Survivor kids. Image credit:J. Laumer
The 'kill EPA' strategy espoused by both 2012 -Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and the Texas Republican Party does seem to make political advocacy sense. In theory, the argument goes, 'if the US had the kind of lax environmental protections China currently does, manufacturing jobs would return - or at least continued outsourcing would be slowed.' That's a gut simple, politically attractive notion isn't it? There are big problems with it, though.In the future.
Who wants their grand kids to have a life like the Chinese currently do: in a nation with few natural areas, absent clean air or clean water, and where you can't fish or hunt or swim or hike or camp? Watching survivors on TV might be a fun fantasy. But turning off federal environmental protections would make life suck, with or without a job. "Surviving" a race to the bottom is where eliminating those protections takes us.
What's gone is already lost.
There is no objective basis for an argument that eliminating Federal environmental regulations, or handing what remains of them to states, would help bring back jobs already sent to Asia or Mexico - done mainly to take advantage of dirt cheap labor. What's gone is gone. Killing EPA won't turn the clock back.
Show me the data.
Significant regulations by USEPA over the last 40 years have had an economic impact analysis published with each notice of final rule making. If someone wanted to they could tally up adverse impacts over time and look for any correlations with jobs or other economic indicators. But that would take some work.
There are certain things which as a practical matter can not be left to the States.
Water seldom respects political boundaries. If Minnesota pollutes the Mississippi River, for example, so that water becomes unsafe for drinking or irrigating in Iowa, think an Iowa state law can fix that problem? Same for cities getting water from the Great Lakes, and in many other places.
Air too goes where it wants. Would Indiana's regulation of coal stack emissions voluntarily be done to help improve air quality in New York?
New York City's waste water sludge is currently being dumped in Texas. Think if Texas asks nicely that they'd stop?
Can you imagine South Carolina asking BMW to make sure the plant there makes car's which will be in every state's best interest for protecting air quality?
What would be worth having a political debate about?
Based on what's happening in Egypt right now, it looks increasingly plausible that geopolitical peak oil could be upon us. If theres' a works stoppage on the canal, global oil prices could rise steeply; and no amount of 'drill here drill now' nonsense in the USA could make up for what got pinched out of the Suez Canal, should this scenario play out. From Reuters coverage:
"At this moment the Suez Canal is open and there is no problem with the supply side," the executive director of the International Energy Agency, Nobuo Tanaka, told Reuters referring to riots in Egypt.
"But of course the market has been tightening because of the demand increase due to a recovery. The oil price is rising so a small disruption can create a spike," he said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Maybe those fast inter-state rail systems stimulus grants would look better in hindsight? Especially if they were pulled by electrical motors.
Anyway, we need to have a national debate about clean coal and nuclear power and spent rod repositories.