Reducing Air Pollution Cost-Effectively
AEI Newsletter

Image:Christine Todd Whitman, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Christine Todd Whitman
On February 14, President Bush announced the Clear Skies Initiative as an alternative to
the Kyoto Protocol. The initiative would use a market-based approach to reducing substances harmful to our environment and cutting greenhouse gas intensity. The AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies hosted an event on February 19 that examined the costs and benefits of cutting power plant emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and mercury—three substances that are the focus of the new initiative.

Administrator Christine Todd Whitman of the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as agency members Jeffrey R.Holmstead and Peter E. Tsirigotis, explained that the proposal aimed to cut power plant emissions of the three substances by 70 percent by 2018 (see figure on the next page), as well as cut greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent over the next ten years. The initiative, based on past success with the EPA’s Acid Rain Program, which included an SO2 credit-trading program, would provide transferable credits to plants that reduce emissions. The Acid Rain Program reduced pollution more than predicted at costs lower than expected. Holmstead said that the overall benefits of the new initiative would be more than double the costs.

David G. Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council was skeptical of what the initiative would look like in the future: “In the fine print of the administration’s announcement is a statement that those targets will be reviewed by the EPA and revised based on sound science,” he said. “What it basically will do is give the regulated industry yet another bite at the apple to try to make arguments for further relaxation or deferral of even those targets.” He also believed that the initiative did not go far enough in reducing emissions and greenhouse gas intensity.

The Clear Skies Initiative
Pollutant Current
Emissions
2010 2018 Total
Reduction
SO2 11 mil. tons 4.5 mil. tons 3 mil. tons 73%
NOx 5 mil. tons 2.1 mil. tons 1.7 mil tons 67%
Mercury 48 tons 26 tons 15 tons 69%

Anne E. Smith of Charles River Associates expressed uncertainty about the effectiveness of the technologies that plants would have to use to reduce mercury emissions. In addition, she said, the benefits of mercury control are uncertain and the proposed reductions seem somewhat arbitrary. Randall Lutter of AEI suggested that the EPA adopt only modest controls on mercury until there is better scientific evidence on the risks associated with the substance.

Lutter suggested that, since SO2 and NOx cause similar environmental problems, their permit markets should be integrated: “Carefully chosen exchange rates in principle could reduce both environmental damages and compliance costs.” In focusing on substances like SO2, C. Boyden Gray of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering asked, “Are we shooting at the right target? That’s a lot of money to spend if we guess wrong.” A number of other emissions, such as aromatics and diesel fuel, also contribute to the fine particle matter that hurts our environment.

Whitman concluded by praising the discussion’s focus on costs and benefits. Many times, she said, “there’s a real temptation to embrace policies and proposals that promise much without any consideration of what the cost will be, and there are those who will criticize you and you criticize you loudly and clearly for being fundamentally antienvironment if you do take a moment to talk about the cost of something.”

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Randall
Lutter

What's new on AEI

To secure southern border, US must lead international effort to stabilize Central America
image The Ryan pro-work, anti-poverty plan: Thomas Aquinas 1, Ayn Rand 0
image Does SNAP support work? Yes and no
image Obama Democrats lose their big bet on health exchanges
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.