Where You Sit Is Where You Stand—Air Quality Edition

I don’t have a strong opinion on the EPA’s proposed move to reduce the amount of ozone in the atmosphere. I know that the European standard is 61 ppb compared to our 75 ppb. I’m more interested in the actual measurements.

Ozone isn’t an issue for Chicago; our levels are very low. There are all sorts of reasons for that including geography and that by far the greatest proportion of Chicago’s power derives from nuclear. Until recently the worst ozone in the States was in California—they’re substantially over the present national standards there but, puzzlingly, they have their own much higher standards. Recently, Wyoming took the title due to gas drilling. According to this article the nine counties that wouldn’t meet the proposed standard (excluding California counties that wouldn’t meet the standard) are mostly in Texas plus Suffolk County in New York, New Haven and Fairfield Counties in Connecticut, and Harford County in Maryland. I think I may see a pattern emerging here. Is it possible that ozone emissions rise with income? Say it ain’t so, Joe.

And if this study is to be believed much of Europe doesn’t meet their own standards, at least for substantial parts of the year.

As might be expected Paul Krugman derides Republican reaction to the proposed standard as unscientific, politically-motivated, tools of the oligarchy, etc. Also as you might expect the editors of the Wall Street Journal side with the Republicans:

The ozone rule requires power plants, heavy manufacturers and agriculture operations to limit smog in ground-level ambient air. About a third of the country is out of compliance with the current standard of 75 parts-per-billion, and the EPA wants to take it to 65 ppb. The agency is also taking comments on a 60 ppb standard that would leave 95% of the country out of compliance.

This entirely discretionary rule could cost as much as $17 billion a year in return for ever-more-minuscule gains in public health—by the agency’s own calculation. Footnote: EPA estimates are always wrong by at least an order of magnitude.

In the abstract I’m in favor of environmental controls. There is no question in my mind but that the Clean Air Act has benefited us all enormously. I have a memory. I remember what air quality was like a half century ago.

It’s the specifics where the problems and politics arise. I see no particular reason that California should receive special waivers but Texas and Wyoming shouldn’t. Other than political ones, of course.

So here’s my modest proposal. Phase the controls in. Enforce the present 75 ppb standard across the period of the next five years. If that succeeds by some objective measure, lower the standard to 70 and enforce that for five years. If that’s successful, etc. Standards without enforcement are meaningless. Non-uniform standards are political.

6 comments… add one
  • Jimbino Link

    Whether or not ozone rises with income, it sure as hell rises with breediong. When will we attack the major problem of excess breeding and the support it gets from the taxpayer, especially from the non-breeders.

    Once we rein in human breeding, the plants and animals of the world will rejoice in appreciation for better water, air and the elimination of their risk of extinction.

  • Guarneri Link

    That’s the sort of reasonable incremental change / verify protocol that gives US regulatory actions a bad name.

  • Ben Wolf Link

    This is the same administration that’s been allowing coal plants to dump waste ash into rivers. Enforcement isn’t in their vocabulary.

  • Yeah, that’s something that’s bugged me. They have the childish idea that you just command objectives to be met and they magically occur. It’s been repeated in the stimulus package, healthcare reform, the environment, and foreign policy over and over again.

  • ... Link

    Here’s another sign of WINNING for the PPACA:

    Cost Still a Barrier Between Americans and Medical Care

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — One in three Americans say they have put off getting medical treatment that they or their family members need because of cost. Although this percentage is in line with the roughly 30% figures seen in recent years, it is among the highest readings in the 14-year history of Gallup asking the question.

    Actually, the 33% _IS_ the highest figure they’ve seen. So much for that reduction of $2500 for premiums per family that we were promised. What a fucking bunch of useless lying crooks running the country….

  • ... Link

    Here’s a key bit from the above linked article:

    Americans More Likely to Put Off Treatment for Serious Conditions

    Those who indicate that they have put off medical treatment in the past 12 months are asked to rate the seriousness of the underlying condition or illness. This year, 22% of Americans say they have put off medical treatment for a “very” or “somewhat serious” condition.

    Definitely WINNING.

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