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Saturday, August 04, 2018

Why they demonize carbon dioxide

The Environmental Protection Agency reported that pollution is down 73% since EPA's founding in 1970.

"Through federal and state implementation of the Clean Air Act and technological advances in the private sector, America has achieved one of the great public-private successes of our time – dramatically improving air quality and public health while simultaneously growing the nation’s population and economy," said Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

"This report details a remarkable achievement that should be recognized, celebrated, and replicated around the world. A 73 percent reduction in any other social ill, such as crime, disease, or drug addiction, would lead the evening news."

The numbers are astounding:

  • Sulfur dioxide (1-hour) ↓ 88 percent
  • Lead (3-month average) ↓80 percent
  • Carbon monoxide (8-hour) ↓ 77 percent
  • Nitrogen dioxide (annual) ↓ 56 percent
  • Fine Particulate Matter (24-hour) ↓ 40 percent
  • Coarse Particulate Matter (24-hour) ↓ 34 percent and
  • Ground-level ozone (8-hour) ↓ 22 percent

And the numbers explain why the EPA treats a nutrient, carbon dioxide, as a pollutant. Having reduced real pollution, the Captain Planets at the EPA need a new villain to battle.

Success in government means obsolescence. And so agencies broaden their missions to keep themselves relevant.

The press helps agencies stay alive long after their purpose is served. That is because the press has a symbiotic relation with the agency insiders who dole out scoops of news.

Consider Bob Mueller. His screw-up of the anthrax investigation as the head of the FBI -- he personally supervised it -- should have had the press hounding him out of office.

But like J. Edgar Hoover before him, Mueller leaked like a sieve.

And so press accounts of the EPA's success are spun in favor of protecting the agency.

"The assessment highlights nationwide reductions in emissions, including criteria air pollutants tied to asthma attacks and respiratory diseases. And it credits federal and state regulations on factories, power plants and automobiles as driving the reductions," Jennifer A Dlouhy of Bloomberg News reported.

"Meanwhile, under President Donald Trump, the agency is working to ease some of those mandates."

The headline read, "Trump EPA Celebrates Cleaner Air While It Rolls Back Regulations."

Cleaner air, less need to clean it up.

Why not drive a V8 again? We removed lead from gasoline, and catalytic converters have made the exhaust safer.

Diane Katz, a research fellow in regulatory policy at the Heritage Foundation, laid out to the Daily Signal the reason the air and water are cleaner.

"Improvement in air quality is always welcome news," Katz said.

"There’s no doubt that the Clean Air Act contributed to the improvement. But this improvement does not mean that other, less costly and oppressive approaches would not have achieved the same or even greater improvement.

"After all, new technology, not regulation, is the greatest driver of environmental quality. To the extent regulatory costs hinder innovation, the environment may actually suffer."

I do not totally buy the idea that capitalists would have magically cleaned up the air and water voluntarily. I remember the corporate opposition to pollution control regulation.

But we have reached the point where the air is clean and the water, too. Scaling back the EPA makes sense.

Which is why the federal government has resisted the cutbacks.


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  1. Government is a living organism. A parasite. Sunlight can kill it, but it's best defense- the media- covers it with shade.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Only a matter of time before the EPA start going after that fiendish di-hydrogen monoxide.

  4. I read that the federal government shed about 14,000 jobs last month. Not bad, but we don't necessarily have to fire them. Maybe we could transfer about 90 per cent of the EPA to the MSHA and deploy them into deep mines for employment as canaries. - Elric

  5. The EPA surely needs reined in based just on their power-grab attempt to implement WOTUS. The Chicago Crime Syndicate aka Obama administration's weaponizing of governmental agencies during their tenure should make everybody wary of granting too much power to any federal agency.

  6. I found this chart from the EPA about six years ago. It is updated each year when the data you reference in your post is updated each year. I love it because it is simple yet packs an enormous amount of data into it enabling one to draw conclusions about various macro factors.

    You'll see that CO2 levels in the U.S. peaked in 2007. You'll also see that GDP has increased sharply; total vehicle miles driven is a new high; and population growth has increased steadily. All variables should lead to greater CO2 emissions. Instead, CO2 has declined since 2007.

    If you dig out the raw numbers, US annual nominal GDP is around $10 trillion more than it was in 2007, and US population is about 20 million more. Yet CO2 emissions have declined. It's not solely due to switching from coal fired electricity generation to natural gas. It's in part because we still have a kinda, sorta free market economy that incentivizes innovation, dynamism, and economic efficiency. The example I like to use is "ebooks". Think about the steps required to produce a traditional book: trees are harvested and seedlings replanted in their place; harvested trees are hauled to mills to be turned into pulp; pulp is turned into paper; paper is shipped to printer; printer manufactures the book; book is shipped to wholesale distributor; distributor ships to retailers; book readers drive to retailer who use electricity for lighting and heating/cooling for potential book buyers or book buyers buy on Amazon. All those energy intensive steps are eliminated with e-books. And you can think of lots of other examples.

    It's why I've said before the 2007 peak in CO2 will likely NEVER be reached again regardless of what the central planners in Washington do.

    BTW, here's a chart showing how pollutant emissions were declining BEFORE the EPA was invented (this isn't an outlier chart, I saw a similar one in an Environmental Economics course I took about 20 years ago). I agree the EPA's regulations probably sped up the process to reduce emissions, but as my book example above illustrates, we may have gotten to the same point eventually via innovation (there's a theory in economics called Coase's Theorem that sorts gets to that point, too). We can't run the counter-factual so we'll never know.

    The "average" American is breathing the cleanest air he's ever breathed in his life. Greenpeace, Sierra Club, NRDC ought to be doing cartwheels in the street rejoicing. But they each have $100 million annual budgets. To fund their organizations they have to separate rich people from their money. That's hard to do if you tell them the air their breathing is the cleanest air they've ever breathed in their life and it's been done at a time when the economy has never been larger.

    1. Yeah, but think of how much cleaner it could be if we had a carbon tax. Signed: Al G. #climategrifting4bigprofit #wecantexplainitjustbelieve #settledsciencesoshutup

    2. You two Anons aren't the usual variety of Anons we are used to seeing around these parts, since you're intelligent and have something worthwhile to say!

      So why don't you grab yourselves a name & pull up a chair; I'd like to get to know you better!

      Anon @10:41- that was a great explanation!

  7. Epa also does not know how to address nutrient overenrichment and contamination in water systems that come from farm and livestock runoff. They would rather chase a nonexistent problem and sjw cause than make big ag move 0.01" and have them clean up their act

    1. And being a small farmer I will agree that you have a point. However, the so-called corporate farms can push for a uniform enforcement that can kill the small farm while they weather the regulatory onslaught with their deeper pockets. Case in point is the FDA's VFD that is a real hindrance to the small farmer while having little effect on large farms that have a vet(s) on staff. This is a big problem for those of us in areas where there is a shortage of or no large animal vets.

    2. Small farmer anon - you are a victim of lobbying which is where the bigger firms lobby to have our corrupt congress pass laws that help the big firm and hurt the small ones.

  8. 50 years ago a friend worked for duPont where he was on a team that was supposed to "abate" waste from the byproducts or their production. The intent was to find uses for the byproduct that could generate income. He said they would not use those uses until they were financially viable or forced to by the government. The thing I remember most he called himself "the master abater."

  9. I used to work with Diane Katz in Detroit. Smart lady.