Monday, June 02, 2008

Game wardens have full authority

Q: My question concerns game wardens and their powers compared to other law enforcement officials. For instance, can they perform searches and seizures?

-- Rick Evans, Roanoke

A: Game wardens, also known as conservation police officers, are indeed empowered to search, seize and even arrest.

"Virginia conservation police officers have full police authority with statewide jurisdiction; however, their efforts focus on enforcing the commonwealth's wildlife and boating laws," explained Julia Dixon, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

These conservation officers do have the power to enforce any Virginia criminal law.

Dixon sent me the pertinent state code to show that once an officer shows his or her badge, the officer can arrest a suspect and search a "box, can, package, barrel or other container, hunting bag, coat, suit, trunk, grip, satchel or fish basket." If the officer believes you have fish or game you shouldn't have hidden in a car, building or refrigerator, he can search that, too. (The officer will need a search warrant to search a dwelling.) To enforce game limits, officers can also check whatever animals you've got with you -- without making an arrest first.

As for seizure, officers can take the game and the container it was found in, if the search shows that you have broken the law by catching, buying, selling or transporting game or fish.

"Conservation police officers must be proficient in a wide array of skills," wrote Dixon, "including handling of firearms; crime scene investigations; drug and operating-under-the-influence enforcement; search and rescue [and] boat operation."

Q: In a recent Parade magazine (April 20), an article about better ways to go green says that burning a gallon of fuel emits 20 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere. My question is, how can that be when a gallon of gasoline weighs just under 8 pounds? Is the use of a pound here related to gas compression, like the air put in tires? If not, then I need some explanation!

-- Carla Barrell, Hardy

A: Don't worry, you're not the only one who needed an explanation. I've never understood what they were talking about with all these pounds and tons being "released."

It turns out that, yes, they're talking about a pound, like a pound of cheese or the 6.3 pounds that a gallon of gas weighs.

However, your car isn't emitting 20 pounds of carbon for every gallon, but rather 20 pounds of carbon dioxide.

But still, how do we go from 6.3 pounds to 20 pounds?

I sought help from the Department of Energy.

"The basic explanation is: 1C + 2O = CO2. O is about 33 percent heavier than C. One unit of CO2 weighs four times more than one unit of C," e-mailed spokesman Paul Hesse. If you skipped high school chemistry like I did, this may not make a whole lot of sense. Luckily, Hesse pointed me toward the even more basic explanation on the DOE Web site.

He's talking about carbon and oxygen getting together. The carbon comes from the gas; there's 5.5 pounds of it in a gallon. But the oxygen comes from the air. Oxygen that was just floating around minding its own business gets combined with gas (and spark plug sparks, etc.) to create the internal combustion in your engine.

So, the resulting CO2 gets some of its weight from the gas, but most of it from the air. It takes a lot of air to weigh 20 pounds, but that's why your car has air intakes and a fan.

Once you add all our cars together with our power plants, furnaces and so on, you get to the point where you stop talking about pounds and start using metric tons -- billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide coming from the U.S. alone. When you add in another billion or so of methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases, you begin to wonder how much more we can take.

If you've got questions, send them in to or leave them on my voice mail at 777-6476 (please be sure to speak clearly and spell your name). I'll need your name, location and phone number or e-mail address.

Look for Tom Angleberger's column on Mondays.

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