The same kind of science that propels an international rush to solve a global-warming problem that might not exist now comes to bear on the target chemical.

Sixteen environmental groups in the US have asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and three other greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles.

They base their petition on a Clean Air Act provision requiring EPA to regulate emissions of a substance construed as an "air pollutant" that might be expected to endanger human health or welfare.

The obvious logic at work here: An atmospheric build-up of greenhouse gases, CO2 chief among them, might be warming the planet in a phenomenon that might have catastrophic results. Therefore, greenhouse gases, especially CO2, are harmful and ought to be regulated.

Once again, science takes a hard knock on the chin.

The global-warming panic issues from a web of worst-case possibilities spun from selective analysis and speculative science. The cause-effect assumption about the CO2 buildup and observed warming over the past 150 years, for example, ignores a critical disparity of timing: Most of the measured temperature increase preceded most of the gas build.

An interesting correlation exists between sunspot activity and temperature flux. But the global warming alarmists can't blame human economic activity for sunspot cycles. So they ignore them.

Then there's the nagging question about whether the world might actually benefit, rather than suffer disastrously, from twin gains in temperature and CO2 concentration, which would stimulate photosynthesis.

Again, the alarmists choose not to clutter the analysis with science that hints at something besides catastrophe.

So they'll attack CO2 on all fronts-well, not all fronts. It can be presumed that they won't lash out against carbonated beverages, breathing, or any other such sources of their gaseous pariah.

For them it's CO2 from motor vehicles that is the problem.

But their recommendation is difficult to square with the chemistry of combustion of organic materials, which at its most complete produces water and, yes, CO2.

Many Clean Air Act prescriptions aim for gains in combustion efficiency able to reduce emissions of target pollutants. Success should result in increased production of CO2, everything else being equal. A limit on output of the gas would thus proscribe achievable advances in combustion efficiency.

So, the warming alarmists will say, don't let vehicle engines burn anything organic at all. Use electricity instead.

Now there's a solution-until someone points out what burns to generate electrical power. But that, of course, would fall into the realm of scientific insight worthy only to be ignored.

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