Thursday, March 09, 2006

Shape Up, EPA (Or At Least Act Like Your Name Means Something)

I wholeheartedly agree with this, as someone who suffers a lot from the soot problem.

Debbie Shprentz, a technical consultant to the American Lung Association, cited an EPA study of premature deaths attributed to soot — or "particulate matter," as regulators call it — in nine major U.S. cities.

Shprentz said current standards result in 4,729 premature deaths per year; the standards the EPA proposes would cut that to 3,697; the standards recommended by the advisory committee 2,368; and the strictest standards considered by the EPA 644.

Many of the speakers described personal experiences with asthma.

Natalie McClosky of Delran, N.J., who has asthma along with three of her six children, said she used to think it was simply a condition that was treated with an inhalator. But she described taking her daughter Erin, now 11, to a doctor some years ago expecting to get a prescription for cough syrup. Instead, she was admitted to a hospital for 24-hour nebulizer treatments.

I once had to do the nebulizer. It is just about the most unpleasant experience imaginable, especially because you have to just sit there for hours inhaling super-doses of lung steroids. Yum! Of course here's the industry hack line:

Segal said air pollution has dropped dramatically since measurements began in earnest in the 1970s, yet childhood asthma is on the rise. He said the increase in asthma must be caused by something else, such as children spending less time outdoors, where air is cleaner than inside buildings.

Tougher regulations also can have unintended consequences, Segal said. He said if regulations get tough enough, many coal-fired plants will switch to more expensive natural gas. That would not only bring up the price of electricity, he said, but also the additional demand for gas would drive the price up.

I would agree with him that indoor pollution is bad, but I doubt he would actually want to do anything about it. As for coal plants switching to natural gas? That is absurd. The U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of coal. It would take a lot worse regulations than these to make coal more expensive than natural gas, which is quickly and soon will be completely gone. For all the talk about "clean coal" B.S., we haven't seen it happen. Instead we've only seen greater and greater pollution breaks for coal plants. Now that we're finally toughening up, it's less than all the experts on the matter say it could be and still be plausible. If we're going to do "clean coal", let's actually mean it. The coal industry can afford it, and public health and mercury-poisoned oceans need it. Oh, and if the coal industry can't afford it, there's always nuclear!

It's flabbergasting how Dick Cheney can jabber on about all sorts of things like tax cuts and being allowed to torture people, and will supply the muscle to get it done. But what about nuclear? He talks about nuclear, but we see nothing. Maybe he should have a forceful discussion with some people about nuclear, while, you know, he's on a hunting trip with them. And he's holding a gun.