Dec 4

Predicting the worst

An interesting article about the effects of the Clean Air Act is here. The money shot:

Not surprisingly, the cost of achieving the tremendous public health and environmental benefits of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 were a fraction of industry forecasts… In 1990, power companies predicted that reducing sulfur dioxide pollution would cost $1000-$1500 per ton and electricity prices would increase up to 10% in many states… In fact, the actual pollution reduction cost has been between $100 and $200 per ton for most of the program, and electricity prices fell in most states. Acid rain has been dramatically reduced and the limits on sulfur dioxide pollution were met faster and at a strikingly lower price than anyone expected in 1990.

The article also states that the following benefits outweigh the costs:

EPA estimates that the pollution reductions achieved under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments will in this year alone:

* Save 160,000 lives,
* Avoid 130,000 cases of acute bronchitis and 130,000 heart attacks,
* Prevent 86,000 emergency room visits,
* Keep children in school and prevent 3,200,000 lost school days and
* Keep workers on the job and prevent 13,000,000 lost work days.

This hearkens back to an office lunch conversation I had recently with a coworker about smoking in bars.  When smoking bans were being considered, the first panicked response was that it would kill business. I was living in Pennsylvania as this was going on in Philadelphia.  Having seen it in effect in Arizona, all I could do was roll my eyes.  People still went to bars, and in fact in larger numbers.  The only change was a positive increase in indoor air quality.

People need to realize, and businesses already are, really, that improvements in living and reductions in pollution can only help us.  These changes improve bottom lines as well as health and productivity for everyone.  We should all just calm down and see these changes as the positive force they are.

I’m glad that we’ve been able to make real changes in our lives that will keep us living on Earth longer.

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