Romney thinks U.S. air is dirty?

At a London fundraiser last night, Mitt Romney said,

“The EPA has an important responsibility, and that is to keep clean and make more clean our air and our water. I happen to think that the decision by the Supreme Court and by the administration to have the EPA also regulate the emissions of carbon dioxide was beyond the intent of the original legislation. My view is that the EPA, if it keeps to its mission and does not use its power to foster or further an anti-carbon energy agenda, would be a more effective department…” [Emphasis added]

While Romney is spot on about the overreach of Massachusetts v. EPA, it’s also true that U.S. air is clean and safe. No one is being harmed by ambient air quality anywhere in the U.S.

[h/t Politico, for the quote]

9 thoughts on “Romney thinks U.S. air is dirty?”

  1. Point well taken. Miscommunication can happen so easily, and I’m an outsider (electrical/software engineer by trade) beginning to look into the science behind air quality. Perhaps Mr. Romney would not disagree about “ambient” air quality with a definition that excludes event-driven causes. But I do know that the valley I live in is drafting legislation to introduce various mitigations for air quality, such as vehicle emission regulations that we have formerly been exempt from. And it is because of not being able to meet air quality standards that I understand we would meet if we were allowed to exclude air quality measurements for days that we are affected by an inversion. So EPA seems to have authority over both ambient and event-caused air quality problems, if that distinction is made. Note that it was not Mr. Romney who used word “ambient”, so he may have done the more accurate job communicating this time since his statement was harder to misinterpret – it is inclusive of event-caused air quality.

    As you may suspect I will be voting for Mr. Romney in November so don’t like to see him spoken ill of, especially in a forum like this. I think Mr. Romney will listen to the voices of scientific reason, and this site is intended to facilitate such voices being heard.

  2. What we’ve got here is failure to communicate

    Actually it looks more like distinctions in the use of “ambient”.

    I’ve read Steve’s statement and some of the comments here and don’t see any conflict with those talking about event air quality (inversions, dust storms … ). Events can harm air quality but being in the smoke plume of a brush fire, where most of us would call the air dreadfully polluted, is not what any of us would consider normal ambiance, it’s an event condition, as are valley inversions and dust storms.

    “Pea souper” smogs of yesteryear were also event conditions but the “normal” ambient air of the period was foul – it did harm people in the normal course of their daily lives. Were I to do a comparison of periodic ambient air I wouldn’t cite the “pea souper” as ambient for the period and I suspect those claiming exception here wouldn’t either.

    Pedantry can be an asset in science but there is the world of difference between blog postings and technical dissertations.

  3. I live in a valley that gets quite cold in the winter, and we often have “inversions” that trap smoke, etc., for an extended period of time, making air quality unusually bad during those times. Some people have chronic problems, like, asthma and doctors recommend that they stay indoors during such conditions to avoid complications to their chronic condition. I don’t know how the author believes that his statement can be true: “No one is being harmed by ambient air quality anywhere in the U.S.”. Is that not clearly an overgeneralization? Scientific analysis rarely affords the ability to make such a general statement, unless there are some precise definitions that accompany key terms in a statement (such as “harmed” and “anywhere” in the case of this one).

  4. Migosh. I’ve been in environmental management for 30 years and have been doing “green” things for over 50 years. It’s stuff like two of the postings that make me consider being called an environmentalist a grievous insult.

    Robert wants to solve all the water pollution by seizing flood prone land. How far back from every creek, stream, river, lake and coast line would you seize property? In 1999 Hurricane Floyd flooded North Carolina up to 100 miles or so west of the coast. So, you’d seize a third of Eastern NC? Ever heard of farming “good bottomland?” That’s the low lying, flood prone land next to rivers. Just what percentage of the US would you seize?

    Harold has links to dirty air. The mercury “data” doesn’t really list anyone who was harmed by methylmercury and is current as of 1972, only 40 years ago. He lists the 1972 pollution data, assuming the reader would think it current. The link is just “dirty air” with no specifics. In the alkaline dust he got all the way up to 1989 where the EPA was pushing regulations of PM10. The links indicated bad dust storms a few times per year. I’ve found it very difficult to find any reports of people actually being harmed by environmental mercury. Harold, do you have modern links showing that?

  5. Harold – you conveniently overlooked a statement in your comment:
    “…dust storms have been a winter feature almost since Los Angeles water engineers dried up the lake in 1926.”

    Just shut down Los Angeles, stopr diverting the water and “voila” the problem disappears!

  6. Harold you conveniently left out volcanic discharges, one of which releases far more than the total miniscule 3000 tons by coal burning.

  7. “No one is being harmed by ambient air quality anywhere in the U.S.”


    “In Keeler, a former mining town on the east shore of the Owens Lake bed, dust storms have been a winter feature almost since Los Angeles water engineers dried up the lake in 1926. But it was only recently that the massive range of the dust storms was measured and the health risk understood….The dust can be caustic and cause bloody noses, watery eyes and irritated lungs,”

    “On windy days, particulate matter (mainly PM10, a particle size that lodges easily in the lungs) is carried into the air from around the shores of Mono Lake. ”

    “What Makes Air Unhealthy?
    Whether it comes from your car exhaust pipe, dirty smokestacks or a forest fire – air pollution can be deadly. Learn about sources of pollution and how they can be cleaned up so everyone can breathe safer, healthier air.
    Gasoline Engines – Cars, Trucks, Recreational Boats, Lawnmowers,
    Diesel Engines – School Buses, Trucks, Ocean-going Vessels, Construction Equipment, etc.
    Residential Wood Burning
    Electric Utilities
    Industry – Industrial Boilers
    Community Sources – Dry Cleaners, Gasoline Stations, etc.
    Wildfires and Other Natural Disasters

    “The upper limit of the quantity of mercury released by weathering processes is approximately 230 metric tons per year. The quantity of mercury released by burning of coal is estimated to be of the order of 3000 tons per year, a quantity comparable to that emitted as waste from industrial processes. ”

  8. Robert, please clarify what you mean by “flood prone.” I have a feeling that literally millions of property owners and businesses might have a problem with your idea of an eminent domain-style seizure of property, especially (but not nearly limited to) those located along big rivers of commerce like the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri. For instance, how much of the cities of St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Lousiville, Memphis and New Orleans do you plan on “buying back,” and at what price?

  9. The EPA should be safeguarding the environment – not just people. While I agree the U.S. is much cleaner now than it was, say 50 years ago, I am for reducing real pollutants (not CO2) to lower levels WHEN PRACTICAL. I especially think water quality can be improved by reducing fertilizer and waste (think pig farms) runoff into our rivers. Flood prone areas should be bought back from private owners and turned into nature reserves. There is a lot of practical ideas that would help our environment.

    EPA as currently run is simply out of control. They produce highly questionable research, dubious conclusions, and politically motivated regulations. It doesn’t have to be this way. Likely, the only way to fix the current agency is to disban it and start over with a new agency with carefully limited powers and solid methodologies that would be harder to pervert.

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