|HOW CLEAN IS CLEAN ENOUGH?|
September 12, 1997
Questions asked in this forum:
When will Govt. agencies be inspected for environmental compliance? Will diesel fuel ever be banned? Should the U.S. instigate a fee-based system to control pollution? What explains the increasing number of asthma cases? Will stricter standards in the U.S. increase pollution from Mexico? What lessons can environmentalists learn from the fight against the cigarette industry? Who controls pollution better: the states or the federal government? Additional comments...
June 25, 1997:
Margaret Warner leads a discussion of the tougher clean air standards.
June 25, 1997:
Read our Online Forum: U.S.Representatives Julia Carson (D-IN) and Jim Gibbons (R-NV) debated the effectiveness of the EPA.
November 27, 1996:
The Environmental Protection Agency proposes to reduce smog levels by a third.
December 21, 1995:
Spencer Michels reports on the changing role of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Browse the Online NewsHour's coverage of the environment.
Environmental Protection Agency
Citizens for a Sound Economy advocates market-based solutions to public policy problems.
Air Quality Resources on the Internet.
Clean Air Act Information Network
A question from John Champagne of San Antonio, Texas:
Quoting Citizens for a Sound Economy:
"Federal agencies should be required to conduct risk assessments prior to issuing proposed regulations to ensure that benefits outweigh the costs."Isn't the value of a breath of fresh air is a highly subjective thing? How do you incorporate it into a complete balance sheet of benefit vs. cost?
CSE response to EPA Action plan on Global Warming:
"Until all the facts are in on global warming, the Clinton administration should not pursue measures that threaten to export America's job market, add to an already crippling tax burden, undermine our industrial capacity, or downgrade our present standard of living."
Is it possible that we are maintaining our present standard of living only by consuming the resource base that future generations will need to rely on to sustain THEIR lives?
Paul Beckner of "Citizens for a Sound Economy" responds:
The science is far from certain that the earth is warming, or if it is that we humans are responsible. NOAA satellites, the most accurate measuring instruments currently available, have shown a global cooling trend over the last 18 years. The satellite findings are verified by radiosonde temperature readings from weather balloons that are launched twice daily throughout the world. Most of the claimed one-half degree Celsius of warming occurred before 1940, while the intensity of man-made GHG emissions was greater after 1940. In other words, the cause-and-effect simply isn't there
Although specific proposals for the United Nations' Global Warming Treaty are still in the works, target proposals are for CO2 reductions to 1990 levels by 2010 for developed nations like the U.S. It should be noted that developing countries (such as China, Mexico, Brazil and Korea) will not be bound to the same terms of the treaty, even though such countries will soon be emitting the most CO2. The one and only way to reduce such emissions is by restricting our use of fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas, crude oil and petroleum products (by the way, man-made CO2 sources account for roughly 10 billion metric tons a year, an amount that pales in comparison to the almost 200 billion metric tons Mother Nature releases into the atmosphere annually).
It is conservatively estimated that for Americans such reductions would result in a loss of nearly $350 billion annually from our economy by the year 2010, and destroy an average of 600,000 jobs annually through the year 2020 (if the EPA wants to dispute these figures, they should make public their economic impact findings).
So why are we being asked to sacrifice millions of jobs and hamstring our economy based on unproven climatological speculation? In plain English, the U.N.'s global warming treaty is a solution in search of a problem that would unfairly wreak economic and financial havoc on America's families.
Second, before we can have a debate about the most efficient way to regulate a pollutant, we must first have sound scientific evidence that a substance poses a real risk to public health -- and whether regulating it will provide significant health benefits.
In the case of the new ozone and particulate matter standards, the EPA has yet to prove that its new standards will provide any better protection of the public's health beyond those offered by current standards. While the EPA cited some 250 studies to promote its standards, the details of those studies are much less convincing than the number suggests. In the case of particulate matter, there are only four studies that examined the relationship between fine particles and mortality. Only one of those studies, which has been shown to contain inaccurate data, showed even a very small risk of mortality associated with fine particle exposure to healthy individuals.
As for ozone, the EPA's own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee did not support setting a standard that was more stringent than the current standard, because the current ozone standard adequately protects the public from dangerously high levels of ozone. There are certain sensitive individuals, however, such as severe asthmatics, who will respond to ozone almost any exposure level, which makes setting a standard to protect that group virtually impossible. To put it into perspective, the new ozone standard is estimated to reduce annual asthma hospitalizations in New York City by less than 100. Thus, the benefits from the ozone standard are minimal at best while the potential side effects may have disastrous consequences (more on that in a moment).
Knowing the benefits were so small, the EPA resorted to misleading us about the costs in order to sell the proposed standards. The EPA has failed to produce a complete cost-benefit analysis, estimating only the cost for partial attainment of the new standards at $8.5 billion. This figure was widely reported in the media as the true cost of the new standards. However, after the proposals were made final, the EPA revealed that the standards were so tight that 47 areas could not comply with the standard at all, and that the true cost of the new standards was actually more than four times higher at $46 billion! Some say that even this cost estimate is still too low. The Reason Public Policy Institute believes the EPA is underestimating the cost of compliance, putting the cost of both standards at $150 billion annually.
Such massive reductions in our economy can have serious consequences. By reducing access to health care, increasing the cost of air conditioning and other life saving technologies, the exorbitant cost of the new standards could actually kill people. In fact, the Reason Public Policy Institute also found the costs of the new standards were so high that the resulting decreases in personal income would actually induce up to 22,000 deaths annually.