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State Rep. Says Biking Is Not Earth Friendly Because Breathing Produces CO2 976

Posted by samzenpus
from the pedal-price dept.
terbeaux writes "The fact that Rep Ed Orcutt (R — WA) wants to tax bicycle use is not extraordinary. The representative's irrational conviction is. SeattleBikeBlog has confirmed reports that Orcutt does not feel bicycling is environmentally friendly because the activity causes cyclists to have 'an increased heart rate and respiration.' When they contacted him he clarified that 'You would be giving off more CO2 if you are riding a bike than driving in a car...' Cascade blog has posted the full exchange between Rep Ed Orcutt and a citizen concerned about the new tax."
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State Rep. Says Biking Is Not Earth Friendly Because Breathing Produces CO2

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  • by pianophile (181111) on Monday March 04, 2013 @09:59AM (#43066837)
    Does the House GOP caucus have a minimum stupidity requirement?
  • by nurhussein (864532) on Monday March 04, 2013 @09:59AM (#43066841) Homepage
    In an ideal world, we would be able to eliminate CO2 from our atmosphere completely

    Plants need CO2 to produce food. If you eliminated CO2 we'd die as a species, along with every other species.
  • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) on Monday March 04, 2013 @09:59AM (#43066845)
    Also, by his reasoning we should start killing our population off, because then we'll produce less CO2 when they're dead. What a moron.
  • Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:01AM (#43066861)
    Set up two sealed rooms with a glass wall.
    In one room have a car outside the window with its exhaust piped into the room.
    In the other have a cyclist on an exercise bike working out. Pipe his exhalations into the room.
    Outfit the room with a nice desk and sofa and other accouterments. Then ask the esteemed congressman which room he would like to spend the day in.

    For myself it would depend on if the cyclist had eaten garlic recently!
  • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:01AM (#43066863)
    By his own reasoning, Rep Ed Orcutt needs to lower his CO2 production by keeping his mouth shut. He would do both the planet and his colleagues a favor.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:01AM (#43066865)
    It's clear that he is just lobbying, and that's just not true. But the benefits of people commuting aren't only in helping the atmosphere, but our society, full of obese people that doesn't interact with others and act like retards with their cars.
  • Simple test (Score:3, Insightful)

    by devforhire (2658537) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:04AM (#43066903)

    This can be solved by a simple test.

    Put several plants and some animals in a closed garage and ride your bike all day long. Take note of any sick or dead plants/animals afterwards.

    After this if you are still convinced bikes are bad for the environment, do the same test using your car instead of the bike.

  • by geekmux (1040042) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:05AM (#43066905)

    Did a representative of MY government just try and tell me that my breath is somehow more harmful to the environment than the Hummer exhaust I'm choking on?

    Where is the damn toilet handle on Congress already...Will someone please go tell Nicolas Cage to go find THAT please? I could care less about a fountain of youth if the world is going to be run by this level of ignorance.

  • by Captain Hook (923766) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:05AM (#43066907)
    CO2 isn't a problem, it's part of a cycle for Carbon in the biosphere. Adding significantly more Carbon to the biosphere from sources which have been locked away hundreds of millions of years in the form of CO2 is a problem.

    Even if people produced more CO2 than cars to travel the same distance (which they don't) it still wouldn't be a problem because the Carbon the cyclist is using is already part of the biosphere.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:07AM (#43066939)
    Nope - you just need to be able to take the economy hostage and kiss rich people's asses.
  • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:08AM (#43066959)

    No. The second point is complete nonsense.

    Every gram of carbon dioxide you emit while cycling was previously fixed directly from the atmosphere by a plant or alga. If you didn't re-emit it, the food you would have eaten would rot instead, and the same CO2 would be released by bacteria. Even if that food had never been grown, the plant or alga that grew in its place would have eventually decayed, emitting the same CO2.

  • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by faedle (114018) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:10AM (#43066985) Homepage Journal

    And even assertion 1 is faulty.

    Cyclists also pay for roads via sales and property taxes in Washington, probably reasonably close to their proportional use of same. Cyclists are more likely to use city streets over state highways (and aren't allowed on Interstates at all), occupy a considerably smaller footprint than an automobile, and impact the road surface considerably less, if at all, given their light weight.

  • by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:11AM (#43066999)

    In an ideal world, we would be able to eliminate CO2 from our atmosphere completely

    Plants need CO2 to produce food. If you eliminated CO2 we'd die as a species, along with every other species.

    The Earth also needs CO2 to stay warm. We'd be in a permanent ice age if there was literally zero in the atmosphere.

    Moderation. People have surprising difficulty with the concept.

  • Re:RTFA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekmux (1040042) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:12AM (#43067023)

    He doesn't say that bicycles produce more CO2 than cars, he says that:

    • Drivers pay road tax to cover the costs of roads, including bike lanes, why shouldn't bikes pay some of this?
    • Cycling increases your respiration rate so produces more CO2 than not cycling.

    Both of these are true. The only one he is actually using to justify his position (that bikes should pay road tax) is the former, the second point is refuting the point that bikes are environmentally friendly. The second point is debatable: it's a question of what the basic comparison is. Cycling is more polluting than staying at home, less polluting than driving a car.

    There are lots of valid reasons to mock Republicans, we don't need to make more up.

    Yeah, you're right, because the concept of taxing breathing now makes sense. How about the dog who takes twice as many breaths as I do walking? Should we start taxing the animals too? Be careful if you do, those blue whales are gonna all swim to the Cayman Islands to avoid their tax.

    Yup, they were right all along. Death is the only way to get out of taxes. You have to stop breathing.

    I don't care how you want to slice this. Enough is enough.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:13AM (#43067027)

    We need the name of your biology teacher, pronto.

    Don't be so quick to blame the teacher. You can lead a moron to knowledge, but you can't make him learn.

  • Wrong Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NEDHead (1651195) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:14AM (#43067039)

    What is remarkable about this exchange is not that bike riders are enhanced CO2 producers, but that a republican legislator has acknowledged the CO2 needs to be recognized as a greenhouse gas, which in excess is bad.

    It is a start...

  • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tibit (1762298) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:16AM (#43067063)

    You haven't been paying attention to politics I see. The deal is only and precisely in how he frames his "facts". He is implying -- and his statements are specifically construed to do so to the uneducated masses -- that the respiratory CO2 output of a bike rider is somehow in the ballpark of a per-person amortized CO2 output of any ICE means of transport (whatever comes to Joe Sixpack's mind). This is of course sheer lunacy, but he is careful by not stating it outright -- he'd be rightfully called a fool. What he is doing is what politicians do: what's important is what he is not saying -- what the ignorants' minds will fill the voids with. It's a rather obvious means of manipulating the public -- on the surface there's no way to accuse him of anything much, really. That's where the problem is with politicians.

  • by Tridus (79566) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:17AM (#43067073) Homepage

    There is one. It's called an election.

    Unfortunately it relies on voters not being total fucking morons and voting in their own kind. As you can see, that plan has significant flaws.

  • by Tridus (79566) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:18AM (#43067097) Homepage

    Yes, they need to be dumb enough to appeal to the "moron voters that fear intelligence" demographic.

    Said demographic is quite large.

  • by kannibal_klown (531544) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:21AM (#43067133)

    It's clear that he is just lobbying, and that's just not true. But the benefits of people commuting aren't only in helping the atmosphere, but our society, full of obese people that doesn't interact with others and act like retards with their cars.

    The only problem with that, is my experience is the that the percentage of idiots in cars is roughly the same as the percentage of idiots on bicycles. Which isn't bad, I guess, if there were only bicycles in the road.

    But when you mix bikes and cars together, even with a biking lane, the idiots make things dangerous. A) because they're idiots and B) because SOME cyclists think that since they're not in cars they don't need to follow the rules.

    And some of the biggest idiots I've talked to about it, are people that have recently switched "for the environment" Like I've yelled at people that did the below, and their response was simply "But it's good for the environment." Great, will the environment save me from the lawsuit your family will file because I hit you with the car because you swerved in front of me?

    Stuff I've seen
    - Let's speed down the middle of a one-way street, going the wrong way.
    - Let's ride down the middle of an actual highway... yeh, nothing bad will happen here. (Seriously, saw that and went WTF)
    - That red light (or stop sign) at the bottom of the hill is only for cars... I don't need to stop or even slow down
    - Let's make a left turn here while on this 40MpH road without indicating or looking, I'm sure the car behind me can stop in time
    - Hmm, I think I'll dig in my pocket and look for my cellphone, then start talking on the cellphone, while weaving around like a drunk idiot
    - Hmm, I'm obviously not a great cyclist... so let me ride carelessly on a 40MpH road, fall down in the middle of the road without a helmet, and nearly cause a bunch of accidents as they try not to drive over my head.

    Obviously, there are plenty of careful and educated cyclists out there... especially the ones that take it seriously (helmet, solid bike, proper signals, etc). But the idiots out there are quite bountiful. And of course, hitting one due to their stupidity will obviously result in ME getting hit with criminal and/or civil issues out the whazoo.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:28AM (#43067215)

    Well yes, but not because its Asparagus, but rather because it's grown in Peru and imported at great CO2 cost using petroleum fueled ships and truck:

    http://www.coopfoodstore.coop/content/what-price-asparagus

    In fact, thin air is a strong CO2 producer..... if you bottle it in Peru and ship it to the breather in trucks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:28AM (#43067221)

    Most of these claims often analyze the entire chain of producing asparagus, while neglecting to do the same for fuel the bus is using. So while superficially it is an interesting statement, the way it is derived is probably flawed. You can't compare the carbon footprint of asparagus vs. the emissions of a city bus. You also have to take into consideration the carbon footprint of the fuel the city bus is using.

  • Re:heh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DudeTheMath (522264) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:30AM (#43067249) Homepage

    Annual miles traveled x weight x lane width needed. Here's my nickel, kid.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:30AM (#43067253)

    As someone who regularly commutes to work by bicycle, I constantly think WTF! when I see other cyclists pulling that crap. When I ride, I am constantly aware that I'm not as likely to be seen by motorists and I'm far more likely to come out on the raw end of a collision. I don't get how other cyclists can be so blase about it.

  • by lxs (131946) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:30AM (#43067255)

    I'm struggling to see the relevance but if you insist: Your average politician prefers wearing 40 denier stockings under their trousers. Garters are optional.

  • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by characterZer0 (138196) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:31AM (#43067277)

    Also would depend if the person in the smoke room had to watch a video of the bicyclist yelling "AsssHOLE!!!" and raise his middle finger as most of them seem to as they weave their way across busy city intersections.

    What is the difference between a driver and a cyclist? You can't hear the driver yelling "ASSHOLE!!!" every 10 seconds as he weaves his way across busy city intersections.

  • Re:Wrong Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob the Bold (788862) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:36AM (#43067339)

    What is remarkable about this exchange is not that bike riders are enhanced CO2 producers, but that a republican legislator has acknowledged the CO2 needs to be recognized as a greenhouse gas, which in excess is bad.

    It is a start...

    You've got to be the most optimistic commenter on Slashdot today.

  • the problem is the alternative: a world where a self-appointed subclass has deemed that they are more worthy than the people themselves to decide what is good for you. the truth is, complete morons voting and complete morons getting elected is a world far, far better than the alternatives

    if you don't believe me, ask the chinese (the people, not their government). they look at the usa, with all of the morons voting and getting elected, with deep envy

    you have no idea how good you have it. i'm being 100% serious

    caveat: we really need to get the fucking money out of our election process. that's the real evil

  • by sootman (158191) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:41AM (#43067413) Homepage Journal

    I haven't read the book but I find that hard to believe for many reasons.

    1. You are going to breathe some anyway, so you need to look at how much more CO2 you give off than if you were just sitting. And they need to compare a typical rider, not Lance Armstrong in competition mode. The bicycle is one of the most efficient forms of transportation ever made, in terms of distance traveled per energy put in. I rode a bike pretty much exclusively in college, and in a flat town, it's less work than walking. Pedal, coast. Pedal, coast. Pedal, coast.

    2. If you're going to look at all the CO2 it took to make some asparagus, then you need to be fair and look at all the CO2 it took to make every single component of the car, and assemble the car, and all the CO2 it took to gather and refine the petroleum that's in the tank -- not just the CO2 that's coming out the tailpipe. I'd also be curious how he made his measurements -- like the saying goes, it takes a lot to build a factory to make one can of soup, but after you've done that, the next million cans are pretty easy.

    3. I'd also like the see the footprints of more foods. There's probably a 10x, if not 100x, difference between the highest and lowest foods, and as you say, we don't all eat just asparagus.

    4. And finally, are you talking about the entire bus, or just one rider's worth? The good Rep. Orcutt is talking about biking versus driving a car, and we all know that a bus with 60 people gives off less CO2 than 60 people driving.

    If you're familiar with the book, I'd be curious to know the answer to any of those questions.

    In any case, the representative is full of shit. When I'm walking my kid to school, and we get to the door, I can smell the exhaust of the dozens of cars sitting there. It does not smell like that from an equal number of people breathing.

  • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tazan (652775) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:50AM (#43067505)
    Roads are usually paid for with a gasoline tax. This worked out great when everyone drove cars as the more you drove the more you paid. The problem is as we move to alternative fuels there will be no one left to pay for the roads.

    Bike lanes cost money to build, and money to maintain. They may not get worn out by the bicyclists but they still need to have the street sweeper run, the lines painted, signs posted, cracks sealed, etc. Around here the bike lanes are not used nearly as much as the rest of the street, I would say probably the bike lanes cost more per mile used than the rest of the street.
  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:53AM (#43067537)

    Weeds are plants in the wrong place. And pollutants are chemicals in the wrong place. Dihydrogen monoxide certainly can be a pollutant. In times of flood for example. Or in my whisky.

    Maybe the people who set up this vox-pop trap weren't as clever as they thought they were.

  • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1s44c (552956) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:55AM (#43067547)

    No. The second point is complete nonsense.

    Every gram of carbon dioxide you emit while cycling was previously fixed directly from the atmosphere by a plant or alga. If you didn't re-emit it, the food you would have eaten would rot instead, and the same CO2 would be released by bacteria. Even if that food had never been grown, the plant or alga that grew in its place would have eventually decayed, emitting the same CO2.

    You are missing the secondary costs. These are things like the oil burnt by machinery to turn the soil, plant the seeds, pull up the plants, process and package the plants, deliver them to supermarkets, and the gas you burn cooking them.

  • by tverbeek (457094) on Monday March 04, 2013 @10:58AM (#43067589) Homepage
    It's bad enough when people with degrees in Law or Political Science or Business Administration try to legislate on scientific questions. What's even scarier is the fact that this guy received an A.S. in Forestry from the University of Maine, and a B.S. in Forestry Management from the University of Idaho. Which I'm sure is a lot less biochemically rigorous a field of study than, say, Botany, but someone with that kind of credentials ought to have a better understanding of environmental science than he shows.
  • by paiute (550198) on Monday March 04, 2013 @11:11AM (#43067789)

    The "stuff that matters" is that Americans elected that kind of people to make laws based on his knowledge.

    The politician cited in this story makes laws based on the wishes of his largest contributors, not his personal knowledge.

  • Re:RTFA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by unimacs (597299) on Monday March 04, 2013 @11:16AM (#43067863)
    Maybe I'll just reword the above to say this:

    When gas taxes are large enough cover the real costs of the automobile to society, maybe then we can talk about taxing bicyclists to help cover the costs of roads.
  • Jesus (Score:4, Insightful)

    by azav (469988) on Monday March 04, 2013 @11:31AM (#43068071) Homepage Journal

    We really need to limit the stupidity - or ignorance of basic science - in our elected officials.

  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Monday March 04, 2013 @11:36AM (#43068153)

    Does the House GOP caucus have a minimum stupidity requirement?

    Although I hate to be fair to Republicans, I'm going to point out that some pretty unqualified people can get elected to state legislatures regardless of party. In a heavily Republican (or heavily Democratic) district, a candidate might actually run unopposed. It can be hard for even the majority local party to recruit a good candidate. Not just anyone can get their boss to give them 2 or 3 months off to serve in the statehouse. So you just might end up with an unemployed loon getting in by default.

  • by Tobenisstinky (853306) on Monday March 04, 2013 @11:39AM (#43068211)

    If we are talking about the carbon footprint of growing the asparagus, don't we also have to include the carbon footprint of producing the the bus?

  • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Monday March 04, 2013 @11:42AM (#43068255) Journal

    The secondary costs are small. I can't not eat by simply not cycling, I have to eat anyway.

    If I bike to work (12.5 hilly miles in each direction) the amount of extra food I have to eat compared to just sitting on my backside all day is approximately 1 banana or equivalent thereof, which is a pretty small fraction of daily food intake. While a competition cyclist might need a lot more than that, a utility cyclist generally isn't training for competition and rides at a lower, less energy intensive pace.

  • by operagost (62405) on Monday March 04, 2013 @11:51AM (#43068345) Homepage Journal

    Does the House have a minimum stupidity requirement?

    FTFY. Remember, we've got Maxine Waters saying 170 million jobs will be lost due to the sequester, when we don't even have that many Americans in the work force right now. Stupidity is standard equipment for the politician. If you keep pointing at one party, you'll let the other one off the hook.

  • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Monday March 04, 2013 @11:57AM (#43068459)

    the problem is the alternative: a world where a self-appointed subclass has deemed that they are more worthy than the people themselves to decide what is good for you

    There's another alternative to that. One in which everyone is allowed to vote, but instead of encouraging everyone to get up the day of the election and cast a vote, it doesn't matter who, we teach them that the civil responsibility is to get informed on the issues and the candidates, and then going out and voting. The important part of the voting process is the getting informed part. If you failed to do that because you didn't have the time, then you've already failed at your civil responsibility, and you should self-select yourself to stay home.

    I don't support telling any citizen they're not allowed to vote, even if I think they're voting for the wrong person or they're not informed enough to be voting, because who I am to decide that?. That said, I can't support breeding a culture in which we think the value of our democratic government is in pushing a few buttons and then wearing an "I voted!" sticker. I often don't find the time to do my civic duty and being truly informed myself, but I self-select myself out of the voting pool when that happens. I'm not going to my part in this even worse by canceling out the vote of a more responsible citizen.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday March 04, 2013 @12:00PM (#43068527)

    Most of the calories you eat are being made with lots and lots of fossil fuels both for fertilizer and even basic processing like separating wheat from chaff.

    Sure a car is worse, but cyclists and all humans at this point are increasing net CO2 just by eating.

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