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EPA's Air Quality Report Smoking Gun of a Hatchet Job

EPA’s Air Report, Smoking Gun of a Hatchet Job

by Ben Tripp

Let’s talk about the environment. For those of you who don’t know, the environment is that large brown thing outside your window– unless you live in Manhattan, in which case it’s on the other end of the Triborough bridge; take the Major Deegan Expressway to the toll road and follow signs. You’ll know it when you see it. It’s very dry, except when there are floods; it’s very hot, except at the North Pole, where it’s actually sort of chilly. The temperature at the North Pole can get into the 40’s at night, at least in winter. Winter, which some of my younger readers may not remember, is that large white thing outside your window. Or it was. These days it’s more of a French gray, which looks good on everybody. Lucky us.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which was named back when the government still had a rapier-keen sense of humor, just released its annual report. If you or me released something like this in a crowded elevator, all the other passengers would get off on the next floor and take the stairs. But there’s no getting off this elevator, which is the express to Hades (Verrazano Bridge to Brooklyn/Queens Expressway southbound to Flushing Ave.- ask from there). The EPA report covers the state of the environment for the previous year; this time, “covered” is the right word. With a tight-fitting lid.

The problem is this: probably due to a collating error, the EPA forgot to mention global warming. This is rather like a doctor pronouncing his patient is in perfect health because he overlooked a trifling case of decapitation. Forget the headless corpse- global warming is the 500 pound gorilla in the corner of the room. And don’t think this gorilla is going to stay where it is, because it’s out of rye crisps and still mighty hungry. For the EPA to omit global warming from its report is tantamount to lunacy, although one can understand its hesitation, as nobody likes to be called a “Gloomy Gus” just on account of some old cloud of carbon dioxide floating around somewhere.

Carbon dioxide is the gas responsible for global warming. It is released when fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, and minced clams are burned. The emissions, a fancy word for smoke, rise into the atmosphere where they are trapped against a thin membrane composed of moonbeams and Silly String (the ozone layer). Carbon dioxide is notoriously claustrophobic; take some on a train and watch it freak out when you go through the tunnels. So just when it thinks it’s free to drift through the universe, the CO2 (a baby name for carbon dioxide its close friends still use) is stuck, and starts burning holes in the ozone layer with a cigarette. This is why cigarettes are bad for your health.

Automobile manufacturers and the coal and petroleum industries deny CO2 is a pollutant, because it occurs naturally in the course of environmental events, like when a coal seam deep beneath the ground catches fire after it’s been hit by lightning. I say anything that causes the atmosphere to turn into a poisonous canopy of death is pollution, and I don’t care if it comes from the tailpipe of a car or spotted owl breath. Be that as it may, splitting owl hairs about what is or isn’t pollution rather misses the point: if we don’t cut down on CO2 emissions, we all gonna die. Back when there were forests, the trees actually absorbed the CO2. Unfortunately our redwood patio furniture does not. So it strikes me as awkward, if not actually punishable by Divine Wrath, that the EPA excised this part of their report. It’s not that they decided beforehand they’d give the issue a rest and just avoided the subject: it was removed from the document on purpose, after it was written.

There is proof of this. A couple of references to the missing global warming section remain elsewhere in the report, which just goes to show you’re better off with a word processing program that includes the ability to search and replace. One of the citations runs as follows:

“Although the primary focus of this report is on national air pollution, global air pollution issues such as destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer and the effect of global warming on the earth’s climate are major concerns and are also discussed.”

Where there’s emissions, there’s fire, as they say.

So there it is: the EPA, undoubtedly on Administration orders, took out the part where we acknowledge that our atmosphere (a rectangular area from Baja, California diagonally Northeast to Quoddy Head, Maine) is connected, even vaguely, to any other part of the atmosphere. Like the one over Canada or Mexico. This is the kind of willful omission which causes once-serious scientists to be called “Silly Billies” by their peers, or worse.

The reasons for this hatchet job are obvious. Last year, the EPA put out a humiliating (for the Bush Administration) report which detailed the catastrophic effects of global warming, although they still tried to temper the bad news by pointing out that all properties in the remote Pacific islands of Tuvalu would soon be waterfront. After a barrage of grotesque apologies and explanations delivered at gunpoint (“By ‘death of all species on Earth’ we meant ‘yucky species'; cute animals will remain unharmed”) the issue was shot in the head and buried in a landfill outside Yucca Flats. Blindsided once, you bet Bush insisted on a look-see at the latest report before it came out, and then had it read aloud to him- slowly. This would explain why every copy of the report has several pages torn out of the middle. The remaining indications of the missing section might even be a cry for help from the EPA, and maybe someone ought to go down there and make sure they’re not being held at gunpoint by Dick Cheney.

Not that the EPA report, with or without global warming, is given much heed nowadays. Most serious scientists (meaning foreign ones) rely on other sources of data, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists ( a bunch of old Pinkos if you ask me).

Cynics might suggest that this represents yet another derailment of government “For the People, By the People” in which a venal, money-grubbing oligarchy uses Orwellian thought control tactics to maintain control over a fractious populace in the face of ever-mounting evidence that they are scumbags who care nothing for the future of life on Earth. Those cynics, I ask you. How can they sleep? I’m sure it’s all just intramural rivalry- the corporate oil guys in the Executive branch against the corporate oil guys in the EPA. Kind of a scratch game of volleyball played with the globe instead of a ball.

But the consequences are too immense to allow this game to continue. As Bush joked just the other day while visiting a stand of old-growth redwood trees, “The problem with climate scientists is I haven’t gotten around to having ‘em all killed yet.” At least that’s what I think he said. It was hard to hear him over the roar of the chainsaws.

Ben Tripp is a screenwriter. He can be reached at: credel@earthlink.net