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Do as I say not as I do

Posted By Russ Roberts On November 30, 2011 @ 1:44 pm In Environment | Comments Disabled

Great catch from Gregg Easterbrook [1] (and his analysis of Tim Tebow is also superb):

Federal standards for ground-level ozone, the main component in smog, were tightened in 2008. This happened when George W. Bush was president. Little was said because establishment opinion did not want to acknowledge that a conservative Republican backed the tightening of anti-smog standards. When, a few months ago, Barack Obama decided not to support another tightening of regulations against smog, establishment opinion was shocked. How could a liberal Democratic not support stricter environmental rules!

Here [2], The New York Times recounts how Obama reached his decision, laboring to make the story sound appalling. Never mentioned is that smog is already declining under the existing standard — and has been declining steadily for about 30 years. No mainstream media account of the Obama decision, among those seen by your columnist at least, mentioned that smog is already declining anyway. If you know that, the shock value goes poof.

The EPA reports [3] a 67 percent decline since 1980 in the six common pollutants that contribute to smog. Volatile organic compounds, the worst smog malefactor, are down 63 percent since 1980. This progress has occurred in the same period that the U.S. population has risen 36 percent, meaning per-capita pollution is spectacularly lower, and while vehicle miles-driven have risen 96 percent, meaning smog went sharply down even as driving went sharply up. Did you even know that air pollution has declined, under Republican and Democratic administrations alike? The media rarely mention this, because it’s good news.

The Times story linked above begins with a classic unintentionally hilarious reference: “As she was driven the four blocks to the White House, Lisa P. Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, suspected that the news would not be good.” The EPA administrator used a government car to move just four blocks! The Environmental Protection Agency building is at 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania. Just four blocks and a pretty walk to boot, with historic buildings all around. Did Jackson need a car because it was raining? The story gives the date of Jackson’s meeting with Obama. Washington weather that day was partly cloudy, high of 80.

Jackson has been the leading Obama administration supporter of stricter regulations to discourage gasoline and coal consumption. On the right this is described as a disaster — Monday’s Wall Street Journal editorial page slammed Jackson for favoring fuel efficiency [4]. Just as the left’s global warming alarms are overblown, so are the right’s alarms about environmental regulations [5], which definitely have been good for the environment and mainly have been good for the economy. The issue here is simple government hypocrisy. The EPA administrator herself wants to be in a car even for a very short distance on a nice day — but thinks everybody else should be required to use less fossil fuel!

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[1] Great catch from Gregg Easterbrook: http://espn.go.com/espn/page2/story/_/id/7291606/denver-tim-tebow-effectively-brings-high-school-offense-nfl

[2] Here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/17/science/earth/policy-and-politics-collide-as-obama-enters-campaign-mode.html?ref=politics

[3] EPA reports: http://www.epa.gov/air/airtrends/aqtrends.html#comparison

[4] slammed Jackson for favoring fuel efficiency: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204630904577056393981840650.html

[5] the right’s alarms about environmental regulations: http://blogs.reuters.com/gregg-easterbrook/2011/09/01/the-first-bogeyman-of-the-2012-campaign

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