Wednesday, June 4, 2014

New EPA Rules Will Not Destroy the Economy

Global warming image from
This week the Obama administration announced new EPA rules that will cut carbon emissions from power production plants U.S. by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.  This is a rational, sound, and necessary policy based on the scientific consensus that human activity is causing the global climate to become warmer.  It is necessary and right.  Unfortunately the political right and pro busniess groups are launching predictable attacks on the new policy claiming that it will cost the U.S. economy countless jobs and billions of dollars.   Fortunately, as history has shown, these pronouncements of doom and glom are quite likely wrong.  Very wrong.

There is a long history in the U.S. of vocal and vehement opposition from the political right and pro business groups of any sort of environmental regulation.  Peter Gleick at Huffington Post documents that history very well here.  Of particular note in Gleick's article is the following chart depicting annual GDP growth from 1929 to the present.

Note how Gleik added to this chart the dates at which different pieces of environmental regulation were implemented.  Lo and behold, the economy didn't collapse, or even backslide, when each of these pieces of legislation were introduced.  In fact, as Gleik also notes, a peer reviewed 2011 study by the EPA on the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act:

  • Avoided more than 160,000 premature deaths, 130,000 heart attacks (acute myocardial infarction), millions of cases of respiratory problems such as acute bronchitis and asthma attacks, and 86,000 hospital admissions.
  • Prevented 13 million lost workdays, improving worker productivity which contributes to a stronger economy.
  • Kept kids healthy and in school, avoiding 3.2 million lost school days due to respiratory illness and other diseases caused or exacerbated by air pollution.                                                                                

  • The benefits listed above far outweigh any cost to industry in implementing the regulations instituted in the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act.  

    Even if this newest set of regulations causes a temporary setback for the economy the cost is more than worth it.  In the long term this is an investment in a cleaner environment, less acidification of oceans, less agricultural disruption, a better respect for our only home, fewer costal cities being wiped out by sea level rise, and a stabilized climate.  That strikes me as a damn good investment.  

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