economics of clean air

analyzing the cost vs. the benefit of the clean air act and its amendments


The cost of technology has been the main setback in air pollution abatement. The automotive industry has been concerned about changing car engines, feeling that this raise in car prices would take a significant toll on the American public. Also, it was thought to be too costly to convert completely to unleaded gasoline. For some of the debated issues, however, the benefits outweighed the costs. Industry also had trouble meeting the costs of emissions reduction methods, for example, scrubbers or low sulfur fuels. Many stationary sources of emissions were taxed due to their lack of reduction technology. The companies just paid the taxes and kept polluting the air. Soon, the company had paid in taxes as much as the technology would have cost. In a case like this, the cost is the same, but the benefit is nonexistent.

Members of Congress were to disregard cost and technological feasibility when setting standards in the Clean Air Act of 1970. Soon after, though, they realized that it was too ambitious to regulate air pollution at the cost of the national economy, and they relaxed the standards and their deadlines.



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