NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cost of Clean Air

September 7, 2011

On the Friday before Labor Day, President Obama withdrew drafted rules intended to cut smog levels, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

  • The regulation would have limited ground-level ozone to between 60 and 70 parts per billion.
  • That's down from the 75 parts per billion, which was good enough in March 2008, when the Bush administration last set new ozone rules, and the 80 parts per billion set by the Clinton White House.

The green lobby pretends the environmental rules it peddles don't hurt the economy.  Yet we have an implicit admission from a president tied to that lobby that the economic benefits of scuttling a regulation are greater than the regulation's ecological benefits.

  • Obama said he set aside proposed Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards in the interest "of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover."
  • The smog rule was one of seven new regulations the White House acknowledges would cost more than $1 billion each year.
  • This particular regulation is projected to cost from $19 billion to as much as $90 billion a year.

Everyone wants clean air. But clean air isn't free.  The costs required to meet clean air standards can mean lost jobs, higher consumer costs and lost economic opportunity, all of which bring their own negative health effects.

  • Federal fuel economy standards are a particularly glaring example of the high costs of efforts to mandate cleaner air.
  • So that they can meet those standards, automakers have been forced to build smaller, lighter cars.
  • This has led to an increase in traffic deaths as the down-sized cars have not fared well in collisions with heavier cars, trucks and fixed objects.

The president, who as a candidate promised his regulatory regime would bankrupt new coal-fired power plants, made the right decision on the ozone rule.  But it's just one in a jungle of rules, both written and proposed, to which a machete must be taken, says IBD.

Source: "Cost of Clean Air," Investor's Business Daily, September 2, 2011.

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