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Teleworkin' It
Using Fuel Standards to Control Health Care Costs

This week the EPA unveiled a new set of fuel standards intended to reduce the harmful particulate matter coming out of American tailpipes. The measures require reducing gasoline’s sulfur content more than 60 percent by 2025.

What’s especially interesting here is that the motivation for these new standards is controlling health care costs. The aim is to reduce the respiratory and cardiovascular diseases air pollution causes. Reuters reports:

“By reducing these pollutants and making our air healthier, we will bring relief to those suffering from asthma, other lung diseases and cardiovascular disease, and to the nation as a whole,” said Dr. Albert Rizzo, former chairman of the American Lung Association.

Once fully in place, the standards will help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths per year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children while adding only an average of 1 cent per gallon to the cost of gasoline, the agency estimated.

Industry groups are up in arms over the costs these standards are expected to add to cars—somewhere in the range of $75  per vehicle by 2025. The EPA insists this will be money well spent, estimating it will provide $13 in health savings for every dollar of cost.

While the two sides argue over whether these numbers are likely to add up, everyone can agree that cleaner air is a good thing. Traffic pollution has been identified as a potential contributor to 14 percent of child asthma cases, making it about as bad in that regard as second hand smoke. Worse, researchers have found a correlation between growing up near well-traveled roadways and higher incidents of certain rare cancers.

But we think there’s an even better way of addressing these health concerns: promoting telework. The average American spends nearly an hour commuting to and from work, but for many this chore is as unnecessary as it is stressful and onerous. Plenty of jobs can be done remotely, even if it’s only one or two days a week. That means cleaner skies and healthier people.

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  • Boritz

    “While the two sides argue over whether these numbers are likely to add up…”

    The CBO will start out saying it all adds up when they crunch numbers supplied by Congress. Millions of people will embrace it enthusiastically. Later the CBO, using real numbers, will find it does less than half the good for over twice the price. This template works beautifully (and repeatedly). After all they are non-partisan over there.

  • SLEcoman

    Mr. Mead should know better than to accept government cost benefit analysis at face value, especially the EPA which has a history of not only vastly over-stating the benefits of its regulations but also of withholding test results that do not support its regulations.

    Just to give three examples, of EPA malfeasance, dishonesty.
    1. EPA withheld from the public that 97+% of test subjects that were subjected to 10 Times the NAAQS for fine particulate showed no ill effects.
    2. The ‘science’ underpinning the fine (<2.5 micron) particulate matter (PM2.5) NAAQS assumes that all fine particulate matter regardless of its morphology or whether or not it is a carcinogen has an equal impact on human health. This assumption contradicts decades of research on cigarette smoke and is exactly the opposite of the assumptions the EPA used to justify its regulation of second hand cigarette smoke.
    3. The EPA justified the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) saying that reducing PM2.5 concentrations due to reduced sulfate and nitrate concentrations as a result of reducing power industry SO2 and NOx emissions would provide large human health benefits, especially for asthmatics. From 2001 to 2010 US power industry industry SO2 and NOx emissions reduced by 53% & 57% (EPA data), yet the US asthma incidence rate increased from 7.3% to 8.1% (CDC data).

    • Voodude

      McKitrick: The Ontario Clean Air Alliance has published claims, that Ontario’s coal-fired power plants cause 316 deaths, 440 hospital admissions, 522 emergency room visits and 158,000 minor illnesses each year. Its numbers are based on a 2005 simulation study for the provincial government, that focused almost entirely on the effects of PM2.5.

      But that is nothing compared with the implied effects from people driving on unpaved roads. According to Environment Canada, dust from unpaved roads in Ontario puts a whopping 90,116 tonnes of PM2.5 into our air each year, nearly 130 times the amount from coal-fired power generation. Using the Clean Air Alliance method, for computing deaths, particulates from country-road usage kills 40,739 people per year; quite the massacre considering there are only about 90,000 deaths from all causes in Ontario each year.

      Of course, such a conclusion is absurd, but it follows from the screwy way numbers are used, in this debate. If we are going to say that 699 tonnes of PM2.5 from power generation kills 316 people, then 90,116 tonnes of PM2.5 from unpaved roads must kill a proportionately much larger number. Likewise, paving just eight-10ths of 1% of Ontario’s dirt roads would cut annual PM2.5 emissions by an amount equivalent to shutting down all Ontario coal-fired power plant units. And then Ontario wouldn’t need to shut them down, and the province could have inexpensive, reliable electricity from them for many years to come.”

      • SLEcoman

        Are you the Ross McKitrick of Mann Hockey Stick fame?

        • Voodude

          I wish. I’m quoting Ross McKitrick, of Mann-Debunking fame…

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