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CO2 As an Air Toxic?



By Fred Palmer, Senior Fellow CO2 Policy, the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and Head of the Saving US Coal Campaign


April 15, 2020 - In April of last year, almost 50 environmental groups across the country filed a Petition with EPA demanding CO2 be regulated as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act. EPA also refers to HAPs as “Air Toxics” in its regulatory activity.


Fred Palmer

The environmental petitioners are a group led by Food & Water Watch, a well-known Washington, DC based organization in the very large and very well-funded anti-fossil fuel use industry.

If the Petition is granted, the regulatory regime for all fossil fuel combustion would require eliminating CO2 emissions using Maximum Available Control Technology (MACT), with the cost of such deployment and use not relevant. Such a regulatory tool would immediately doom the remaining coal plants and cause major disruption and consumer costs for continued oil and natural gas use.

If ignored by the current EPA, expect appeal to the DC Court of Appeals similar to the lawsuit against EPA in the Massachusetts v EPA lawsuit that ultimately went to the Supreme Court with CO2 regulation following the Supreme Court 2007 decision. A court filing is now a potential at any time by the Petitioners; the Petition was filed on April 3, 2019, and EPA has a year to act.

The CO2 as an Air Toxic play is a major development in the effort to eliminate US coal combustion for electricity, and in the longer term in the ongoing efforts to eliminate all fossil fuel use. Could this happen in the US? Of course it could.
Vice President Biden and every candidate for President in the Democratic Party has voiced support for eliminating the use of fossil fuels over time, starting with Coal. Expect such views to be a major part of the Democratic Party Platform to be adopted this Summer and Candidate Biden to hold true to his pledge earlier in the year to eliminate such use. Treating CO2 as an Air Toxic in a future EPA would be a powerful regulatory tool requiring no action by Congress.

The climate agenda has advanced for decades as a seemingly inexorable force aimed at the elimination of all fossil fuel use, full stop. There is an antidote for it, as the Greening Earth Society showed in the 1990s while it was active in the field. The key is education at a sophisticated, ongoing level, as Greening Earth successfully showed. The message is human life itself: the industrial evolution of the human community advanced through fossil fuel use, the Human Environment benefits from such use and more CO2 in the atmosphere as a result allows more people to live longer and live better. That was the Greening Earth Society message and it is our message today.

Coal and other fossil fuels producers do not deal with the organized, well-funded environmental force on the same terms as the attackers deploy; the struggle will continue until one side or the other prevails. Taking on the science argument surrounding CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion makes advocates uneasy, defensive and unwilling to engage in the only way to win:

In Defense of CO2

Failure to so engage means conceding the playing field to the concept that CO2 is in fact an Air Toxic, and that fossil fuels use should ultimately be banned as a result. This is a plausible result, if absurd to us, but it could happen.

So how do you educate effectively?  Let’s use this incredible CO2 as Air Toxic Petition as our Poster Child for how absurd the anti-fossil fuel agenda is. Let’s educate all, including the Democratic Party leadership from Vice President Biden to Speaker Pelosi. Let’s tell them what we will tell EPA, next week on Earth Day, April 22, how ridiculous the Petition is:

The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (CO2 Center) will next week file a counter Petition with EPA requesting Summary Dismissal of the CO2 Air Toxic Petition.

In educating EPA and the American people, Democrat and Republican alike, we will start with CO2 first principles as published by the Ontario, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs:

 “Carbon Dioxide in Greenhouses (12/02/2016) - Carbon dioxide is an essential component of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a chemical process that uses light energy to convert CO2 and water into sugars in green plants. Sugars, are then used for growth within the plant, through respiration. The difference between the rate of photosynthesis and the rate of respiration is the basis for dry matter accumulation (growth) in the plant. In greenhouse production the aim of all growers is to increase dry matter content and economically optimize crop yield. CO2 Increases productivity through improved plant growth and vigor. Some ways in which productivity is increased by CO2 include earlier flowering, higher fruit yields, reduced bud absorption and roses, improved stem strength and flour size. Growers should regard CO2 is a nutrient.”

CO2 is an Air Toxic?  Really!

In the same pleading, we will incorporate the superb work of Dr. Idso in the CO2 Center Petition to repeal CO2 Endangerment submitted to EPA on March 9. We will underscore the absolute necessity of taking these matters on now, given the pendency of the Air Toxic Petition. In the request for relief, we will point out that EPA at the same time could simply declare the 2009 CO2 findings as no longer in effect given changed circumstances based on the passage of time. The new circumstances include the ongoing failures of the computer models that consistently run “hot” without regard to satellite temperature readings and radiosonde results. As important, we will also provide detailed metrics showing more people on earth, living longer and better, using more and more fossil fuels and a literal Greening of Planet Earth. All of this has occurred in the decade that has passed since EPA issued the CO2 Endangerment findings, and completely demolish the notion that more CO2 in the air is “adverse to human health and welfare”.

Lawyers call this “newly discovered evidence”, and there is no reason nor legal ability to re-litigate what was decided by EPA a decade ago, as misplaced as they were. And even if there is no action this year by the current EPA, we will be positioned to win this next year no matter who is running EPA. Facts will out, in other words.

Please provide financial support for The CO2 Center as we end the nightmare of CO2 Endangerment by defeating the CO2 as Air Toxic play by Food & Water Watch, et al. Your support is needed for the legal effort; it is also needed in educating the American people why CO2 Endangerment has always been wrong, and why Coal Resurgence is so important to the American people.

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