Home / conservative illogic / Bill Nye the Science Guy v. Ted Cruz the Human Ooze

Bill Nye the Science Guy v. Ted Cruz the Human Ooze

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A gaggle of oil industry lackeys calling themselves the Competitive Enterprise Institute in May 2006 produced ads that ended with the line “We’d encourage our own parents to eat uranium if the uranium industry tossed a few moolahs our way CO2: they call it pollution, we call it Life!” (And yes the CEI did have ties to the tobacco industry at the time, why do you ask?)

At any rate, if you enjoyed laughing at those commercials, you will be delighted to know that Ted “Soup Dragon” Cruz has issued a 10th anniversary remix.

My initial reaction was similar to Hilzoy’s, but as it ran along scatological lines I’ll spare everyone.

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  • How can it be pollution if it’s something our bodies excrete?!?

    Ted Cruz for Wastewater Commissioner!

    • N__B

      Joe – Grist for your mill. You might consider adding a way to contact you on your blog. Or not.

    • Origami Isopod

      Anyone remember this from a few years ago? It’s perfect fodder (so to speak) for a Cruz campaign slogan. “Eat shit. It’s good for you!”

      • Hogan

        300 million flies can’t be wrong!

  • KadeKo

    “The CEI: Because sometimes the AEI is too squishy.”

  • You mean something like, “Shit is good fertilizer, so eat it”?

    • Warren Terra

      It fits the formula perfectly: we excrete feces, and plants love it as fertilizer. So it must be wonderful stuff we should wallow in.

  • Murc

    I miss hilzoy.

    • mikeSchilling

      Word.

  • DAS

    Carbon monoxide is a natural product of metabolism and some bacteria can use it for food. Thus carbon monoxide emissions are A-OK?

  • DAS

    I already know the conservative response to Hilzoy’s comment, though: “liberals probably want to regulate ‘dihydrogen monoxide’ as a dangerous chemical as well.”

    • sharculese

      The one time one of my less enthusiastic students showed any interest in our chemical lesson was when I taught him you can confuse people by talking about dihydrogen monoxide.

    • Flynt Michigan could have used some dihydrogem monoxide regulation enforcement.

  • Matt

    The GOP has moved the timetable up by about 450 years; this is only very slightly more scientifically accurate than “it’s got electrolytes, what plants crave!”

    • I’m starting to fear that movie was actually a documentary.

      • wjts

        I wish it had been a documentary. Obama’s farewell State of the Union address could have used some Camacho touches.

    • sharculese

      Gatorade – the sports drink hangovers ask for by name.

  • Casey

    Someone should start the Naturalistic Fallacy party. Ban GMO’s and non-organic farming, make vaccination optional, and deny climate change. Ted Cruz/Food Babe ’16: It’s Only Natural.

    • Dilan Esper

      Add in a death penalty for formula feeding mothers and you’ve got it.

  • Dangling Dildo of Damocles

    …CO2 is what every human breathes out; every plant, in turn,consumes CO2.

    And it is completely impossible that 7 billion human beings produce more CO2 than plants can consume because why Ted?

    • Warren Terra

      The problem is in any case not the CO2 we exhale

      • Dangling Dildo of Damocles

        Sir, I would have you know I wroted “produce” not “exhale”!

        Perhaps I should have used the word, “Belched” to confused the issue?

        • Warren Terra

          Sure, but you quoted Ted making it about exhalations, without explicitly correcting him

      • trollhattan

        Wonder how many hours I’d have to drive an F150 to equal the CO2 I’ll exhale in my lifetime? Would it even take an hour?

        That Ted, he so smart.

        • mikeSchilling

          2 minutes of Googling reveals that:

          The average human exhales about 2.3 pounds of carbon dioxide on an average day.
          The EPA estimate 407 grams per mile for the F-150.

          So, assuming you live to be 80, that’s about 670,000 pounds in your lifetime (less, since you started as a baby, but this is only a rough estimate.) That’s about 750,000 miles for the F150, or 50 years assuming a normal amount of driving.

          • BigHank53

            You picked up an order of magnitude somewhere: I get 67,160 when I multiply 2.3 x 365 x 80.

            A slightly better relationship would compare respiration and fuel–nine days of breathing is roughly equal to a gallon of gas. Forty gallons a year. 3200 gallons for a lifespan. Less than eighty thousand miles on the F-150. If you spring for the Raptor package you can cut that in half, too. Ford sells about 1,000 Raptors a month.

            • mikeSchilling

              Drat. Thanks for the correction.

    • leftwingfox

      It’s time for high school science lesson in the carbon cycle!

      Plants use energy from the sun to turn carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates (sugar, starch, cellulose etc.)

      Animals eat the plants extracting that energy and converting it back into water and CO2.

      As long as the amount eaten (or burned) is the same as the amount regrown, the system is stable. Some might get added (volcanoes) or sequestered (chalk, peat bogs).

      Fossil fuels were plants millions of years ago that were buried, locking that energy-rich carbon out of the system. Burning fossil fuels adds far more CO2 than is taken out by the ecosystem or natural sequestration methods.

      Tadaa!

  • mikeSchilling

    CO2 is what every human breathes out; every plant, in turn,consumes CO2

    Hey, Ted? This kind of thing is why everyone who’s ever met you hates you.

    • Pat

      If Cruz doesn’t get the nom, he will have a great organization and network in place to raise money and set himself up for 2020. On the other hand, everyone who’s ever worked with him hates his guts. So in four years, how well is that network going to survive?

      • so-in-so

        Depends, do they see money/power available for staying in the network?

  • A toasted Ted Cruz makes a nice croûton for Kalessin’s dragon soup.

  • sharculese

    Also the tide goes in and out. Never a miscommunication. Can’t explain that.

    • Thirtyish

      But having any curiosity about the phenomenon makes you an anti-Christian communist.

    • Pat

      There’s all those beautiful pictures of the planet Earth…

      And not one with angels and dead people in it!

  • NewishLawyer

    The interesting thing about a name like the Competitive Enterprise Institute is that it basically saying profits and business before anything else. They are not even trying anymore to hide behind a facade.

    I thought the scandal was that the U.S. Attorney of the Virgin Islands went after the C.E.I. and asked for their info/proof. This got the libertarians in a storm because of evil government going after dissenters.

    Does contrainism cause people to become libertarian or does libertarianism cause contrainism? On the surface, there is nothing in libertarianism that should cause someone to also be a climate change denier but they often seem to be climate change deniers or willing to underplay the risk. My guess is that it is because climate change is such a big problem that it will require government action and possibly anti-business/anti-economics action.

    • CrunchyFrog

      Does contrainism cause people to become libertarian or does libertarianism cause contrainism? On the surface, there is nothing in libertarianism that should cause someone to also be a climate change denier but they often seem to be climate change deniers or willing to underplay the risk. My guess is that it is because climate change is such a big problem that it will require government action and possibly anti-business/anti-economics action.

      I think you were right with the first sentence – libertarians are by definition contrarians and are attracted to those kind of positions.

      There is something else. Among those with engineering degrees it’s the Electrical Engineers who are surprisingly heavily into climate denial. (Petroleum Engineers – and most geologists-for-extraction-sake – are also heavily into climate denial, but Upton Sinclair’s truism explains that). If you dig into it you’ll find that most of these deniers are a) guys, b) white, c) gamers, and d) with better-than-average incomes. In other words, they are demographically GOP and by nature the part of the core of the non-religious sect of the GOP tribe.

      But that’s not all – and this is very important – climate science depends extensively on really, really difficult mathematical analysis built around statistics and probability. EE degrees spend little time on this topic (mostly stuff around MTBFs – Mean Time Between Failures – and even that is more the province of the mechanical engineer) and somewhat inherently don’t trust probabilistic analysis – they tend to like their science to be the same answer 100% of the time and easily repeatable/demonstrable.

      So back to libertarians – like EEs the folks who tend to be attracted to libertarianism like their social science to be simple (some would say simplistic) with clear statements like: “IF there is a demand for X then someone will provide it”, and have no patience for stuff like complex government policies designed to optimize, for example, commute times. It’s therefore not surprising that they can’t get their head around climate science. So, on the one hand, tribalism makes them WANT to believe the climate deniers’ arguments. And on the other hand, the climate deniers’ arguments incredible simplistic nature is also enormously appealing (e.g. the temperature rise being explained by the heat island effect).

      • Origami Isopod

        Complexity is wussy and girly.

        • Thirtyish

          And girls’ brains are so icky and feeble and unable to grasp nuance and…uh…wait a second.

      • N__B

        There’s also a group that I think of as Star Trek futurians: people who’ve fallen for the belief that all problems are solvable by the right application of technology. (Or in ST:V, by getting things in tre right phase.) The concept that most issues (if not all) are chock full of icky social issues* and unsolvable problems is anathema to them.

        *Or, if you’re my age or older and from the NY area, chock full of nuts.

        • the shadow

          Those people need to watch more Deep Space 9.

        • CrunchyFrog

          The Freakonomics guys fall into this category. Of course, they also qualify because they are convinced that if they spend a day on a topic they are so much smarter than everyone else that their answer must be more correct than the output of thousands of Ph.Ds in that subject. Their crime rates-abortion brain fart is a prime example.

      • The no-show of denialists against the health damage of air pollution from combustion is curious. The latest estimates I’ve seen are 3.5 million annual excess deaths worldwide, $3.5 trillion in costs – but the numbers keep going up.

        Partly it’s that epidemiologists are usually MDs in white coats, trusted authority figures to conservatives. The other part is that the causal chain is mind-bogglingly simple: soot in lungs -> asthma, lung cancer etc.

        The energy transition is a no-brainer on the energy system costs (a wash) plus the health gains ($25 trn to 2050 by my back-of-an-envelope calculation). You don’t actually need to bring climate change into it to prove the case.

        The Kochs etc. have not really got atarted against electric vehicle subsidies. It’s far too late if they did. Tesla is a big and influential company, as are Google and Apple who are toying with entry. The legacy carmakers are (with nuances) preparing for the ev transition and won’t fight it. The electric utilities love it: a new demand stream, almost all off-peak and capable of being managed flexibly. Koch lobbyists against evs would be eaten alive in Sacramento, and soon in Washington.

      • mikeSchilling

        climate science depends extensively on really, really difficult mathematical analysis built around statistics and probability.

        Which is why those fucking STEM types will never understand it.

      • Woodrowfan

        don’t forget the “I got mine, screw everyone else” basic selfish dolt.

      • Lurking Canadian

        On behalf of all EEs, HEY!

        It is true that we get a poor grounding in statistics, but actually the basic concept of climate change is quite simple. The atmosphere is more opaque to infrared than to visible light. At that point, it’s a first order ODE for the energy content in the atmosphere gets you where you need to be.

        I mean, it’s a grossly awful approximation, but it’s definitely enough to conclude “Too much CO2 == bad”

        • CrunchyFrog

          I’m glad you are a EE who gets climate scientist. I see you’re from Canada, that may be your saving grace – if you were in the US you would definitely be a minority in your demographic. That’s ok – go with it – it’s okay to be in the minority – I’m as anti-right wing as you get but my demographic votes over 70% Republican.

      • Bill Murray

        libertarians are by definition contrarians and are attracted to those kind of positions.

        There is something else. … If you dig into it you’ll find that most of these deniers are a) guys, b) white, c) gamers, and d) with better-than-average incomes. In other words, they are demographically GOP and by nature the part of the core of the non-religious sect of the GOP tribe.

        I fit a) through d), but I’m so contrarian, I came out a socialist

    • sharculese

      Does contrainism cause people to become libertarian or does libertarianism cause contrainism?

      I don’t think contrarianism is a necessary precursor. There’s a certain type of liberterain who isn’t necessarily contrarian but is attracted to libertarianism pompous assertions that it’s reasoning government out from first principles. But, as the more unfortunate comment threads here show, that’s not a delusion the left is immune to, either.

      For the better part of libertarians, though, yeah, I’d say it has its root in pure contrarianism. By which I mean the “South Park libertarian”/”socially liberal, fiscally conservative” crowd. People who are convinced that Both Sides are Wrong and by dipping their toes in the water of each in completely incoherent ways they somehow rise about it all and compose a politics that is wholly rational and devoid of ideology.

      There’s another word for these people. They’re called morons.

      • efgoldman

        There’s another word for these people. They’re called morons.

        Proof, as if it was needed, that multiple and/or advanced degrees do not bestow common sense or make a person “smart.”

    • BigHank53

      Hah. Libertarian are wannbe aristocrats who think membership in the ruling class should be determined financially. That they’d be even worse off under this system is a feature, not a bug, since the alternative would be joining the Society for Creative Anachronism and hitting each other with foam swords on the weekends.

      Or, as stated above: morons.

  • CrunchyFrog

    I do like – at one level – the notion of a GOP candidate who is so direct about pure climate denial. This could, and should, be a major issue in the general election and is very much the kind of issue that a) appeals to the few remaining swing voters and b) can affect down ticket races, because the party identity on it has become so uniform now that the Koch tribe has finalized their purchase of the GOP. Of course, this relies on really good messaging from the Democrats – which is kind of like saying “the Titans can still win this game, all they have to do is score a TD despite not having gotten past the 50 yard line yet in this game”. It’s possible, but it requires skills not yet demonstrated.

    It was a lot harder when GOP candidates gave mealy-mouthed pseudo-answers to climate science. Now, let’s see if we can get a reporter with the courage to ask Cruz about evolution so we can get him on video evading that question.

    • Evolution is a communist plot just like gay marriage or so says Ted’s dad.

  • Linnaeus

    If only CO2 were the only factor that influenced plant growth.

    ETA: Not every plant fixes carbon from the atmosphere in quite the same way.

    • Thirtyish

      Plants, schmants. Who needs ’em?

      Also too, I’ll bet Amelia Earhart is alive and floating somewhere.

      • N__B

        Her toes must be all wrinkled by now.

        • cpinva

          “Her toes must be all wrinkled by now.”

          along with the rest of her body.

  • UserGoogol

    I feel like a lot of anti-global warming arguments take this form. (A lot of anti-liberal arguments, really, but global warming in particular because we’re dealing with a complicated technical issue.) Saying that CO2 is a vital part of life is a valid counterargument to the strawman liberals that exist mostly in their own imagination.

    Strawman liberal: Carbon dioxide is toxic, we need to ban all CO2 emissions!
    Ted Cruz: Oh stupid liberal, don’t you realize that CO2 is a vital part of life? You’d be banning yourself!
    Strawman liberal: Duh, I’m dumb.

    You also see this argument with the “how can there be global warming if it’s snowing out,” where they attack a radically exaggerated version of what global warming is, or outside of global warming “if minimum wage laws work, why not set the minimum wage to a million dollars an hour? Then we’d all be millionaires!”

    Of course some very stupid liberals do exist in real life, just as there’s ignorance in all walks of life, and I entirely believe that there are liberals who would be surprised to learn that humans emit carbon dioxide. And it’s understandable conservatives might be led by motivated reasoning they’re representative of liberalism in general. But they aren’t really the ones driving policy here.

  • efgoldman

    My initial reaction was similar to Hilzoy’s, but as it ran along scatological lines I’ll spare everyone.

    I’m sorry, but that’s just not a very good reason. Time to share.

    • Origami Isopod

      Hear, hear.

  • JR in WV

    There’s a power plant near us that was, when it was built, the largest coal fired power plant in the world.

    Big concrete cooling towers, tall stacks to disperse the pollution from the boilers, clouds of pretty white water vapor and (used to be, before the upgraded clean air regs) little strands of yellow smoke. And many megs of watts of electricity.

    Oh, yes, many many tons of CO2 emitted constantly, especially in the winter (for heat) and in the summer (for the A/C).

    I bet the John Amos plant emits more CO2 in a peak demand day than everyone in the US does in a year exhaling, just a WAG, but I would bet a Jackson on it.

    But do you think Rafael Cruz cares about that? ‘Cause I don’t. Evil Christianist working to bring about doomsday, because his Daddy taught him to.

    • JR in WV

      I worked in a DEP office just a few miles away from the power plant, and we had a young woman stop by who wanted to know how safe the Atomic Power Plant was over there, was it safe for her to drink the water while she got lunch.

      I told her it wasn’t a Nuclear plant at all, but coal fired. She was all “cooling towers mean it’s atomic!!!!” and I was all smoke stacks mean it burns coal, being in West Virginia means it burns coal… but there was no reasoning with her. Obviously if the Atomic was seecret it was too dangerous for her to eat lunch there.

      Of course, the coal fired plant emitted more radiation than a nuclear powered plant would under normal operating conditions, but it wasn’t going to hurt her, it was going to come down in the Atlantic somewhere. Bad for all of us, but not especially bad for her.

  • @hilzoyIron is an important part of a healthy diet. Someone should ram a crow bar down Ted Cruz's throat.— gocart mozart (@gocartmozart1) April 17, 2016

  • CDWard

    Actually Ted, plants both produce and use CO2, and also both produce and use O2.

  • shewasthenaz

    Wait, wait, this one is easy. CO2 doesn’t kill people; people exhaling CO2 kill people.

    It’s not perfected yet. But the line has worked so well at protecting the gun industry that I’m sure some cheap variation will work for global climate change.

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