By Henry Ehrlich
The New York Times recently put a death tag on new rules calculated to reduce the price tag for coal-fired power plans. “The administration’s own analysis…revealed on Tuesday that the new rules could also lead to as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 from an increase in the extremely fine particulate matter that is linked to heart and lung disease, up to 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems, a rise in bronchitis, and tens of thousands of missed school days.” The Washington Post puts the body count higher. Either way, the average yearly mortality rates from asthma, which has fallen to around 3000 per year, will likely creep back up to where it was a couple of decades ago.
The three founders of this website have always been divided on politics (hint, the two with the same last name agreed with one another) but all of us agreed that cleaner air is better for asthmatics and everyone else than dirty air. We have published articles on the deleterious effects of carbon, small particle pollution, sulfur dioxide, and others probably. We don’t name names and take sides but hope that the facts speak for themselves.
But while we’re on the subject, this administration also proposes to cripple fuel efficiency and emission standards for cars and trucks that had been put in place by the previous one. The rationale presented as presented by the Times would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous to the nation’s lungs, arguing that the relaxed standards would save 13,000 road fatalities per year:
The Trump administration uses three dubious assumptions to reach its conclusion. First, it asserts that people who buy more fuel-efficient cars would drive more — about 1.3 trillion miles more than previous estimates — because it would be cheaper to do so and they would, thus, be at greater risk of accidents. This is what experts call the rebound effect, but few researchers say the effect is this strong. One scholar, Kenneth Gillingham, a Yale economist, whose work the government relied on to come up with its numbers, told The Times that the administration ignored more recent work that showed a much smaller effect.
Next, the administration says that because more fuel-efficient cars would be more expensive, fewer people would buy them and they would choose to keep driving older cars that tend be less safe than newer models. This argument is belied by the fact that car sales have been strong in recent years, even as fuel economy improved to 25.1 miles per gallon in 2018 models, from 21.8 miles per gallon in 2011, according to the Consumer Federation of America. On average, Americans bought 17 million cars annually over the last five years while about 13 million older models went off the road.
Finally, Trump officials claim that automakers would have to make their vehicles lighter to meet the Obama standards, which would make them less safe. This is bunk. Lighter-weight aluminum, which many automakers have turned to as a replacement for steel, protects motorists better because it crumples and absorbs the impact of crashes better than heavier materials, said Daniel Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign at the Center for Auto Safety. Further, newer models tend to have more sophisticated safety features, like automatic braking and lane-departure warnings, that over time should make American roads safer.
Anyone in your family have asthma? You have a job to do in November.