Cheap Seats 2017
And So it Goes – Ignorance Wins! - 08/02
By Rich Trzupek
On Tuesday, July 18, the House passed the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017, which instructs the EPA to delay implementing a microscopic, but expensive, adjustment to national air quality standards promulgated by the Obama-era EPA. Democrats, environmental groups and their loyal allies in the legacy media predictably reacted as if the world was coming to an end. To paraphrase Churchill, never in the course of human events has so much hysteria been generated by so many over so little.
Worrying about trivialities like a 5 parts per billion reduction in an air quality standard is one of those rich people problems that should embarrass us as a nation. The healthier and wealthier the society, the worse it is at making reasonable risk/benefit assessments and it is perhaps a measure of our relative health and wealth that so many of us have grown this neurotic.
This is true of both the private sector and the public sector. We are, after all, a nation with among the cleanest public drinking water systems in the world. There are dozens of third world nations where people would weep tears of joy if the toxic soup they consume on a day-to-day basis was replaced with water meeting our exacting quality standards. Yet, there are companies who sell water filtration products to gullible consumers whom the manufacturers have convinced that reducing a teensy-tiny amount of a particular contaminant to a somewhat teensier-tinier amount is somehow not only desirable, but necessary.
So it goes with the EPA’s ambient air ozone standard. Ozone, aka: smog, has been linked to asthma and other lung-related issues. And, at high enough concentrations, that is certainly true. But “high enough” is the key. The 16th century Swiss physician famously observed that “the dose makes the poison”. For example, you absolutely need sodium in your blood stream to live, but ingesting too much sodium over too long a period of time can kill you.
So what do we know about ozone and what concentrations are dangerous? We know, that as ozone concentrations have consistently dropped around the nation for the last forty-some years, asthma rates have consistently climbed. Correlation doesn’t necessarily equate to causation, but there’s not even correlation here. Yet, environmental groups, the legacy media, Democrats and even some Republicans continue to claim that current ozone concentrations and asthma rates are somehow linked.
We know that the allowable ambient air concentrations of ozone have been reduced twice. First, under Clinton from 120 ppb (one-hour average) to 80 ppb (eight-hour average), then under George W. Bush to 75 ppb (eight-hour average). President Obama’s grossly biased scientific advisory panel recommended a further reduction, anywhere from 60 ppb to 70 ppb. If tiny reductions in ozone concentrations have so many benefits, as environmental groups claim, why didn’t the President choose 60 ppb, the lowest number possible?
The answer is that lowering the standard to 60 ppb would have affected so many counties across the nation and the economic consequences would have been so severe that a savvy politician like Obama picked the upper end of the scale. It would still be expensive, just not catastrophically so, and it would still be pointless, but it gave him a tasty bone to toss to his green supporters.
EPA’s claims about the effects of ozone at current levels, which are only slightly greater than typical natural background concentration of about 50 ppb, are laughable. That is unless you were subject to one of their chamber of horror studies for which the agency is being sued. Not much to laugh about there.
Democrats have labeled the Republican effort to delay this latest, infinitesimal reduction in the ozone standard “The Smoggy Skies Act”, proves that they have no more interest in trying to evaluate risk and reward in the real world than they do about securing our borders or to address any other form of reality in terms that actually matter.