NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Air Pollution is Declining Under Bush

October 9, 2003

Nothing you hear about worsening air pollution is true. Air pollution is declining under President Bush, just as it declined under Bill Clinton. With the exception of greenhouse gases, trends in air pollution have been favorable for years or decades, says author Gregg Easterbrook.

According to the author:

  • "Aggregate emissions," the sum of air-pollution categories, have fallen 48 percent since 1970, although the U.S. population has grown 39 percent.
  • Local newscasts have recently begun to emphasize code red and code orange ozone-warning days, making smog seem more prevalent, yet the overall number of bad-air days has actually been falling steadily.
  • In 2001, there were fewer than half as many air-quality warning days across the country as in 1988; Los Angeles, for example, has experienced just one Stage 1 ozone warning in the past five years, whereas in the 1970s it averaged about 100 Stage-1-alert days per year.

Air pollution can decline as the population rises because antipollution technology keeps getting better and because the Clean Air Act controls on cars, power plants and factories have been growing stricter for two decades. Most Clean Air Act enforcement continues to become more strict under Bush, says Easterbrook.

Source: Gregg Easterbrook, "Why Bush Gets A Bad Rap On Dirty Air; But he still needs to tackle the real problem: greenhouse gases," Time Magazine, September 29, 2003.


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