CHESSER: Environmental regulation and death

It’s the correlation no one wants to acknowledge

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Last week brought the latest installment in the environmentalists’ “how can we fool ‘em next” series of scares. You’ve heard them: global cooling, the population bomb, DDT, global warming, energy security, global weirding, ocean garbage patches, etc.

Last week, Politico reported the latest environoia memo: death by greenhouse gases.

“That’s what makes people sit up and pay attention,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of the environmental group Clean Air Watch. “If you’re talking about more environmental impacts broadly, it does not pack the same punch as saying, ‘This polluter might hurt your grandmother.’ “

It’s a unified effort, with eco-regulators trying to pre-empt House Republican scrutiny of their job-killing rules and policies.

“These attacks are aimed at the EPA, but their impacts are felt by all Americans,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “Pollutants like mercury, smog and soot are neurotoxins and killers that cause developmental problems and asthma in kids and heart attacks in adults.”

Ms. Jackson ignored the fact that the current conflict is over the EPA’s Clean Air Act regulations of invisible greenhouse gases (GHGs), a category in which none of her above-mentioned pollutants fits. Not surprisingly, she disregards the mortal risks posed by GHG regulations that dramatically raise the costs of doing business - risks her own agency has outlined in the past.

Those dangers were identified in a study released last week by the American Tradition Institute. The report examines the costs - and health impacts - associated with the implementation of a potential national Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). President Obama proposed such a mandate in his State of the Union speech, calling for utilities to obtain - by the year 2035 - 80 percent of their power generation from “clean” supplies of energy such as wind or solar, replacing other sources such as coal, oil or natural gas that produce GHGs.

The economically disastrous results from the study - conducted by economists at the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University - did not surprise, considering that utilities would be forced to replace those cheap, efficient sources of energy with far more expensive and unreliable “renewables.” Testing three scenarios - a 15 percent, 20 percent and 30 percent national RPS by the year 2021 (the highest is probably necessary to attain the president’s goal) - the analysis found that a national RPS could inflict a hit on the economy that likely would be in trillions of dollars.

As disturbing as that sounds, consider how individual families - especially the poorest - would be affected. Should Mr. Obama’s ambitious RPS be the policy objective set in Washington, Americans can expect to see massive job losses, drops in wage rates and reduced disposable income.

And you might be surprised to learn - especially when the media covers only how environmental threats cause health problems - that even the EPA has research that regulations can increase death rates. In a Clinton administration report from August 1995 titled “On the Relevance of Risk-Risk Analysis to Policy Evaluation,” the agency observed that “people’s wealth and health status, as measured by mortality, morbidity, and other metrics, are positively correlated. Hence, those who bear a regulation’s compliance costs may also suffer a decline in their health status, and if the costs are large enough, these increased risks might be greater than the direct risk-reduction benefits of the regulation.”

So what did the RPS study find, based upon expected harmful economic impacts and related health consequences from research published in the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Accident Analysis and Prevention, and Risk Analysis? That should the federal government push a national RPS at roughly the rate that President Obama requests, an additional 12,000 more fatalities per year could occur because of diminished income.

It’s time for environmentalists, their regulators and the media to be accountable to report the real outcomes from the regulations they demand. It’s not as if they don’t know the truth.

Paul Chesser is executive director for the American Tradition Institute.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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