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comment by wasoxygen
wasoxygen  ·  1078 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Is It Better to Be Poor in Bangladesh or the Mississippi Delta?

I am inclined to agree. We should throw out the dirty water and keep the beautiful healthy babies.

Can you cite an example of regulation done well that I could look into? I have only researched a few narrow areas carefully, and it's likely that they haven't been representative.

b_b  ·  1078 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Can you cite an example of regulation done well that I could look into?

Well the Cuyahoga River hasn't set on fire in some years.

wasoxygen  ·  1078 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    The 1969 Cuyahoga River fire helped spur an avalanche of water pollution control activities, resulting in the Clean Water Act, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA).

The Clean Water Act, you recall, figured in our conversation about phosphorus.

    Summing up:

    Late 1960's: Eutrophication is perceived as a significant environmental concern.

    1964-1970: Detergent manufacturers recognize the need to remove phosphorus from detergents and spend considerable resources developing NTA, a safe alternative.

    1970: The government tells detergent manufacturers to stop using NTA.

    1972: The Clean Water Act and local laws restrict the use of phosphorus in detergent.

    1980: The government says NTA is okay after all.

    Is it obvious that the government even did more good than harm by getting involved with this issue?

johnnyFive  ·  1078 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The Clean Air Act is a pretty good one. One estimate is that it saved $22 trillion in healthcare costs. And that's just the costs, not counting the social good of a lot fewer sick people. And the reduction in global warming.

wasoxygen  ·  1078 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    And that's just the costs, not counting the social good of a lot fewer sick people.

I don't get the impression that EPA shortchanged themselves counting savings. Table 13.1 shows 184,000 annual deaths avoided thanks to particulate matter reduction, each one valued at $4.8 million. That's a social good (a big one!) and over 21 years adds up to $18 trillion, the majority of the central estimate of savings if my math is correct.

The EPA report includes dollar estimates for improvements in IQ points in children, missed work days, restricted activity days, shortness of breath in children, "household soiling damage," visibility impairment, and agricultural yields.

I haven't gotten the feeling that they are exaggerating these (necessarily highly theoretical) numbers, but I do feel that they are counting whatever they can.

wasoxygen  ·  1078 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Thanks, that does sound like a good candidate. My expectation after reading the Atlantic article is that I'll largely agree that it is cost-effective legislation. But I have had such positive expectations dashed before.

It's a bit suspect that the source for this good news is the EPA itself. We all know what to think about research performed by Philip Morris.

I also note that the act is a factor in the addition of ethanol to gasoline, which I think is bad policy overall. I have doubts that the EPA counts such secondary effects as "costs." It's not an easy calculation.

    The Clean Air Act requires the addition of oxygenates to reduce carbon monoxide emissions in the United States. The additive MTBE is currently being phased out due to ground water contamination, hence ethanol becomes an attractive alternative additive.
b_b  ·  1078 days ago  ·  link  ·  

And let's not forget that this example and mine both fall under the auspices of the EPA, an organization that was created by Richard Nixon (and later bolstered by Reagan and Bush I). Oh for the days when environmental protection wasn't a partisan issue.