Enviros debunk themselves on ozone, employment

Give me ozone or give me a job.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) says in a new report that, contrary to industry assertions, EPA’s ozone crackdown hasn’t caused economic havoc. But one look at CAP’s data should make Americans yearn for more ozone.

The CAP report features two graphs. The first graph purports (we are making the dangerous assumption that CAP has presented the data accurately and fairly) to show that areas failing to meet the 1997 EPA ozone standard (“nonattainment areas”) experienced economic productivity trends similar to the national average.

But, of course, the nonattainment areas have significantly higher per capita GDP than the national average — i.e., they are wealthier. It’s a no-brainer to accept a few meaningless parts per billion more of ozone in exchange for substantially more economic productivity.

The next graph purports to compare unemployment in nonattainment areas with the national average.

Keeping in mind that the EPA’s 1997 standards didn’t really take effect until 2004, this graph shows that:

  • Pre-2004, unemployment was slightly lower in nonattainment areas; and
  • Post-2004, unemployment pretty much followed the housing bubble and ensuing economic disaster.

At the very least, this graph counters CAP’s assertion that,

… clean air investments are good for… the economy… [T]he Clean Air Act has created jobs, spurred a multi-billion dollar trade surplus in environmental technology for American businesses, and provided enormous public health benefits relative to investment in pollution control technology.

According to CAP’s argument, we would expect to see attainment areas doing substantialy better than nonattainment areas. Where’s that graph, CAP?

Moreover, none of CAP’s analysis is at all relevant to further tightening of the ozone standard for two reasons:

  • Environmental protection is essentially a luxury that a society can afford. Ours is such a wealthy nation that we have been able to indulge the EPA’s madness for the past couple decades. But that is no longer the case.
  • We’ve already clamped down on all the low-hanging emissions. The tighter the emissions standards set, the more difficult and expensive it is to reach them (80/20 rule).

EPA’s ozone rule is projected to cost $1 trillion per year between 2020 and 2030 and kill 7.4 million jobs by 2020. It will not prevent one occurrence of asthma, prevent any premature death or make the sky any bluer.

If you want “cleaner” air, prepare yourself for unemployment and/or an emptier wallet — and, of course, no improvement in public health or the environment.

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