly different point of view from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which issued a finding April 17 that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that might endanger public health. The finding results from a scientific review ordered by the U.S.

Supreme Court in 2007.

The EPA says it conducted “rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific analysis” of six gases that scientists have identified as potentially harmful to the environment in high concentrations: carbon dioxide, hydrofluorocarbons, methane, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. “The science clearly shows that concentrations of these gases are at unprecedented levels as a result of human emissions,” an EPA press release states, “and these high levels are very likely the cause of the increase in average temperatures and other changes in our climate.”

Rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific analysis? OK. Pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo from the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives? Ridiculous.

As anyone who took high school chemistry might know, cow poop produces methane, not carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide and methane were two of the six gases studied by the EPA, but their potential harm appears to be as greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere, not as carcinogens. I didn’t see anything in the EPA report that suggests high concentrations of carbon dioxide cause cancer.

Boehner might want to focus on two things that do cause cancer: cigarette smoking and overexposure to UV radiation in sunlight. The deeply tanned smoker has a lot more to worry about than cow patties.

Even if he has little regard for his own health, Boehner is a key leader in crafting Republican Party strategy and policy. His misinformed reaction to the EPA report simply is another attempt to deflect attention from the Obama administration’s interest in cleaner energy and green technology.

After all, the scientists might be right. Humans might be able to change consumption and energy habits to reduce dangerous gas emissions. And new U.S. industries might crop up to devise cleaner and greener ways of living.

That’s change I can believe in.

CONTACT JOHN FOX: jfox@citybeat.com



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