Posted on March 13, 2012 by Peter Lehner
The past several decades have shown, time and again, that environmental regulations generate health and economic benefits that far outweigh their costs. Calling on polluters to clean up their mess spurs innovation that saves American lives and money.
Take the example of catalytic converters. When the EPA required car manufacturers to install catalytic converters to reduce tailpipe pollution, automakers warned of catastrophe. Instead, it cost far less than they had predicted–less than 2 percent of the total car cost — and led to American dominance in the global market for this clean car technology. The EPA estimated that the health benefits of the rule outweighed the cost at least 10 times.
When Congress mulled over the acid rain program, industry claimed that scrubbing sulfur dioxide from smokestacks would send the price of electricity skyrocketing. It did no such thing. The program inspired engineers to design cleaner power-plant technologies, and the cost of reducing acid rain pollution turned out to be about a quarter of what the government had predicted . In fact, the acid rain program’s benefits have exceeded costs by about 40 to 1, according to the Office of Budget and Management . And reducing acid rain saves nearly 19,000 lives every year.
The list goes on and on: leaded gasoline, CFCs, nitrogen oxides. Environmental regulations have saved thousands of lives in this country, and improved the health of millions , without creating any of the dire economic consequences predicted by industry at the outset. On the contrary – these regulations have spurred the development of clean technologies and achieved their goals for a relative pittance. And there’s nothing dirty about that.