NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Environmental Progress

June 30, 2000

In 1970, most businesses thought environmental protection would be prohibitively costly, while environmentalists doubted that substantial improvements were even possible. Now, 30 years later, both sides have turned out to be wrong.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows a 42 percent decline in toxic releases since 1988 -- a reduction of nearly 1.5 billion pounds.
  • The chemical industry has shown the largest decrease in toxic releases -- a 50.8 percent reduction since 1988.
  • New cars today emit less than 5 percent as much pollution as they did in 1970.

The costs of government mandates have been unnecessarily high because regulators have underestimated the ingenuity and productivity of U.S. businesses. For instance, Volvo has introduced a car with a specially-coated radiator that breaks down the pollutant ozone (O3) into O2 at rates that exceed the ozone-forming chemicals emitted by the car. This is an example of the innovative, cutting-edge technologies industry is developing on its own.

Since 1970, America has experienced substantial improvements in environmental quality. However, public opinion about the environment is often marked by unwarranted pessimism that prevents us from recognizing the great progress we have made in the last three decades.

Source: Samuel Walker, "Progress vs. Pessimism: Environment Doing Better Than Most Realize," Viewpoint on Public Issues, May 8, 2000, adapted from "Environmental Quality 2000: Assessing Michigan and America at the 30th Anniversary of Earth Day," Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 140 West Main Street, P.O. Box 568, Midland, Mich. 48640, (517) 631-0900.

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