Economic cost of clean air

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Economic cost of clean air

Postby Haruo » Fri May 11, 2018 12:28 am

Today it was announced that Scott Pruitt of EPA infamy is launching an investigation of the economic costs of smog control/reduction regulations. Remember the good old days, back when America was great, how the LA freeways all had impenetrable sooty curtains between you and the exit signs? Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again!
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Re: Economic cost of clean air

Postby Dave Roberts » Fri May 11, 2018 8:03 am

I remember the first time i flew into LA when you could see the smog from 100 miles out as it hovered over LA. Pruitt belongs to the same kind of premillennial Christianity that gave us James Watt who said, "Don't worry about running out of oil; Jesus is coming."
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Re: Economic cost of clean air

Postby JE Pettibone » Fri May 11, 2018 11:06 am

Dave Roberts wrote:I remember the first time i flew into LA when you could see the smog from 100 miles out as it hovered over LA. Pruitt belongs to the same kind of premillennial Christianity that gave us James Watt who said, "Don't worry about running out of oil; Jesus is coming."


So Dave, :wink: do you believe we will run out of oil before the return of Jesus?
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Re: Economic cost of clean air

Postby Dave Roberts » Fri May 11, 2018 11:43 am

JE Pettibone wrote:
Dave Roberts wrote:I remember the first time i flew into LA when you could see the smog from 100 miles out as it hovered over LA. Pruitt belongs to the same kind of premillennial Christianity that gave us James Watt who said, "Don't worry about running out of oil; Jesus is coming."


So Dave, :wink: do you believe we will run out of oil before the return of Jesus?


I think God has left that up to us. It all depends on whether we bridle our appetites or go hog wild on consumption.
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Re: Economic cost of clean air

Postby ET » Wed May 16, 2018 11:58 am

Haruo wrote:Today it was announced that Scott Pruitt of EPA infamy is launching an investigation of the economic costs of smog control/reduction regulations. Remember the good old days, back when America was great, how the LA freeways all had impenetrable sooty curtains between you and the exit signs? Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again!

The fallacy behind your comment is that it essentially implies that ANY environmental regulation is worth the cost it imposes on the economy and that any reduction in regulations will lead back to the smog-filled days of the L.A. of times gone by. That is not the case.

Take ethanol, for example. It was touted as being an environmental solution. Now more and more evidence piles up that it's just another boondoggle. However, now there's a significant ethanol lobby and enough crony capitalism in the Republican party to keep it alive.

Regulations can live on for a long, long time regardless of whether or not they serve any useful purpose or are justified. All it takes is enough creative rhetoric like "saving the environment" or "fighting climate change" or "saving American jobs" for the rest of us to subsidize stupid policy.
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Re: Economic cost of clean air

Postby KeithE » Wed May 16, 2018 2:53 pm

How the Clean Air Act Has Saved $22 Trillion in Health-Care Costs.

As a part of the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, Congress required the EPA to conduct "periodic, scientifically reviewed studies to assess the benefits and the costs of the Clean Air Act." In other words, Congress wanted to know whether the Act "was worth it." The initial report in what is now a series was released in October 1997. The evaluation provided a detailed retrospective analysis of costs and benefits from the years 1970 to 1990 and showed that the overwhelming benefits obtained from compliance with the Act far outweighed the costs of implementation.


The EPA concluded that the total monetized health benefits from the Act during the 20-year period ranged between $5.6 and $49.4 trillion. The central estimate for benefits was $22.2 trillion. During that period, the costs to comply with the act were estimated to be approximately $0.5 trillion. Thus the net direct benefits were between $5.1 and $48.9 trillion, with a central estimate of $21.7 trillion. The benefit-cost rations were 43.4:1 for the central estimate and 11:1 and 97.8:1 for the extreme estimates.


If Pruitt’s “study” shows something substantially different, it will only show his extreme bias as this concern has been politicized lately.
Last edited by KeithE on Wed May 16, 2018 3:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Economic cost of clean air

Postby KeithE » Wed May 16, 2018 2:56 pm

ET wrote:Take ethanol, for example. It was touted as being an environmental solution. Now more and more evidence piles up that it's just another boondoggle. However, now there's a significant ethanol lobby and enough crony capitalism in the Republican party to keep it alive.

Never touted as an environmental “solution" by any environmental advocate I know of (or could find on the net). It was largely advocated by the corn lobby and oil companies wanting cheaper gas when it started in the 80’s, not environmentalist-driven in the least, although some welcomed at the time.

It is interesting that even today the ethanol lobby is strong - e.g. Senator Grassley (R-IA) yesterday in a snit against Scott Pruitt. (I'll take an anti-Pruitt vote for any reason.)

Yet revisionist RW anti-regulators love to claim this as an example of environmental overreach.
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Re: Economic cost of clean air

Postby KeithE » Sun May 20, 2018 7:57 am

ET wrote:
Haruo wrote:Today it was announced that Scott Pruitt of EPA infamy is launching an investigation of the economic costs of smog control/reduction regulations. Remember the good old days, back when America was great, how the LA freeways all had impenetrable sooty curtains between you and the exit signs? Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again!

The fallacy behind your comment is that it essentially implies that ANY environmental regulation is worth the cost it imposes on the economy and that any reduction in regulations will lead back to the smog-filled days of the L.A. of times gone by. That is not the case.


ET is going far beyond what Haruo said. Far beyond. Typical extreme straw man argument.

If I were to say, ET's comments above essentially implies NO environmental controls is ever appropriate if it costs anything, that would be going far beyond what ET said.

Likewise if I were to say a 2% relaxation in air quality standards would return LA to it’s 1970 dense smog, that would be going far beyond what ET said.

No, responsible cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is required and interpreted with rationality to assess the wisdom of environmental regulations. Read my post dated Wed 14 at 2:56pm about the Clean Air Act (CAA)’s CBA. If you read the report in the first link in that post (repeated here), you will see that the benefits are mostly health care costs avoided. It is difficult to be precise with CBA analysis, but it can be bounded. The Clean Air Act (promoted and implemented by Nixon) has a central benefit/cost ratio of 43:1 (bounded by 11:1 and 98:1) and thus worthy economically of implementing even if worst case assumptions are made. And that does not include intangible (non-economically measurable) values like pain and suffering of asthma, etc, or the aesthetic value of clean air.

I personally saw the air pollution in LA in the 60’s/early 70’s (several visits to relatives and friends) and how it had improved radically by the mid/late-eighties (numerous business trips to Boeing Downey, and Norton AFB).

Now the Clean Water Act (CWA) passed in 1972 (over a Nixon veto), has not been judged as having a positive benefit/cost ratio.

The second controversy is whether the Clean Water Act’s benefits have exceeded its costs, which have been enormous. Since 1972, government and industry have spent over $1 trillion to abate water pollution, or over $100 per person-year. This is more than the U.S. has spent on air pollution abatement (see Appendix A). In the mid-1970s, Clean Water Act funding of municipal wastewater treatment plants was the single largest public works program in the U.S. (USEPA 1975). These costs were large in part because the Clean Water Act had very ambitious targets: to make all U.S. waters fishable and swimmable by 1983; to have zero water pollution discharge by 1985; and to prohibit discharge of toxic amounts of toxic pollutants.

Controversy over these costs and potentially smaller benefits began even before the law was passed. Council of Economic Advisers chair Paul McCracken described the Clean Water Act as an “inefficient use of national resources that would not produce balancing [of] social and economic benefits” (Barfield 1971). The EPA’s chief legal officer wrote that advocates of the zero discharge standard had “no estimates at all of what the costs might be” (Quarles 1976). President Nixon actually vetoed the Clean Water Act and described its costs as “unconscionable,” though Congress later overruled the veto (Nixon 1972).

Large costs could be outweighed by large benefits, but existing cost-benefit analyses of the Clean Water Act have not estimated positive benefit/cost ratios. One influential study concluded that in 1985, the Clean Water Act’s annual costs were twice the Act’s benefits (Freeman 2000). Other researchers have reached similar conclusions (Lyon and Farrow 1995). Even the U.S. Environmental Projection Agency (2000a; 2000c)’s evaluation of the Clean Water Act – its own regulation – estimated costs larger than benefits, though they do mention several types of unmeasured benefits.

Source: Consequences of the Clean Water Act and the Demand for Water Quality, Yale, Jan 2017.

Those unmeasurable benefits include (at least):
- avoiding smelly/ugly waters ponds, rivers, lakes, oceanfronts and ultimately oceans (aesthetics)
- avoiding more rivers catching on fire (e.g. Cuyahoga River in 1969 and Noren River in Ukraine in 1989).
- boating/fishing pleasure
- avoiding pain and anguish from ill health.
(the benefits did include health costs avoided and loss of fisheries).

Yet US businesses have thrived under the CWA and our waters are no doubt cleaner for implementing the CWA. I for one would agree to pay (be taxed) $100/year to live in a country without Cuyahoga rivers (and I’m not a boater).
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