18 April 2009

The Threat of Exhalation

Pardon me for living.

From today’s New York Times:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday formally declared carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases to be pollutants that endanger public health and welfare, setting in motion a process that will lead to the regulation of the gases for the first time in the United States.[Note 1, emphasis mine.]

So, according to the EPA, the simple act of my breathing is a threat to the public.

Now, lest I be accused of hyperbole here, I readily acknowledge that the EPA statement really pertains only to exhalation, not to the entire process of breathing.  Thus, when I inhale, I am not endangering public health and welfare according to the Obama administration.  (There may come a day when I must be concerned about inhaling more than my “fair share” of the vital gas we call air, but that is not yet on the regulatory agenda as far as I know.)  This wonderful freedom to inhale gives me great comfort, not only because I can do so without harming my neighbors, but for the very practical and selfish reason that my body makes great use of oxygen molecules.  

But alas, I have found that every time I inhale, within a few seconds I fall to the inevitable temptation to pollute the earth with that vile human discharge: carbon dioxide.  This is a happy circumstance for plants, of course, which would consider (if they had the capability to consider anything at all) carbon dioxide to be rather more like food than a pollutant.  However, the various governments of the world - the ones constituting the “fierce international criticism” before which the president and The New York Times quake - think otherwise.

It is not only the executive branch of our federal government that is now committed to regulating this ubiquitous "pollutant," carbon dioxide.  Both President Obama and EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson would “much prefer that Congress address global warming rather than have the E.P.A. tackle it through administrative action.”[Note 2.]  Congressional action would have the merit of formalizing the legality of controlling our carbon dioxide production, which the president might reasonably guess to be more palatable to certain elements of the public than his steady stream of executive decrees.  In any case, neither branch is likely to meet much resistance from the Supreme Court, which in 2007 ruled that the Clean Air Act gave the EPA authority to regulate “greenhouse gases.”  


1.  “E.P.A. Clears Way for Greenhouse Gas Rules,” The New York Times, 17 Apr 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/18/science/earth/18endanger.html?_r=1&hpw.

2.  This quote comes from an earlier version of the article in Note 1, which is no longer online.

1 comment:

LB said...

We might be grandfathered and parents of newborns can apply for a New Source Permit, so it's not that bad.