Wash. Rep. Ed Orcutt supports bicycle tax for heavy-breathers

This, says Rep. Ed Orcutt, is threat to lungs everywhere.

This, says Rep. Ed Orcutt, is a threat to lungs everywhere. Image: simonvc/Flickr/CC BY-SA

As a way to generate revenue for highways, Washington state Rep. Ed Orcutt (R) supports charging a bicycle tax because, he says, cyclists pollute the air with their heavy breathing! Since, he has apologized for his bad science.

Rep. Ed Orcutt supported bicycle tax

Orcutt, a ranking member of the State Transportation Committee, supports a proposed 5 percent tax on bikes that cost more than $500, to be used for maintaining and building roads and highways in the state. Cyclists use the roads alongside cars, but they do not help pay for them, as motorists do when filling up their tanks at the gas pump. That sounds rational enough, and certainly is an arguable point. However, when challenged on his position, Orcutt’s logic blew away like air out of a punctured tire.

Bicycle shop owner Dale Carson wrote to Orcutt about the proposed tax, arguing, in part, that bicycles are good for the environment because they create no carbon emissions, and therefore, their use should be encouraged.

Carbon footprint?

But Orcutt begged to differ. He responded to Carson’s missive like this:

“You claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride a bike. But if I am not mistaken a cyclists [sic] has an increased heart rate and respiration,” said Orcutt. “That means the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride.”

Except not. The Seattle Times likened Orcutt’s remarks to Ronald Reagan’s infamous 1981 gaffe that “trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.”

Extracting foot from mouth

Later, Orcutt withdrew his remark, after receiving more than a little flack from the public and the media over it. The story caused so much traffic on the Seattle Bike Blog that the site crashed under the strain of it, according to  Tom Fucoloro, its founder.

Orcutt sent an email to his constituents on Monday, March 4. In it, he offered his apologies “for the carbon emissions line of an e-mail which has caused so much concern within the bicycle community. It was over the top and I admit is not one which should enter into the conversation regarding bicycles.”

“Although I have always recognized that bicycling emits less carbon than cars,” Orcutt continued, “I did a poor job of indicating that. … My point was that by not driving a car, a cyclist was not necessarily having a zero-carbon footprint. In looking back, it was not a point worthy of even mentioning so, again, I apologize — both for bringing it up and for the wording of the e-mail.”

Pointless point

Take away: An awful lot of politicians say an awful lot of stupid things without thinking them through. I’m just saying.


Seattle Times
Don’t Mess With Taxes
Huffington Post

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