Is Ozone The Issue?

New ozone standards will push the majority of American metropolises from compliance with to violation of the federal Clean Air Act. In this column, Joel Schwartz argues that ozone isn't the big problem.

"The Clean Air Act already pervades Americans' work and personal lives in ways both obvious and subtle. But the current system will seem a libertarian paradise compared to the brave new world we're about to enter. The EPA's new standard will greatly increase regulatory burdens in areas that already violate the ozone standard, and will expand the Byzantine Clean Air Act planning system into large areas of the country that have never been subject to them."

"Due to relatively low ozone levels during the last few years, only 19 percent of the nation's metropolitan areas violate EPA's current eight-hour ozone standard of 85 parts per billion, down from 40 percent just a few years ago. Non-metropolitan counties - those that include only rural areas or smaller cities - are in even better shape, with only a four-percent violation rate. Absent a tougher standard, this would have meant that many areas would shortly be getting out from under some of the Clean Air Act's most odious requirements."

"With the new standard, however, non-attainment will become the norm, rather than the exception. EPA is proposing a standard somewhere in the range of 70–75 ppb. Based on current ozone levels, this would put 67–87 percent of metropolitan areas in violation, and 39–72 percent of non-metropolitan counties."

"Ozone also can't be causing people to develop asthma. Asthma prevalence has nearly doubled during the last 25 years, but ozone and every other air pollutant sharply declined at the same time. Even direct attempts to link air pollution to asthma have come up empty. CARB and researchers from the University of Southern California tracked thousands of children from ages 10 to 18. Children who grew up in communities with the highest ozone levels in the country had a 30-percent lower risk of developing asthma when compared with children in areas with background ozone levels. The same study also showed that growing up in areas that exceed the current 85 ppb ozone standard 120 days per year has no effect on lung growth or capacity."

Full Story: Regulating to Infinity and Beyond



Schwartz boilerplate.

This is a typical boilerplate Schwartz pro-industry piece, faithfully and unfailingly appearing every time a new reg is proposed.

He has written this very sort of thing for years, and calls for relaxation of 'costly' regs because air pollution is decreasing.

He "forgets" to tell you certain pollutants are decreasing because of regs, and that for every dollar's worth of regulatory cost, there are 7 dollars of avoided societal cost (health care, longevity, QOL).



Read the article, dano.

Read the article, dano. Nowhere does Schwartz ask for a repeal of the existing regs. Rather, he cites studies by CARB (certainly no shill for "industry") and USC and the EPA themselves, which indicate that ozone at current levels is not a health risk. If this is the case, and it seems to be, then the only practical reason for the higher standard is to increase the power of the federal and state governments. Once again, we are looking at significant regulation of our lives by unelected bureaucrats. Did your "health benefit" calculation include the thousands of people who have died in car accidents, due to the smaller and lighter cars mandated by CAFE standards? Of course, people who die prematurely in accidents don't need health care, eh?


Can you say, anti-government Libertarian?!

If Barry Goldwater were around, would you kiss the ground that he walks on?

Cafe Standards and Health

And does your calculation count the millions or tens of millions of additional people who would die as a result of global warming if we did not have CAFE standards?

The Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, representing a consensus of the world's scientists, says that, unless we act dramatically to slow global warming, it will kill hundreds of millions of people.

Charles Siegel

Still waiting for an answer

The IPCC report is nothing like a "consensus of the world's scientists." A consensus of U.N paid scientists, maybe. In any case, the point, again, was that ADDITIONAL regulation serves no public health purpose, so the rationale must lie elsewhere. Given that the tougher standard would give regulatory agencies greatly expanded jurisdiction, I believe that the only purpose for the new standards is to increase governmental control over the lives of individuals, which is the only way for the radical environmetal agenda to be implemented. I have yet to see anything remotely resembling a refutation of that theory.

An interjected answer.

If I may,

The IPCC report is nothing like a "consensus of the world's scientists." A consensus of U.N paid scientists, maybe.

No. The IPCC report is a synthesis of the scientific literature, none of the individual papers were paid by UN salaried workers. Society has moved on and is debating adaptation and mitigation, BTW. Even NRO says so**.

In any case, the point, again, was that ADDITIONAL regulation serves no public health purpose, so the rationale must lie elsewhere.

And as I point out above, the track record of the author is that such statements aren't borne out in fact when one examines his quote-mined footnotes. There is a clear record of continuing externalities by fossil fuel burning and the record of CAA regulation bears that out.

And there is no serious need to refute an evidenceless conspiracy-theory hypothesis professed by a marginal ideology.

Sorry about that.



    It is no longer possible, scientifically or politically, to deny that human activities have very likely increased global temperatures; what remains in dispute is the precise magnitude of the human impact. Conservatives should accept this reality — and move on to the question of what we should do about it. This would put us in a much better position to prevent a massive, counterproductive intervention in the U.S. economy.

Consensus of World's Scientists

The IPCC report does represent a consensus of the world's scientists. Who else would bring together the world's scientists if not the United Nations?

I was responding to your statement: Did your "health benefit" calculation include the thousands of people who have died in car accidents, due to the smaller and lighter cars mandated by CAFE standards?
That is in the past tense - "people who have died" - so it clearly refers to existing CAFE standards, not just additional ones.

But maybe, rather than answering your points, it is better to imitate your own rhetoric:

Opposition to CAFE standards is only a way for the radical right to demand that individuals act with no legal control, no matter how much harm they do to other people, and no matter how unlivable a world they leave to our children and grandchildren. These people care only about implementing their radical right agenda and promoting their own selfish interest at the expense of the public good and of future generations.

Charles Siegel


While I might, to some degree, agree that JS has some boilerplate, I think that's a bad term for someone who at least points out things about air quality regs that you won't hear anywhere else. And, if he is boilerplate, then every other talking head spouting just the opposite, particularly the American Lung Association, is just as boilerplate.

I think the two venting comments were just that. Once again, in your haste to express how much distaste you have for anything "less regulation or government", you have not critiqued what was written.

Here is why it is important. We will soon hear from a number of environmental groups how x number of urban areas are nonattainment vs. 10 years ago or 5 years agowhen there only x-y. Thus, the implication from the numerous press releases and spin masters will be that "see, air quality is getting worse". Only, they would be wrong since the air quality by EPA measures has gotten better, but the tighter standard makes it "appear" as if things have gotten worse. This is called misinformation and after it happens, we should not be questioning who is doing the real spinning here.

It's not about general polarizing statements like "pollution is bad - stop it". It's about representing an accurate picture of actual measures of air quality, changes over time, and the best ways to continue reductions.

Schwartz and hoo-ha.

While I might, to some degree, agree that JS has some boilerplate, I think that's a bad term for someone who at least points out things about air quality regs that you won't hear anywhere else.

First, I suspect they are long since gone, but JS' pieces used to run on Tech Central Station often. Some time ago I dedicated considerabe time to tracking down Joel's copious references, and the overwhelming conclusion I showed there was that he quote mines, thus his conclusions were specious at best, and the vast majority of papers he uses to support his claims, well...don't. So claims that he has shown X haven't been audited with the critical thinking cap on.

Thus, I admit I shorthanded the comment and didn't show work, and maybe I can find in my archives the docs where I showed JS mendacicized the issues, but IME his work doesn't stand scrutiny, copious footnotes notwithstanding.

Second, claims that I want more regulation have zero, zip, zilch, nada, kein basis in fact and all arguments derived from this false premise are no more than hoo-ha. Air pollution is a social justice issue and ideologies that don't see past their nose and argue CBA justifications just don't get it.



The point was that we have

The point was that we have reached the point of diminishing returns. We would have to spend enormous amounts of money to reduce ozone by a small fraction, and there doesn't appear to be any evidence that this small fraction will result in any significant public good, particularly when cost is taken into accountt.

That doesn't bother the regulators, of course. They just say, "Industry can pay for it," as though it is some sort of magic money machine they can hit up to pay for all these utopian plans.

Nice analysis, vtboy! Might I suggest a course or two in economics? Other than Marxist, that is.

Regarding Hoo-haa


I think the real issue is the changing of the standard, not an evaluation of Joel. That always seems to be an issue with so many posters here - assessing the messenger instead of the message.

I didn't necessarily say you always supported more regulation, but rather you seem to have a distaste for anything less regulation. If you read your original comment about the alleged benefits of regulation, it sure sounds like you support a stronger one, although you do not explicitly state it. I apologize if I have misrepresented your position.

Personally, I think the standard is a bit silly. "Regions", which are essentially not governed by any one entity, thus can not possibly control air quality outcomes. All of our reductions have been from tailpipe/engine controls, not anything local governments can control. Plus, why would we not want to create incentives for reductions beyond the standard. This is why pricing/incentives direct to the individual is better. The individual is the one polluting through their activities, not some nebulous region. With appropriate economic incentives will come behavior change and that will have a bigger impact than a new standard which just gives the EPA justification for a bigger budget.


Thank you cp.

An integral part of understanding the argument is understanding the legacy of specious arguments by the auth. In this case, the long legacy of specious arguments gives precedent to the assessment of the messenger. As to the message, we have plenty of evidence that incomplete combustion from internal combustion engines has negative health impacts, so that goes without question. Thus, the attempt to muddy the waters. My position wrt regulation is: no backsliding and I think having proper pricing to give clear market signals is essential.

Anyway, airsheds and watersheds are excellent examples of the need for regional coordination for environmental externalities. And, as Charles infers elsewhere, man-made climate change has differential regional impacts that lend themselves to regional solutions, such as gasoline additives tailored to, say, continental or maritime airmasses. Combine this with clear market signals and you won't get what I get around here on a hot day: people sitting in parking lots with the engines running.



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