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Trump is Winding Back Cost-Effective Legislation

As President Trump directs the EPA to back off on air quality regulations in America's dirtiest cities, I want to remind everyone that in a free market it pays to cut air pollution, and it pays very well.

Independent analysis has shown the Clean Air Act to be one of the most cost effective pieces of legislation in existence, with the $65 billion price tag of meeting clean air regulations dwarfed by the $2 trillion in dividends in reduced healthcare costs and increased productivity projected over the 1990 - 2020 interval.  That is a staggering 30:1 return on investment.  The public cost of air pollution is private profit at cents on the dollar.


Old Men Yell at Trees

An atrocious piece of journalism has appeared in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, blaming air pollution on trees, people, dirt, and pretty much everything but cars and the burning of fossil fuels.

On the campaign trail in 1980 Ronald Reagan was famously reported to quip that "trees cause more pollution than automobiles do".  He was widely mocked - and rightly so - for this naive interpretation of atmospheric science.  Now another old white man, Paul Gigot, is shaking his fist at the sky in vain, and dragging his like-minded and troubleplagued editorial board along with him.

In their editorial, the WSJ inform us that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react with nitrogen oxides (NOx) to form ozone and smog.  So far so good.  They then go on to cite the latest scientific literature showing that in many cities personal care and household cleaning products - plus industrial solvents and commercial chemicals but they curiously don't get much attention here - pro…

Too Many Steps Back

The US EPA's resident supervillain* Scott Pruitt has been brutally efficient at winding back clean air and water provisions.  Journalist Marianne Lavelle does a great job of dissecting just how he has done this to America's air pollution rules in a detailed article over at Inside Climate News.
I don't want to be all doom-and-gloom here, because our planet has actually made tremendous progress in battling air pollution.  There have been steady gains in much of the developed world and growing public and political awareness in many developing nations.  Frustratingly, though, it is often a case of three steps forward, two steps back.  Now Scott Pruitt appears to be orchestrating perhaps the greatest leap back of all time.
The great air quality success story of recent decades has actually been the USA.  Their progress was empowered by the Clean Air Act and driven by the EPA, in work that was supported at its base by fundamental science and engineering.  Major gains were made i…