Controlling Industrial Pollution: The Economics and Politics of Clean Air

Controlling Industrial Pollution: The Economics and Politics of Clean Air

Controlling Industrial Pollution: The Economics and Politics of Clean Air

Controlling Industrial Pollution: The Economics and Politics of Clean Air

Excerpt

Thirteen years have passed since the federal role in air pollution policy was greatly expanded by Congress. The 1970 Clean Air Act Amendments gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) far-reaching powers to set air quality goals, oversee state policies for reaching these goals, establish specific standards for new sources, address interstate pollution problems, and identify and regulate hazardous pollutants. Congress also legislated emission standards for new automobiles and provided EPA with a variety of responsibilities in enforcing these standards.

How has the new air pollution policy fared? Can the impact of this regulatory structure on the quality of the nation's air be assessed? What has the policy cost in terms of a reduction of private goods and services? Could these costs have been reduced without an effect on the quality of the air? Surprisingly little effort has been devoted to answering most of these questions. While the 1970 legislation has been amended once and is being debated again, these legislative processes have not been accompanied by much inquiry into the effectiveness or efficiency of the overall policy. Some academic research has been completed on a number of important issues, but it is limited by the inadequacy of data on air quality, emissions, and costs. The federal government has mandated the expenditure of billions of dollars in control costs, but it has not constructed a data retrieval system that would facilitate evaluations of its efforts.

In this book, I review the evidence on the efficiency and effectiveness of air pollution policy. Particular emphasis is given to the control of industrial sources and to the recent attempts to streamline this policy. I ignore automobile emissions, not because they are unimportant but because mobile sources present a different array of regulatory problems. My approach is decidedly that of an economist; the control of pollution is a subject for which economic analysis provides valuable insights. Whether economic incentives can or should work in this area is, however . . .

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