Monday, December 6, 2010

What We Can Learn From the Clean Air Act of 1990

This article reviews the issues raised by various interest groups prior to the passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act. Its a familiar story. Questions were raised about the validity of the scientific evidence along with forecasts of huge cost increases that would have to be passed onto consumers in higher prices. The costs of the act would outweigh the benefits as well.

Ten years later we learned that the reduction of acid rain was a big success. The cost of the program was much less that the forecasts made by the interest groups, and were even below the EPA estimate. The public health benefits were 30 times the actual cost. In other words, the program produced substantial social benefits at relatively low cost.

This does not prove that all programs will yield similar results. It does show, however, that the reactions that we usually see from opponents of environmental policies follow a similar pattern and that they cannot be trusted.

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