Commentary

Why is Industry Fighting $100 Billion in Clean Air Benefits?

What if I told you that you that there’s an investment out there that can make up to 48% in annual return and every year prevent up to 12,000 human deaths, 58,000 asthma attacks, 2.5 millions days when people miss work or school, and 8.1 million days when people have to restrict their outdoor activities?

Unbelievable?

It’s not.  It’s called clean air.

What is unbelievable, if not completely bizarre, is that industry lobby groups are launching a full out assault against this incredibly worthwhile investment.

Under an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to tighten federal limits on ground-level ozone pollution, the key ingredient of smog, this country could reap up to $100 billion in economic benefits every year.  And that only counts the actual health benefits, like keeping asthmatic kids out of hospitals or keeping grandparents alive so they can see their grandchildren grow up.  It doesn’t count the other benefits that go along with reduced ozone–the jobs created in the pollution control sector, the quality of life increases, and critically the increased productivity and intellectual development of our kids in school.

Apparently however, industry thinks these benefits are simply not important.

Groups like the American Petroleum Institute are going so far as to call on the Obama Administration to completely scrap the proposal, which strengthen the current ozone standard of 0.075 parts per million to somewhere between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million.

Jack Gerard, the President of the Petroleum Institute, even went so far as to assert that adopting stronger ozone standards would equate to “no jobs.”

In other words, Gerard is saying, $100 billion in benefits to the United States every year will actually kill jobs.

If such logic was dismissed as the bizarre anti-regulatory rhetoric that it is, it would be laughable.  Unfortunately, the Obama Administration seems to be listening.

Yesterday, the Administration announced that the proposed ozone standards will not be finalized by this Friday, July 29th, as originally promised.  Instead, they’ll be delayed indefinitely.

Public health groups, like the American Lung Association, rightfully blasted the Administration.  After all, clean air delayed is clean air denied.  Although in this case, clean air delayed is $100 billion denied.

Here in the West, the impacts of this delay will hit particularly hard.  A number of areas are likely to be in violation of the new ozone standards (see the map below).  More delay will simply stall efforts to clean up the smog in those areas.  For people living in these areas, such as Sublette County, Wyoming, San Juan County, New Mexico, Navajo County, Arizona, and La Plata County, Colorado, it means they’ll be forced to breathe unhealthy air indefinitely.  Worse, they’ll be denied their share of $100 billion in benefits.

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