I’m currently planning my next book in which I intend to discuss how shockingly anti-science the MSM has become when it comes to pet policy issues that involve science, technology and the environment. My proposition is that MSM journalists are so bad at reporting on these issues not so much because of their left-leaning biases, but because they are largely ignorant and lazy when it comes to covering these complex concepts. Thanks to guys like Paul Krugman at The New York Times I’m sure that I’ll never have any shortage of material to illustrate the point.
Jim Rust handily deconstructed Krugman’s arguments regarding mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants in his excellent post of January 5. Admittedly, Rust had an unfair advantage in that discussion: he used actual data. Somehow I think that the average Joe would find actually data showing that mercury emissions from coal fired power plants represent of a pittance compared to natural and overseas sources a bit more persuasive than Krugman’s approach which was essentially “mercury bad – EPA good”. Perhaps that’s nice messaging, but it leaves a lot to be desired from the scientist’s point of view.
But, in addition to the mercury straw man, there was so much additional drivel in Krugman’s column that the sum total would fill three or four industrial sized spittoons. (Typing that line made me wonder if one can still buy spittoons. Turns out not only can one, but doing so may be the key to restoring America’s economic health – at least according to this lass).
Anyway, Krugman’s column read like a slightly modified Sierra Club or EPA press release, which means it contains a whole lot of conjecture based on very little science. Let’s consider some of the myths that the economist-cum-environmentalist dutifully parrots:
1) Reducing fine particulate emissons will reduce asthma. We’ve been reducing fine particulate emissions and smog forming chemical emissions for forty years, yet asthma rates have steadily increased over that time period. We don’t even have correlation here, much less causation. Yet, the MSM and the left continually trots out asthmatics as one of the primary reasons we have to turn the screws down on industry some more. Further, if one is truly worried about fine particulates in the atmosphere it’s time to look else whither. One can not expect a genius like Krugman to look up actual data – readily available at the EPA website – but if he did he would find that the power industry is responsible for a whopping 3% of the 3.5 million tons of annual PM 2.5 emissions in the United States. Data is pesky thing, ain’t it?
2) EPA regulation actually doesn’t cost money, it makes money! – Yeah, right. The EPA says so, so it must be true! At $9.2 million per life theoretically extended (no matter how long or how little) it’s easy to “prove” that regulations make us tons of cash. So many theoretical lives have been saved and so much theoretical profits generated by the EPA that we should all be immortal and as wealthy as Trump by now. It’s all rubbish of course, and proof that we need to have some independent accounting of the true costs and benefits of environmental regulations, rather than letting the EPA engage in these increasingly fanciful exercises in self-justification.
3) Republicans are anti-environment because they want to rein in an out of control EPA. I love this one. Any time anybody discusses taking the EPA down a notch, the left immediately rolls out the “conservatives hate the environment and want everyone to die – especially your babies” horse-puckey. Perhaps there are people who believe that we don’t need any environmental protection rules at all, but I’m sure they are a tiny minority. What has become increasingly clear to everyone not on the left is that it’s neither prudent nor necessary to sign off on every expensive, draconian measure that the EPA proposes just because they wrap a green bow around it. We’ve done a remarkable job of cleaning up our air, water and soil in the last forty years. It’s time that we acknowledged it and that the EPA acknowledged that it’s 2011, not 1970. It’s time, in other words talk about maintaining the remarkable level of cleanliness that we have achieved rather than searching for more, even more spurious excuses to regulate just a little bit more.
4) Excessive regulation doesn’t hurt the economy – that’s a myth perpetuated by special interests. As I document in my book, “Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry” that’s just plain wrong. In the real world, as opposed to the fantasy land that liberals live in, excessive environmental regulations in the US play a big part in business’ decisions not to build new facilities here and not to expand existing ones. Those of us who work with industry out here in the real world see that effect all of the time. It’s no surprise that so many manufacturing jobs have gone overseas. No I’m not saying that EPA regulations are solely responsible for that – wages, insurance and other regulatory programs play a part as well – but EPA regulations are absolutely a big player in that decision making process. Note, for example, that we haven’t built a new oil refinery in the US since 1975. Do you think that’s because oil companies don’t want new, more modern and efficient oil refineries? Get a clue libs.
Krugman’s piece is just another example of what environmentalism has become in 2011: people peddling solutions that are desperately in need of problems. But then when Krugman talks about special interests, he oddly fails to mention the biggest special interest of all when it comes to EPA regulations: environmental groups like the Sierra Club and NRDC who depend on the perception of a crisis to keep their fund-raising chugging along. Fortunately, it seems like the rest of us are finally starting to catch on.