CAPE ELIZABETH — The Environmental Protection Agency came to Portland on Aug. 6 to tell us about its plan to reduce CO2 air pollution. (See Kevin Miller’s Aug. 7 Portland Press Herald story, “EPA official praises Maine, other New England states for climate protection.”)

The only problem is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is many things. It’s a greenhouse gas. It can enter our water, and a tiny portion of this “dissolved” CO2 can combine with water to form a mild acid (H2CO3 – carbonic acid).

But it’s not a pollutant. It’s exactly the opposite of a pollutant – it’s a vital component of our atmosphere required by every plant on the face of the earth. It’s what we exhale when we breathe.

But the EPA says that CO2 is air pollution. How can this be?

The EPA has bastardized and distorted the basic science of organic chemistry to serve a craven political end. President Obama has been unable to pass his global warming legislation to limit the burning of fossil fuels, so he has ordered his EPA administrators to simply declare that atmospheric CO2 is air pollution and then write regulations to limit it.

I attended the EPA presentation and “listening session” last Wednesday with about 50 other people – all of whom seemed to be members of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Island Institute or various other environmental activist groups. As the Press Herald reporter so aptly described, the audience was “decidedly friendly” to the EPA position – not so much to my objections.


About two dozen audience members rose to voice their opinions. Each expressed alarm and concern about CO2 and its effect on global warming (not about air pollution, mind you). All received a warm round of applause at the conclusion of their remarks. All save one.

My remarks were met with a stony silence as I walked back to my seat from the microphone. For when I rose to speak, I opined that while the EPA has done some terrific work in the past curbing air pollution, it was now making a terrible mistake by falsely labeling CO2 as air pollution.

I explained that as an engineer, how could I but doubt the agency’s scientific credibility in the future, if today it prostituted its scientific expertise in order to curry favor with President Obama in this case?

EPA officials listened, but they still say that CO2 is air pollution.

I told Curt Spalding, the EPA administrator for New England, that I buy Backyard Farms tomatoes every week at my local Hannaford supermarket. Backyard Farms grows tomatoes year-round in a giant greenhouse in Madison.

In July 2013, I emailed the company to ask: “What concentration of CO2 (in ppm – parts per million) do you strive to reach for optimum tomato growth?”


Kate Oliver of Backyard Farms replied: “I spoke with our operations manager at the greenhouse. He tells me it is between 500 to 800 ppm.”

The EPA and its supporters at the Portland hearing last week have all been telling us that our present 400 ppm of CO2 is air pollution at catastrophic levels and that drastic steps must be immediately be taken to reduce this level. Yet in Madison, Backyard Farms is pumping enough additional CO2 into its greenhouses to double that “catastrophic” level of air pollution.

Backyard Farms tells me that tomatoes grow better at 800 ppm of CO2. The EPA political appointees and environmental extremists tell me that 400 ppm of CO2 is a catastrophic level of air pollution. Who am I to believe?

I believe Backyard Farms.

Lead is real air pollution, and the closer we can get to 0 percent lead in our environment, the healthier we humans will be.

Mercury is a real pollutant, and the closer we can get to 0 percent mercury in our environment, the healthier we humans will be.


All real pollutants share this same feature: The closer to 0 percent that we reduce the pollutant, the better. But this is not true for CO2. If we ever reduced atmospheric CO2 to 0 percent, every plant on earth would die and the human race would go extinct. It is completely illogical to label CO2 as air pollution.

But the EPA says that CO2 is air pollution.

Ernest Rutherford, the British physicist who first discovered the structure of the atom in 1912, once said, “In science there is physics – all else is stamp collecting.”

The EPA has shown me that by bowing to political pressure, its science has degenerated into stamp collecting.

— Special to the Press Herald

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