NO ONE IS TRYING TO ELIMINATE CARBON…. The conservative efforts in the Senate to cut the EPA off at the knees continues apace. The current ringleader, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) of Alaska, held a press conference yesterday to justify her ridiculous scheme, and Kate Sheppard was there. Her report included this gem:

It doesn’t help [Murkowski’s] case that the press conference she called on the measure Tuesday featured some of the Senate’s all-stars of climate denial…. There was Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, who noted that, “Without carbon, my trees would die. Carbon occurs naturally.”

Willful stupidity like this is not as rare as it should be. Just last year, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) explained during a House committee hearing that it would be wrong to reduce carbon emissions because the pollution is “plant food.” Shimkus rhetorically asked his colleagues, “[I]f we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?”

Neither Bond nor Shimkus were kidding. They’re actually this dumb.

It’s probably worth noting a few details that even blisteringly stupid lawmakers should be able to understand.

First, we’re currently pumping about 90 million tons of carbon emissions into the air per day. This creates the conditions that lead to global warming, and the seriousness of the crisis continues to get worse. Kit Bond’s trees do not need 90 million tons of carbon to survive.

Second, yes, carbon “occurs naturally.” But when factories, engines, and industries generate 90 million tons of carbon a day, this isn’t “natural.”

And third, while the far-right’s concern for trees is heartening, no one is trying to eliminate carbon. The goal is to reduce emissions, not ban one of the most abundant elements in the known universe. Plant life existed before the Industrial Revolution, and plant life will thrive even if cap-and-trade becomes law.

The crisis is real, and the need for a grown-up debate is overwhelming. One wonders when the electorate might send lawmakers to Congress who are up for the task.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.