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  • “Carbon” is not a synonym for “CO2”

    Posted by David Foster on May 13th, 2011 (All posts by )

    …any more than “hydrogen” is a synonym for “H2O.”

    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) seems a little confused on this point.

    I’ve noticed quite a few people, in various debates about environmental matters, referring to “carbon” as generically a bad thing. Some of them are probably just using it as a shorthand for carbon dioxide, in order to save syllables or characters—others, though, really do seem to think that the discussion is about some sinister product of the Industrial Revolution, rather than the natural compound that they exhale with every breath and that is required for the growth of plants. Maybe they think it’s about carbon particulates.

    The situation isn’t helped by various corporations which, when promoting their products/technologies on environmental grounds, now almost always talk about how they reduce carbon, or at best carbon dioxide, rather than talking about reductions in real air pollution in the form of mercury, sulfur dioxide, etc. The terms “carbon” and “carbon dioxide” are now generally being used as shorthand for atmospheric Bad Things.

    Returning to Boxer, the levels of her ignorance and demagoguery are astonishing–but we should not forget also her amazing arrogance and self-centeredness.

     

    18 Responses to ““Carbon” is not a synonym for “CO2””

    1. Dan from Madison Says:

      Heh I love this post – I get a lot of HVAC techs that come into my business looking for carbon dioxide detectors when they are really after carbon monoxide detectors – happens all the time and this is from guys who do it for a living.

    2. David Foster Says:

      “Carbon dioxide detectors”…somebody, possibly Dogbert, could make a good living packaging these up and selling them through various channels with good connections to the airhead market.

    3. David Foster Says:

      About 5 years ago, a blogger reported the following conversation between his girlfriend (a molecular biology major) and a hippie-type guy:

      Hippie: (reading newspaper) Ugh, look at this nanotechnology stuff. That’s so evil. They’re like… perverting everything in Mother Nature. It’s exactly like genetic engineering, you know.

      Girl: (finally losing patience) What? Exactly how in the hell is naotechnology “exactly like” genetic engineering? Huh? Care to enlighten me?

      Hippie: …

      Girl: …

      Hippie: They both use molecules.

      A big part of the justification for the increase in educational spending in the wake of Sputnik was the argument that, “We live in an increasingly scientific & technological society, so kids need to know something about science.” The schools were happy to take the money, but any focus on teaching real science, to the extent it ever happened at all, soon went by the boards.

    4. Dan from Madison Says:

      Well, there actually are carbon dioxide monitors (not detectors, heh) used in indoor air quality applications, but almost always guys are looking for co instruments when they saunter into my place of business or call.
      http://www.bacharach-inc.com/co2-monitor-2800.htm

    5. David Foster Says:

      Well, just get a private-label version made (painted green) and see if you can get it sold through Whole Foods or some such. Could be a winner!

    6. Paul Milenkovic Says:

      It is the fault of near-universal access to higher education.

      I have heard many complaints from a woman I know about how the people in various clerical positions are total incompetents. I pointed out that back in the day, you had some really competent secretaries because that was the only white collar job open to a woman, but nowadays, a woman who has any smarts gets a PhD and is doing what that woman in question is doing and then complaining about the bad help.

      Same thing — you used to have a lot of smart guys in the trades because college was not an option for most people. These days, any man (and many women too these days) with any smarts goes to Engineering College. If they get good grades, they go work for Microsoft, Google, Intel, or some high-powered startup. If they have just average grades, they work for the power company. If they drop out of college because they can’t tell their CO from their CO2 or know the reason why the difference is so important, they into the HVAC business . . . or get elected to statewide office :-)

    7. David Foster Says:

      Paul, I actually think many pretty smart people go into the trades. I know several aircraft mechanics, for example–I don’t think any of them have graduated from a 4-year college, but their ability to think in cause-and-effect terms puts many college graduates to shame.

      The number of classical secretarial positions has been greatly reduced over the decades (one software exec commented that “the main thing we’ve done with the computer revolution so far is to turn highly-paid executives into incompetent clerk-typists”) and the huge clerical organizations that once existed in places like insurance companies were largely supplanted by computers–but somehow we seem to have as much clerical work, in various forms, as ever.

    8. Dan from Madison Says:

      I would say that in my experience right now that the HVAC trade is a mixed bag. We have dealers on the one hand who are rocket scientists and need the most useless information on everything and guys on the other end that cannot read (true).

      In general, if you decided not to go to college and applied yourself you could have a fantastic career as an HVAC mechanic anywhere in the US (or the world for that matter). Good wrenches and tinners are not only hard to come by, they are coveted.

    9. Paul Milenkovic Says:

      “Paul, I actually think many pretty smart people go into the trades.”

      Oh c’mon, like I don’t know that.

      Noted HVAC person Dan-from-Madison goes on a tirade that the reason techs come into his shop asking for a CO2 meter when they really want a CO meter to check the combustion on a furnace is is somehow the fault of the Senator from California. Senator Boxer is hyper-partisan, misinformed, and a menace to a prosperous economy, but to attribute some HVAC techs getting tongue-tied and saying CO2 when they mean CO is silly and deserves a silly response.

      I make the remark that college drop outs are suited for the HVAC industry and for high political office. Does that level of political satire need to be explained?

    10. Dan from Madison Says:

      “Noted HVAC person Dan-from-Madison goes on a tirade that the reason techs come into his shop asking for a CO2 meter when they really want a CO meter to check the combustion on a furnace is is somehow the fault of the Senator from California. Senator Boxer is hyper-partisan, misinformed, and a menace to a prosperous economy, but to attribute some HVAC techs getting tongue-tied and saying CO2 when they mean CO is silly and deserves a silly response.”

      My comment was:
      “Heh I love this post – I get a lot of HVAC techs that come into my business looking for carbon dioxide detectors when they are really after carbon monoxide detectors – happens all the time and this is from guys who do it for a living.”

      Which makes the point that not only persons in the US Senate and elsewhere are making these types of mistakes but people in the trade as well.

      So I have to ask you Paul – what in blazes are you talking about?

    11. Michael Kennedy Says:

      Barbara Boxer is an outlier in almost every category although I don’t know how she was in bed back when that was a concern.

      In general, if you decided not to go to college and applied yourself you could have a fantastic career as an HVAC mechanic anywhere in the US (or the world for that matter). Good wrenches and tinners are not only hard to come by, they are coveted.

      That’s an interesting comment because I have a nephew, ex-Marine with a bachelors degree who completed an apprenticeship in elevator maintenance and installation and is now a supervisor. He wants to get out of Chicago. Well, when your field is elevators, you are a bit limited. However HVAC is a big industry in hot climates like Tucson. I’ll have to have a talk with him. An immediate problem is that he can’t afford to put his step-daughter in Catholic school and she is harassed daily by the black majority in her school (Southwest side).

    12. morgan Says:

      Barbara isn’t the brightest light bulb in a dark cellar–maybe a watt or two ahead of Maxine Waters, but still dumb.

    13. Tatyana Says:

      …and I especially like “carbon footprint”.
      That – from a “Greening Our Buildings” consultant, no less. I asked him, did he meant a pencil graphite or a diamond, but he still looked at me, eyes squared.

    14. Tatyana Says:

      Dan, you should buy some small plant pots and sell them as CO2 indicators.

    15. Dan from Madison Says:

      Heh good idea Tatyana.

    16. veryretired Says:

      Tangentially, there is a great essay by Walter Mead linked through Instapundit about the bankruptcy of the supposed educated elite class.

      My own belief, expressed here and other places, is that the over-reach of our leadership class has clearly revealed that the more they try to control every aspect of our lives, the more it becomes obvious that they simply don’t know what they’re doing.

      We must reduce the power and scope of the state the elites manipulate for their own purposes, not because of some esoteric philosophical theory, but due to the painfully obvious fact that they are utterly incompetent.

      The more they try to control and manage, the worse everything gets. It is a direct correllation, repeated again and again, in society after society.

      It isn’t the people who are ignorant, but those who claim to know how to run everything due to their elite credentials. They are running us off a very high cliff, and there are rocks below.

    17. Michael Kennedy Says:

      I have sort of been living in the 1920s for the past few months as I read about Calvin Coolidge. I am also a great fan of the expatriate elite of people like Gerald and Sara Murphy who led wonderful lives in the 1920s in Paris but they eventually came back to the US after 1930 and Gerald, for all his talent in painting, took over his father’s business, Mark Cross leather goods, and kept it going through the Depression. They were rich, then they lost much of their fortune and came back to work, but never did I find evidence of their opinions on politics. Now we have an elite, with no accomplishments to their credit,telling us things that have no basis in any economic theory, except perhaps Marxism which has failed everywhere it has been tried.

      It can be frustrating.

    18. onparkstreet Says:

      Barbara Boxer really irritated me in that hearing. What an attitude for a servant of the people….

      – Madhu