State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry) is well known for making ludicrous statements, ones that are typically tinged with arch-conservative ideology. For example, a video went viral that showed an irritated Metcalfe shouting “I’m a heterosexual. I have a wife. I love my wife. I don’t like men, as you might,” when touched on the elbow by a colleague in a hearing last year.
At a Feb. 20 meeting, Metcalfe continued that trend, but this time by embracing climate-change denial. In a committee hearing in Harrisburg about a new report called Advancing Pennsylvania's Energy-Enabled Economy, Metcalfe claims reducing carbon dioxide emissions will actually harm the planet since plants need carbon dioxide (CO2) to survive.
“Just to be on record, I enjoy my vegetables, and plants need CO2, so I want to make sure we have plenty of CO2 out there so we have green grass and green vegetables growing,” said Metcalfe in a video released on his Facebook page.
“We need CO2, we can’t eliminate all CO2. We are going to have an interesting debate for those that want to reduce something that is actually needed by our environment. And claiming that they are improving the environment.”
This claim is obviously false. Earth had plants and agriculture before humans started refining coal and other practices that released massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. And environmentalists want to reduce CO2 emissions as a goal to slow down climate change, not eliminate CO2 altogether from our atmosphere.
Maybe Metcalfe was trying to make the argument that more CO2 is better for the planet since it could boost agricultural production. That argument has been made before by former U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) in 2017, and it has some flaws.
According to the Scientific American magazine, several climate scientists agree that theoretically more CO2 could increase production of agricultural plants. But sharp increases could also reduce nitrogen, which plants, especially wild ones, consume as food. (Plants use CO2 to breathe.)
Additionally, more CO2 in the atmosphere has shown to raise global temperatures. And global temperatures rising quickly can have disastrous effects on plant life. The Scientific American states increased CO2’s “negative consequences — such as drought and heat stress — would likely overwhelm any direct benefits that rising CO2 might offer plant life.”
A request to Metcalfe's office for comment on this story was not returned.
Further perplexing is that Metcalfe goes on to defend and boost natural gas-drilling, aka fracking, which has been a large driver in reducing CO2, even while boosting other greenhouse gases like methane.
“I think the average individual that is out there trying to heat their home in Philadelphia or in Pittsburgh is very thankful that natural gas has been developed so much in Pennsylvania,” said Metcalfe.
He also lauded the construction of the cracker plant in Beaver County, which will refine natural gas into plastics and should boost fracking production in the region.
But even conservative websites publish stories about fracking’s role in reducing CO2 emissions. A 2017 article from the Daily Caller say, “Fracking has cut more CO2 emissions than all renewable energy combined.”
Metcalfe also criticized renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and claimed they couldn’t provide the level of power needed to heat homes during cold snaps. But according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association, winter is actually the high season for Canadian wind production.
Metcalfe is the chair of the state House’s Environmental Resources & Energy committee, and decides the fate of much of Pennsylvania’s environmental legislation. He wrapped up his speech by claiming environmentalists where using “flawed reasoning” when pushing for greener policies.
“To try and put your own view out there instead of putting your facts into account, I think is very flawed science, very flawed reasoning,” said Metcalfe. “And not something that our citizens ultimately appreciate or benefit from.”