Washington State Lawmaker Defends Bike Tax: Bicycling Bad For The Enivronment


A Washington State Representative is defending his support for a tax on bicycles on the grounds that biking creates more pollution than driving a car:

Representative Ed Orcutt (R – Kalama) does not think bicycling is environmentally friendly because the activity causes cyclists to have “an increased heart rate and respiration.”

This is according to comments he made in an email to a constituent who questioned the wisdom of a new bike taxthe legislature is considering as part of a large transportation package.

We spoke with Rep. Orcutt to confirm the email’s authenticity and to get further clarification.

“You would be giving off more CO2 if you are riding a bike than driving in a car,” he said. However, he said he had not “done any analysis” of the difference in CO2 from a person on a bike compared to the engine of a car (others have).

“You can’t just say that there’s no pollution as a result of riding a bicycle.”

He said the email, which he had not reviewed since he is away from from his computer for the day, must have come from a constituent who disagrees with him (UPDATE: Cascade has posted the full exchange, which was with Dale Carlson, owner of BikeTech in Tacoma).

“Somebody doesn’t like me, and that’s fine,” he said.

Representative Orcutt, it appears that knowledge, reason, and common sense don’t like you very much either.

I trust I don’t need to go through a detailed explanation of why Orcutt is wrong.

Found via Bruce Bartlett’s Facebook feed.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Stonetools says:

    Well , he is aRepublican.no other explanation needed.

    At least, he hasn’t ventured a opinion on rape- yet.

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    For anyone who might think the good Representative is making sense, the carbon emitted by human respiration is part of the active carbon cycle. You can breathe all you want and there will be no net increase in atmospheric CO2 content.

  3. Ben Wolf says:

    Here’s something our resident trolls will be able to understand:


  4. Scott says:

    @Ben Wolf: So I guess the fact that I’m getting fatter means that I’m doing my part for the environment by becoming a carbon sink. There’s a plus side to everything!

  5. Brett says:

    Not to mention that CO2 *is not a pollutant.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    Where do Republicans find these people? And why?

  7. john personna says:


    Things can be both naturally occurring and pollution when they are too plentiful and overload natural systems.

    (Chicken guts are natural, but you wouldn’t want a ton dumped in your driveway. It is all a matter of proportion.)

  8. swbarnes2 says:

    Really, this framing that Doug keeps using is dishonest and tiresome. It’s not that this random Republican or that random Republican happen to believe stupid things. Yes, James and Doug really, really wish that this was the case, and maybe they have fooled themselves into thinking that, but anyone with a brain can connect the dots.

    The headline should read: Republican beliefs about carbon/black people/women revealed in statement/proposed bill by Rep/Sen/Gov. Whomever. If you are a blogger pretending to be an analyst, you should be analyzing. Your behavior is kind of like a Creationist, who learns bit after bit of factoids about biology, but refuses to put them all together, because the conclusion of doing that would be unacceptable to the Creationist’s beliefs, and would make their policy of being a Creationist looks stupid. Be honest. Be intelligent. Put it all together.

  9. Liberty60 says:

    @john personna:
    Not to mention that everything is natural- including extinction.

    If the climate were to change and cause a mass die off of 95% of the human population, this too would be a natural process..

  10. Franklin says:

    I think most people understand the difference between when people compare natural vs. man-made, even if you wanted to make a semantic and pedantic argument that man is part of nature. So if the climate changed *due to man-made activities* and killed everybody, we’d all understand that’s a bad thing. And by “all”, I mean everybody except modern Republicans.

  11. Brett says:

    The guy comes from a town of 2,000 people in a low densely populated area. It’s no surprise –
    rural Republicans tend to be a bit weirder and crazier than most.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    Well, Ed Orcutt is definitely not from the Seattle area, which explains his position. He’s from Kalama, an area where the definitely not environmentally friendly timber industry operates.

  13. al-Ameda says:


    Where do Republicans find these people? And why?

    Perhaps an explanation is related to remarks made by Republican senator Roman Hruska (R-Nebraska) in 1970, “Even if he were mediocre,” Mr. Hruska declared, “there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance? We can’t have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.”

    Now, he was talking about opposition to the nomination of Judge Harold Carswell to the Supreme Court, but I think it applies generally – mediocrity needs representation and Republicans are filling a need.

  14. Ernieyeball says:

    @Franklin:I think most people understand the difference between when people compare natural vs. man-made,..

    Now, explain it to me like I’m a four-year-old.

  15. GoBlue77 says:

    He’s totally wrong. When you’re biking your body has a way of shutting that whole process down.

  16. de stijl says:

    Dude is a cargo cult legislator.

    He keeps talking into the “radio” and fiddling with the “dials” just like he saw the green clothed white men do who carried boomsticks, but no plane ever comes. Still, he keeps trying. He wants the plane to come.

  17. Argon says:

    Hmm.. Some sort of science degree (BS) and he doesn’t seem know much about CO2 output from metabolism. Kind of an odd slip from someone who worked in forestry.

  18. Fai says:

    @GoBlue77: @GoBlue77:
    Well played!

  19. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Not sure of this Orcutt nutter’s specific pathology, but it bears repeating that Hamilton was right and Jefferson was wrong. Orcutt is Exhibit Z to the 11th.

    It’s also worth noting that there always have been dangers in giving representation to low population and especially to low population density areas. The nutter ratio in places like Kalama tends disproportionately to be excessive. QED.

  20. gVOR08 says:

    @al-Ameda: Good point. But I think this guy has a long way to go to work up to mediocre.

  21. Ian says:

    This isn’t about any kind of reasoning on Orcutt’s side. It’s just about sticking his middle finger up at his political opponents. Anything else is just overthinking it.

  22. C. Clavin says:

    You don’t have to be stupid to be a Republican…but if you are a Republican…chances are you good that you are stupid

  23. Noel Darlow says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Increased physical activity and food intake will increase fossil fuel consumption because agriculture is so dependent on oil.

    Not something we need to be concerned about though. Ed Idiot is still an Orcutt.

  24. @swbarnes2:

    “Really, this framing that Doug keeps using is dishonest and tiresome.”

    Lawyers spend three years learning how wrap a bunch of words around conclusions that call other people names and then 40 years practicing it. It’s a vacuous and destructive game..

  25. JKB says:

    It’s true, in the Washington biking is bad for the environment. There is a direct relationship between the number of individuals who bike for some reason other then personal enjoyment or economic necessity and the number of a-holes in the area around bike paths. Besides, those stupid looking helmets are visual pollution.

  26. Ben Wolf says:

    @Noel Darlow: Americans do not need to increase caloric intake to exercise. Have you looked at them?

  27. Aristotle says:

    Oh No! I was quoted in Reason! No one will ever listen to me now!

    In his Metaphysics, ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle observed, “Of things that come to be, some come to be by nature, some by art.”


  28. 11B40 says:


    I have long been concerned that, sooner or later, one of our many governmental Leviathans would turn its extractive gaze on the sainted members of the bicycle riders community. I have thought that the likely avenue of their approach would be somewhere along the lines of. “Well, it does cost us a good deal of money to make sure that there are plenty of nicely demarcated bicycle lanes.” but this is just as good to my mind. At least the governmentalist was nice enough to not blame it on automobile drivers complaining about having to pay for something that neither they nor many others used very often. Kind of like those handicapped parking spaces, if you get my drift.

    I live in the San Francisco Bay area, several soviets south of what the locals refer to, for some reason or other, as “The City”. Tyrannies of minorities is an important part of what passes for the local culture in these parts. We celebrate the monthly “Critical Mass” (N.B. It’s not like a Catholic Mass.) public oppressed bicycle riders demonstration and disruption on a Friday evening during which the automobile nazis are given a chance to venerated their much morally superior two-wheelers. Over the decades, I have been amazed by the way the fanatical repetition of these exercises has brought the two communities together.

    Now some say bicyclists are just the cutting (and bleeding and abrading) edge of the coming post-Obama era society and that kind of moral commitment is deserving of some special consideration especially when they want it. And as to the environmental effects, well, I don’t think the fact that bicyclists have killed several local pedestrians over the last couple of years should be held against them. Just a couple more “bumps in [their] road”, if you asked President Obama.

    Plus, those little outfits they wear…oh my, aren’t they divine !!!

  29. john personna says:


    For that, I can only counter with:

    Dutch Girls on Bikes

    Verily, a Public Good.

  30. C. Clavin says:


    “…I don’t think the fact that bicyclists have killed several local pedestrians over the last couple of years should be held against them…”

    I know there have been two recently. Two is not several. Two is a couple. You’re spouting man-bites-dof nonsense. In one case the cyclist pled guilty to charges. In the latest case the cyclist has been charged. The instances of cyclists killing pedestrians is such an outlier as to be statistically insignificant. From 2000 to 2009, 220 pedestrians were killed in SF…mostly by cars…none of those deaths are known to have involved bicycles.

  31. C. Clavin says:
  32. 11B40 says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Greetings, “C. Clavin”:

    My man-bitten mind seems to recall two in Frisco and one in Marin. But, while the number was important to me, what was also important was that I had completed my first half-century without ever hearing about a pedestrian being killed by a bicyclist.

    That criminal charges were involved in the cases you are familiar with gives me pause. That those who purport to be our moral superiors, deserving of all the attendant entitlements attached, have among them those who are quite capable of putting their desires so far ahead of other members of our society to the point of being criminally charged impresses me, but not in the good way.

    I apologize for not providing links. You might start with the San Francisco Commicle, I mean Chronicle. And thanks for bring “outlier” to my attention. I am now determined to work that into something somewhere.

  33. 11B40 says:

    @john personna:

    Greetings, “john personna”:

    You, sir, are both a near occasion of sin and a cause of foreign travel.

  34. Ernieyeball says:

    Dutch Girls on bicycles? I could barely stay awake watching that.

    I’ll stay in the USA and watch American Girls on Trampolines!


  35. john personna says:

    There was actually a more innocent, but still scenic(?) dutch girls on bikes link, which I could not find.

    More seriously, we have had a couple bike-on-pedestrian deaths down near me. We hear about them because they seem so strange, that one slow meaning duffer (on a beach cruiser) should kill another. But I guess a heat-plant is never good.

    Also, we simply don’t report car-on-X deaths to the same degree. We are inured.

  36. john personna says:

    (“head-plant” of course)

  37. RGardner says:

    Rep Orcutt has apologized,

    Although I have always recognized that bicycling emits less carbon than cars, I see I did a poor job of indicating that within my e-mail. 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.

    I’ll also note that the person he was responding to was not his constituent – article says he was (Tacoma to Kalama is ~100 miles). But he is the ranking Rep on the Transportation Committee in Olympia and it is worth noting that a Dem is responsible for the proposed bike tax. As for Kalama being a disgusting little lumber town, have you ever been there? The “not-a-city bigotry” in the comments is amazing. It is on I-5 along the Columbia River, maybe 30 miles from the Portland-Vancouver Metro.

    It was all over the PNW media today. An overblown outrage that will be mostly forgotten tomorrow.

  38. labman57 says:

    By that standard, the typical Republican politico produces 10x more greenhouse gases than the average fossil fuel-based power plant, as they cannot help spewing hot air and noxious emissions every time they open their mouths.

  39. swbarnes2 says:

    Yet another conservative whose fee-fees are hurt, because all the rational people judged him by his words, instead of using our prosperous straight white-guy magic crystal to tell us that his heart was in the right place.

  40. wr says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “It’s also worth noting that there always have been dangers in giving representation to low population and especially to low population density areas”

    For those keeping score, here is a partial list of Americans the Tsar believes shouldn’t be allowed a say in our government:

    People who live in big (Democrat) cities.

    People under 35.

    Zombieland, which apparently is the area not covered by big (Democrat) cities

    The media-internet-academic cabal.

    People who live in rural areas.

    So Tsar, who should be allowed to vote? I mean, aside from pretend lawyers on the internet?