Economist: Rule-making is being made to look more beneficial under Barack Obama

“Mr Obama’s EPA has considered raising the value of cutting the risk of death by cancer on the ground that it is a more horrifying way to die than others.”

The Economist reports:

IN DECEMBER Barack Obama trumpeted a new standard for mercury emissions from power plants. The rule, he boasted, would prevent thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks and asthma cases. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reckoned these benefits were worth up to $90 billion a year, far above their $10 billion-a-year cost. Mr Obama took a swipe at past administrations for not implementing this “common-sense, cost-effective standard”.

A casual listener would have assumed that all these benefits came from reduced mercury. In fact, reduced mercury explained none of the purported future reduction in deaths, heart attacks and asthma, and less than 0.01% of the monetary benefits. Instead, almost all the benefits came from concomitant reductions in a pollutant that was not the principal target of the rule: namely, fine particles…

Under Mr Obama, rule-makers’ assumptions not only enhance the benefits of rules but also reduce the costs. John Graham of Indiana University, who ran OIRA under Mr Bush, cites the new fuel-economy standards as an example. They assume that electric cars have no carbon emissions, although the electricity they use probably came from coal. They also assume less of a “rebound effect”—the tendency of people to drive more when their cars get better mileage—than was the case under Mr Bush.

Mr Bush’s administration was sometimes accused of the opposite bias: understating benefits and overstating costs. At one point his EPA considered assigning a lower value to reducing the risk of death for elderly people since they had fewer years left to live; it eventually backed down. Mr Obama’s EPA has considered raising the value of cutting the risk of death by cancer on the ground that it is a more horrifying way to die than others…

Read the entire report.