The following is excerpted from Mr. Fumento’s book, Polluted Science: The EPA’s Campaign to Expand Clean Air Regulations
Call it the November Surprise. Three weeks after President Clinton secured his second
term, the EPA unveiled proposals for sweeping new standards that will once again ratchet down the amount of air pollution allowed in our cities. The agency and its administrator, Carol
Browner, claimed the new restrictions on ozone and particulates would prevent 20,000 premature deaths annually. And all this will cost us essentially nothing. In fact, it will boost the economy!
As the old aphorism warns, things that sound too good to be true generally are. What the
EPA does not say is that its figures actually represent the top end of a range. And the bottom
end? Zero. Zero deaths delayed. Its calculations at this point represent not people but statistical artifacts.
The real benefits will be scant at best; more probably, they will make more of us ill and
kill some of us off. Economists have long been piling up mountains of evidence showing that
those with more money to spend live longer. The more money you have, the better medical care you can afford, the fewer risks you have to take, and the more you can spend on safety devices or simply safer things. Using fatality estimates from the Reason Institute, estimates which show about 2,201 premature deaths for each $10 billion spent, we can see that anywhere from 15,400 to 33,000 people would die yearly from the EPA’s proposed PM 2.5 regulations, while 4,400 to 13,200 addition people would die from EPA’s proposed ozone regulations.
What about the cost side of the proposals? The Center for the Study of American
Business estimates that the new PM 2.5 standard would cost the nation $55 billion or more a
year, while the George Mason University’s Center for the Study of Public Choice puts the cost for new ozone standards somewhere between $54 billion and $328 billion.
Clearly, these standards will cost the nation a fortune. And not incidentally, they will
extend the EPA’s bureaucratic tentacles into new areas that a few years ago would have been
unthinkable. In 1994, the EPA announced plans to regulate lawn mowers. Also under Browner, the EPA has begun the process of regulating power boats and jet skis. Already one state, California, does regulate barbecue grills, along with such other consumer items as leaf blowers and paint to comply with present EPA mandates. Denver severely restricts the use of wood-burning fireplaces and has outlawed the installation of such fireplaces in new homes. Regulators in San Francisco have even urged residents to refrain from using aerosol deodorants and alcohol-based perfumes to reduce ozone-creating gases.
All this raises a much larger question: What does a regulatory bureaucracy do when it
starts to run out of new things to regulate? The answer, it appears, is somehow to fabricate new hazards that nobody previously knew existed, including the regulators and the activist groups themselves.
Mr. Fumento, a CFACT advisor, is a well-known author and journalist who currently
serves as a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Copies of “Polluted Science”
can be ordered for $16.95 by calling 1-800-269-6267.