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Carbon Dioxide is Good For You!


With Earth Day fast approaching, major corporations are falling over themselves in their rush to jump on the Green Bandwagon. Home Depot is giving away 1,000,000 CFL lightbulbs this Sunday. (Unfortunately you have to drive to a Home Depot if you want to pick one up, unless you live in a mall.) Delta Airlines is planting one tree for every worldwide Delta employee, and asking customers to offset their carbon emissions by adding a voluntary donation to the Conservation Fund when purchasing tickets online. (“Telling people to plant trees is like them to drink more water to keep down rising sea levels,” noted Oliver Rackham, a botanist and landscape historian at Cambridge University, quoted in the Guardian earlier this year.) And let’s not even talk about the truly evil empire, Wal-Mart, suddenly discovering the positive publicity one can gain by embracing environmentalism. (And by promoting CFL lightbulbs.)

So it was almost with relief that I heard Fred Smith, Founder and Chairman of the Competitive Enterprise institute, sticking to the conservative hard line. “If I was Siberian the idea of having sunny days might be very appealing to me,” he explained cheerfully to On The Media’s Bob Garfield this week, reacting to the newly released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. “Also, growth seasons will last longer: CO2 is a growth nutrient.”

In case such optimism seems just a little, well, optimistic, Smith had no problem adopting a blame-the-victim policy. The threat of climate change, he said, was not climate change itself (all those lucky Siberians!) but the poor countries that can’t defend themselves.

“If Bangladesh were more like Florida there would be a lot less worry about the risk of climate change. Part of the answer… is making the world more adaptable, more resilient – and the point we make is that that requires more, not less energy, and today that means more CO2, not less CO2.”

Well that’s alright then, isn’t it? Unless you’re one of the millions of poor Floridians whose trailer park homes are hardly resilient to hurricanes. In case you think I’m making this up, you can listen to and read a full transcript of Fred Smith’s doublespeak interview available here. And you can learn more about the CEI’s far-from-impartial position by visiting its web site.
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PS: Home Depot made headlines of a different kind earlier this year when it fired CEO Robert Nardelli – with a $210,000,000severance package. I wonder what the average age is for workers on the shop floors. Both Nardelli and his successor, Frank Blake, previously worked for General Electric. Blake has additional Big Energy credentials: he came to Home Depot from the US Energy Department, where he was Deputy Secretary during the first Bush administration... You know, the one that refused to sign the Kyoto Agreement – or come up with alternatives.

Perhaps Blake is finally trying to put into action some policies that fell on deaf ears back in Washington. Or maybe he’s just trying to buy Home Depot some good PR given that a number of consumers decided to boycott the company in protest of Nardelli’s golden parachute. In case it’s a little of both, let’s celebrate Earth Day by not driving to the mall – free CFL lightbulbs be damned.
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(PPS: Full disclosure. Our family occasionally shops at Home Depot.)

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