More Cars, But Not Necessarily More Pollution

By October 16, 2007Miscellaneous

Pithy, well-reasoned (i.e., cites evidence) and timely editorial in today’s Washington Examiner, “More cars don’t always mean more pollution.

Washington metropolitan region is expected to meet the federal ozone standard by the fall of 2009 — a few months earlier than required and just six years after the Environmental Protection Agency found the D.C. area in “severe non-attainment” for ozone under the 1990 Clean Air Act.

At the time, the non-attainment designation prompted the usual hand-wringing, with especially dire warnings about massive public health problems from ozone, a major ingredient in smog. The federal government threatened to withhold highway funding for any non-attainment area that did not make sufficient progress in cleaning up its air.

The rationale behind the threat was that urban areas that couldn’t meet clean air standards shouldn’t be building more roads to accommodate even more exhaust-spewing vehicles. But it gave the wrong impression that vehicles were the main problem. The creation of ozone is complicated by the way certain chemicals react to various topographical and weather conditions, and the fact that many of the pollutants were being blown here from the Midwest.

We draw the conclusion that current EPA ozone standards are working as intended, and imposing stricter standards would, at best, achieve nominal improvements at the costs of billions of dollars — money that could be spent in more economically productive ways.

NAM President John Engler’s commentary on the proposed ozone rules is here. The EPA’s ozone page is here.

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