Why am I reminded of The Clean Air Act of 1963?

by on June 3, 2014 at 6:46 am in History, Law, Political Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

Here is one very brief history:

Each state was given primary responsibility for assuring that emissions sources from within their borders are consistent with the levels designated by the NAAQS. In order to achieve these goals, each state is required to submit a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to the EPA to ensure the implementation of primary and secondary air quality standards…Since many states failed to meet mandated air quality standards first set by the Clean Air Act, Congress created the 1977 amendments to aid states in achieving their original goals.

That is just one bit of course.  More broadly, people focus on The Clean Air Act of 1970, but of course the original legislation was from 1963 and it was extremely ineffective because it had inadequate popular support and the issue was not yet a major concern.  It had to be revised/amended in 1965 and 1967 and 1970 and then also 1977 and 1990.  Yet the 1963 act did set definite standards for stationary (but not mobile) pollution sources and mandated a timetable for adoption, albeit with a lot of state flexibility for meeting the new standards.  All of that went nowhere.  And that was an act passed directly by Congress, not just an Executive Order.  Even in those days, a lot of actual progress in the fight against air pollution came through the replacement of dirty coal by natural gas, a process which had started in the 1920s and spread through America in successive waves.

Here is a typical paragraph about early policy ineffectiveness, from a useful essay:

By 1970, it was “abundantly clear” to Congress that federal legislative efforts to fight air pollution were inadequate. State planning and implementation under the 1967 Act had made little progress.Congress attributed this “regrettably slow” progress to a number of other factors including the “cumbersome and time-consuming procedures” in the 1967 Act, inadequate funding at the federal, state, and local levels, and the lack of skilled personnel to enforce pollution requirements. Commentators have also suggested that federal legislation prior to 1970 failed because of both an inability and an unwillingness on the part of the states to deal with air pollution.

When I read about the new Obama plan, I am reminded of 1963, and also 1965 and 1967.  For all of the hullaballoo you are hearing — whether positive or negative — keep this in mind.

Addendum: Most of the best sources on the 1963 Act are off-line.  But here is an interesting essay about some of the federalistic issues behind the enforcement of the various Clean Air Acts, mostly post-1963.  Here is the text of the 1963 law, for one thing it is amazing how short it is.

charlie June 3, 2014 at 6:56 am

TC has been on a roll. The great stagnation is over.

Steve Sailer June 3, 2014 at 7:00 am

I’ve always wanted to know how much it costs the entire country to prevent smog in Los Angeles. Smog has almost disappeared in L.A. relative to 1970, and one reason for that huge improvement is that the rest of country has subjected itself to many of the expensive smog controls that only California implemented in the 1970s. Los Angeles and other California metropolises suffer inversion layers due to the surrounding mountains and the sunshine, so smog was largely a problem for California and a few other cities such as Denver and Albuquerque. For example, I moved from smoggy L.A. to windy Chicago in 1982 and simply don’t recall bad smog in Chicago compared to what I was used to.

If you shopped for a car in the 1970s (and in the 1980s, I believe), you’ll recall that the EPA gas mileage sticker back then had a national estimate in large type and a lower California estimate in small type: e.g., 28 v. 25 mpg. That’s a pretty expensive difference when you add up how much Americans spend on gasoline each year.

The federal government was reluctant initially to saddle the rest of the country with a large expense to to clean up California’s smog. Not surprisingly, lots of Californians bought better mileage cars out of state and snuck them into California, so Californians demanded the rest of the country get in line with its standards.

At some point, the differences on the EPA stickers vanished as California’s pollution standards were imposed upon the whole country. I’ve always wanted to know how much the rest of the country has spent to solve my local smog problem. When I pencil it out it comes out to some huge sum. But nobody else seems very interested in figuring it out.

So, I want to take this opportunity to say: Thanks.

Axa June 3, 2014 at 7:53 am

Ahhhh, that’s the problem of not running experiments with laws. If other states haven’t passed the regulations, they may have had the same smog problems later. But you’re right, sunshine is an important input for secondary chemical pollutants like ozone. California, Texas and Arizona top the smog statistics. Chicago is not going to have smog problems. However, the brown color in air (nitrogen dioxide) is not the only problem in air. Acid precipitation also counts and it also comes from smog, even if the city air is “clean” the acid precipitation falls somewhere else. Several countries in Europe have worked to reduce the intensity of acid rain. I know, Europe and it’s high population density have produced rainfall in the 70s and 80s that damaged their forests. I don’t know if the low density in the US would also damage natural ecosystems. We can only speculate because an experiment to measure soil acidification would require the loosening of present regulations.

Steve Sailer June 3, 2014 at 8:52 am

It could be that technological advances narrowed the difference in MPG between the old national standards and the tougher California standards, so fighting smog in LA by putting everybody on California standards isn’t as expensive as it seems. I don’t know. But I’ve been looking for some estimate of the cost of fighting smog to California standards in non-California for years and it just doesn’t seem to be a topic of much interest.

Axa June 3, 2014 at 9:20 am

The cost of fighting smog to California standards has to be compared to the health benefit of local population. I’m pretty sure a smaller benefit than in California. The cost also has to be compared with the cost of not being able to use your vehicle in smog affected cities. I don’t imagine a trucking company that has a special fleet for CA/TX/AZ deliveries.

PD Shaw June 3, 2014 at 11:21 am

The Clean Air Act of 1990 had a lot of provisions applicable only to California; it was required to impose the most stringent air quality standards in the country. Still does. I don’t know that the stickers mean anything. Manufacturers were required to improve mileage on a “fleet basis,” which meant a mix of gas guzzlers and small cars. It might be that Californians purchasing small cars helped subsidize the large cars for all I know.

I do think though that California having the most stringent air quality standards creates a large vote to increase standards in the rest of the country, both for environmental and (local) business reasons. To the extent, California sends industry to China, which will transport its pollution to California its becoming self-defeating.

Nathan W June 3, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Among other things, you saved many Canadian lakes from acidificaiton which would have kill all marine life. There were already some examples by the late 1980s and 1990s.

How? Winds were blowing north from USA and depositing sulphur in Canadian waterways and lakes, etc.

Thankfully, acid rain rapidly proved to be not such a big deal, most especially because of those anti-smog laws you refer to. It is impossible to say how much wildlife in Canadian waterways and lakes is indebted to the American environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Thank you for not forcing us to enjoy the sulphuric costs of environmental mismanagement for too many decades.

Roy June 3, 2014 at 7:07 am

What are some of the best sources that are located offline?

prior_approval June 3, 2014 at 7:33 am

‘When I read about the new Obama plan, I am reminded of 1963, and also 1965 and 1967. For all of the hullaballoo you are hearing — whether positive or negative — keep this in mind.’

Thankfully, along came a president with the vision and political skill to use an executive order to create an entire federal agency. A man willing to implement price and wage controls and who, of course, was the only man that could go to communist China to begin to end its economic isolation, and survive the experience politically.

Somehow, I doubt that America will be as lucky in its next president as it was when Nixon followed Johnson.

But then, it isn’t as if we would ever elect such a screamingly liberal figure as Nixon, right?

andrew' June 3, 2014 at 7:53 am

When I am feeling charitable I choose to believe rule if law is orthogonal to political aesthetics.

dan bloom June 3, 2014 at 7:49 am

BUT .PR LIE re KNAUSGAARD FREE DAYS, was this ever fact checked? NO! http://klima101.blogspot.tw/2014/05/how-norwegian-publisher-and-his-british.html

RSVP ME

andrew' June 3, 2014 at 7:51 am

Natural gas can be used in cars. Are we already over the middle east bogey men?

JWatts June 3, 2014 at 12:05 pm

But not easily or cheaply. It’s even problematic for long haul trucks and those have a much higher incentive to switch to cheap natural gas.

Andrew' June 3, 2014 at 12:12 pm

The point is, have you tried using coal in your car?

JWatts June 3, 2014 at 12:14 pm

No, the idea is silly. I don’t understand the point you are trying to make.

Albigensian June 3, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Fueling your car with coal isn’t really all that bizarre an idea; the Fischer–Tropsch process (developed ~1925) can convert coal into liquid hydrocarbon fuels, including synthetic gasoline.

Compressed natural gas CNG) is a promising fuel, as it’s currently priced much lower per Btu than gasoline.

BUT long-haul truckers (and automobile drivers) will not use it until it’s reliably available just about everywhere. And it’s far from clear that the natural gas bounty from fracking will last long enough to make building a national CNG transportation infrastructure worth the cost.

JWatts June 3, 2014 at 1:51 pm

The Fischer–Tropsch process isn’t energy efficient process with regards to coal. Though, it is, admittedly, more useful in converting stranded natural gas to synthetic gasoline. So, it’s not likely to ever be cost effective on a large scale in a low cost market like the US with our current EPA regulations.

And in any case he specifically said “have you tried using coal in your car?”. That remains a silly idea.

JWatts June 3, 2014 at 1:56 pm

“Compressed natural gas CNG) is a promising fuel, as it’s currently priced much lower per Btu than gasoline. BUT long-haul truckers (and automobile drivers) will not use it until it’s reliably available just about everywhere.”

Agreed. That’s why I used the phrase, “problematic for long haul trucks”.

That being said, quite a bit of the natural gas infrastructure for long haul trucks has already been built over the past decade.

http://theenergyharbinger.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/clne_lng-fueling-stations.jpg

Nathan W June 3, 2014 at 9:39 pm

It’s easy and it’s cheap. It just costs more up front.

One of the main reasons to go duel gasoline-CH4 is cost. For example, in the 1990s I used to fill up taxis with LNG, and since then the price of oil has risen much more quickly than LNG.

Todd June 3, 2014 at 8:09 am

If the parallel actually holds, then that would be a good thing, no? The CAA ultimately became very successful legislation after the fits and starts of the 1960s.

Andrew' June 3, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Isn’t that also called failure? It is where I’m from.

dead serious June 3, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Success is failure where you’re from. That little nugget explains a lot.

Is the reverse true? That might explain even more.

JWatts June 3, 2014 at 2:00 pm

It certainly explains a lot about “the most transparent administration in history” where just a few years ago we experienced “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”.

Nathan W June 3, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Step 1) Try to stop anything Obama does from a) looking good or b) actually happening, regardless of whether it’s a good idea or not.

Step 2) For all eternity, point to everything you managed to stop from happening as a sign of a) he didn’t get done what he said he would get done, and b) he wasn’t a strong enough leader to make it happen, as proven by the fact that his political enemies refused to every cooperate with anything he tried to do, even if it was a good idea.

With all sides trying to make sure that no one can accomplish anything, especially anything that is a good enough idea to make them look good, is it any wonder that Washington is dysfunctional? They all do it, but is there any doubt who is to be most reviled for such counterproductive forms of debate and policy development?

For reasons such as these, we can hold very high hopes for highly effective policy coming from Washington.

Nathan W June 3, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Where I’m from success is a process which involves superceding enormous numbers of obstacles, failures and setbacks.

I wouldn’t call it a failure because it wasn’t 110% perfect in its first incarnation. If we evaluated everything by first incarnations we would call modern aviation a failure because the first test flight of the Wright brothers was not a cross-Atlantic flight (or whatever exaggeration services to make the point ….)

Jan June 3, 2014 at 8:23 am

Perhaps the 1963 Act did not go anywhere fast because it was the very first federal legislation on pollution control. Another reason is that it was largely a research and grants program and merely authorized development of emissions standards (not for cars), and in only general terms. Yes, it laid out a process, but that was basically it. The regulation under discussion now would presumably not suffer such slow implementation as it is itself a rule, very specific, and not just an authorization to create rules. Of course, if the next president wants to, he or she could slow down implementation. [My personal opinion is that we won't have a Republican president for at least two more terms, but a Dem could also do this.]

Another point about evolving policy is that if you look at each incremental environmental protection ordered or legislated in the past 60 years there were critics who were *certain* they would kill America’s economic engine at each step. This stuff has never had overwhelming support, but in hindsight almost everyone agrees environmental protections have been totally necessary. Over the years grave threats were made about going down the path of atheism, communism, etc. (seriously). It has never happened, so you have to forgive me if I am a little skeptical of McConnell’s statement that the reg would be a “dagger in the heart of the middle class.” He might might as well have compared it to “a 100 megaton atomic bomb exploding in the brains of all children across America.”

Steve Sailer June 3, 2014 at 8:49 am

Generally, the capitalist system is pretty good at coming up with efficient ways to fulfill environmental rules. I remember when incredibly expensive scrubbers on power plant smokestacks to reduce acid rain were going to bankrupt the power companies. But then after they were mandated, capitalist competition provided them a lot more cheaply than had been forecast.

Controls on fluorocarbons to save the ozone layer were going to ruin the economy, too, but it turned out that roll-on antiperspirants were an okay replacement for aerosol spray cans.

Michael Cain June 3, 2014 at 10:28 am

The big surprise when the sulfur emission rules were put in place was the enormous expansion in production and shipping of western low-sulfur coal to the East. Many eastern generators could meet their sulfur emission limit without scrubbers by mixing enough western coal into the fuel stream. The extreme example is the Scherer power plant in Georgia, fueled exclusively with Wyoming coal, to the tune of 10-12 million tons per year.

The combination of the new mercury rule and the cross-state air pollution rule limits are giving those eastern generators a tougher choice. They’re going to have to add scrubbers (or switch to natural gas); for a lot of the old small plants, it’s just not worth the expense. And mercury removal requires different approaches for western and eastern coal; burning a mix of the two increases the cost of mercury removal considerably.

whatsthat June 3, 2014 at 2:54 pm

it was mostly midwest plants that used western coal

Keith June 3, 2014 at 11:23 am

What an interesting perspective! I take the completely opposite view as you do. These regulations did kill America’s economic engine. Large, labor-intensive industries moved overseas to places like Japan & China where the environmental rules were looser. The loss of jobs caused wage stagnation; wages haven’t grown much since 1972. The US government tried to placate the citizenry by offering handouts to make up for the job loss, and this, coupled with the lack of tax revenue from the lost industries resulted in a federal debt of $17 trillion (and rising). The loss of industries has increased the income inequality and the middle class is hurting. The law-making hasn’t stopped though, and yes the communism claim is hyperbole, but there is no doubt that the government is more intrusive than ever.

I love the fact that we have a cleaner environment, but it seems we just exported our pollution-causing industries, and the jobs that go with them, to other countries. Obviously there are a lot of factors that can’t be described in the short space of a blog comment section, but on the whole, people on both sides of the argument were right; our environment is cleaner, and our economy suffered.

Jan June 3, 2014 at 12:28 pm

I almost started to look up some research on this, but I will make a bold prediction and say that you can find studies to support either of our cases. And sure, while there must be costs to some industries to greater regulation, a complete analysis that accurately captures all the costs and all the benefits (including creation of new markets and incentivizing innovation) of greater environmental regulation is elusive.

Did a lot of manufacturing move to China? Yes, but how much of that can we attribute to environmental regulations and not, for example, cheaper labor and growing Asian consumer markets? Did we really want the environmental disaster that China turned into, where the majority of people now say they prioritize the environment over economic growth? And how has Germany managed to retain such a high-value manufacturing and export sector with its regulations, which as I understand are fairly comparable to the US’s?

Nathan W June 3, 2014 at 9:52 pm

I think it had to do more with general competitive pressures associated with globalization than whether energy was 0.001%(?) more expensive in order to meet requirements for scrubbers.

But if you want to take two variables and apply some statistical procedures, you will find numbers that tell you that the first set of numbers has some relationship with the second set of numbers.

Anyways, I would have expected energy-intensive industry to be affected by regulations relating to energy production, whereas for some reason you assert that energy regulations impacted the competitiveness of labour-intensive processes.

Again, it was probably competition with international labour, not a new regulation which marginally impacted energy costs, which resulted in those lost jobs. But thankfully, as a result, down in Chinatown you can buy t-shirts for $2-5 or smartphones for $100 (do they let those ones in the country yet?)

JWatts June 3, 2014 at 12:09 pm

“in the past 60 years there were critics who were *certain* they would kill America’s economic engine at each step.”

And what has been the general trend of American growth over that period of time? Oh yes, downward.

I certainly understand that environmental regulations haven’t been the sole contributor to that downward trend, but they’ve almost certainly been a factor.

Jan June 3, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Tell me if you a see a discernible downtick in years following major new environmental regulations. http://www.multpl.com/us-real-gdp-growth-rate

JWatts June 3, 2014 at 2:03 pm

I see your chart confirms the downward trend I was referring to. I should have included a reference in my original post. Thanks!

Jan June 3, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Not much of a “quant” are you? Can you answer my question?

JWatts June 3, 2014 at 4:51 pm

“Not much of a “quant” are you? Can you answer my question? ”

Honestly, no I’m not much of a quant, nor do I claim such status. But neither do I think much of your comments.

Instead of trying to directly address my comments in a good faith fashion, you attempt a juvenile ploy. Anybody having a 3 digit IQ understands that trying to parse the economic effects of environmental regulation out of a US GDP chart covering an 80 year period is a ridiculous proposition. The noise would utterly swamp the signal even if you had a decent signal to read from. But environmental regulations are widespread and implemented over a period of years.

Most honest commenters would admit that they’ve had a real and substantial cost over the decades. This is of course offset to some unknown extent to their obvious health benefits. It’s pretty reasonable (and widespread) to assume that China enjoys a current boost to it’s economy at the expense of it’s public health. It’s also entirely reasonable to assume that the US (and the 1st world in general) pay a substantial economic cost for their environmental regulations.

You aren’t an honest commenter. You never seem to assume any rational difference on the part of those who disagree with you.

Jan June 3, 2014 at 5:55 pm

As I said above, costs are meaningless without benefits factored in. And as I also said above, there are of course costs to some entities. Causally linking a slow and minor long term stagnation of GDP growth to any specific policy, or even set of policies, is ridiculous, but that’s what you’re saying. So I asked you to produce some evidence to back that.

If you wanted to say there were some costs and some benefits but we can’t tell which was greater, that would have been fine. But you made a much more sweeping statement.

Jan June 3, 2014 at 6:02 pm

And I wouldn’t equate asking people to back up their statements with some good justification as dishonest. Nor does disagreeing with you mean I can’t understand or appreciate another viewpoint. You just need to show me something.

JWatts June 3, 2014 at 6:05 pm

“Causally linking a slow and minor long term stagnation of GDP growth to any specific policy, or even set of policies, is ridiculous, but that’s what you’re saying. ”

Environmental regulations incur a cost on economic growth. Our long term growth trend is mildly negative. And as I clearly stated in my first post, environmental regulations have been a factor in that trend.

Nathan W June 3, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Probably the international oil price shock(s) is(are) more relevant.

That’s what they teach us in economics, political science, development studies, etc. etc.

Alvin June 3, 2014 at 9:13 am

Thanks for the link to the new Obama plan. You have to be a stupid, uneducated person to believe man-made carbon emissions a “problem” in need of a solution. At most, man is responsible for 1% of CO2. Natural sources are responsible for the rest. One volcanic eruption generates 100x more carbon emissions than all of man-made emissions in history. Natural gas, oil, and coal plants are not the problem. Nature is.

I used to work in the nuclear industry. They were arguing that nuclear is clean in that there are no carbon emissions. What a dumb excuse for nuclear I thought. Nuclear is also old technology that creates lots of poisonous radioactive waste that they haven’t figured out how to handle. Nuclear production uses turbines for the vapor generated to transmit power. It’s 200 year old technology, like traveling by horse.

Axa June 3, 2014 at 9:26 am

The 30% carbon reduction has nice spillovers: less sulfur, mercury and nitrogen dioxide in the air. The spillovers are more important than carbon.

JWatts June 3, 2014 at 12:11 pm

“The spillovers are more important than carbon.”

I absolutely agree with this. However, I’m on the fence with the belief that the spillovers alone justify the expense. And since the Obama administration policies are targeted, for the most part, at CO2 reduction, they will be in-efficient at reducing pollutants.

Owen June 3, 2014 at 9:35 am

I believe trolls should be disproven and then ignored. Alvin’s claim about volcanoes having a larger impact on CO2 emissions than humans is 100% false; the truth is actually that the CO2 from volcanic emissions is about 1% of the total emissions in any given year. The highest estimate for volcanic emissions is around .26 gigatons of CO2 per year; that’s just barely higher than the human emissions of, say, Argentina. Total human emissions is equivalent to 35 gigatons. Sources: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hazards/gas/climate.php; http://www.skepticalscience.com/volcanoes-and-global-warming.htm

Also, coal and gas power plants use turbines too, so I don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. Wheels have been in use for thousands of years, but we still use them because they freaking work.

JWatts June 3, 2014 at 12:19 pm

“I believe trolls should be disproven and then ignored. ”

I agree that Alvin’s claim is wrong. However, being wrong doesn’t make you a troll. prior_approval is a troll.

Alvin June 3, 2014 at 5:18 pm

You’re absolutely wrong, but I don’t resort to name-calling.

You’re pointing to government-controlled sites, and the amount of emissions by volcanoes is vastly underrepresented. Only a small percentage of active volcanoes is monitored. And only CO2 is reported. Plus, the emissions are very complex. There is CO2, SO2, H2S, N, Ar, He, neon, methane, carbon monoxide and many other compounds detected in volcanic gases.

Also, beyong the approximately 150 volcanoes, inactive volcanoes also emit gases.

The earth’s climate changes periodically for many million years depending on sun and earth natural activity. See this article (is he a troll too?): http://www.livescience.com/40451-volcanic-co2-levels-are-staggering.html

Alvin June 3, 2014 at 5:23 pm

So you’re not confused, I meant to say your data is reported from government websites. You should look for scientific articles that are not funded by government.

Owen June 4, 2014 at 2:53 am

I called you a troll because you began your first post with the claim that anyone who views CO2 as a problem must be “stupid and uneducated”. That is, as you say, name-calling. I’m happy to withdraw the troll claim if you’re willing to engage honestly.

But you didn’t cite any data to back up a point that is 100% opposed to the mainstream consensus, which I was able to show with 5 minutes of googling. I’m aware that science does not get proven right though consensus, and that it’s absolutely possible for the government to be systematically distorting the science on this. Is it likely, however? The page you linked to just now mentions one study that raises the estimate from around 250 mt to 636mt of carbon dioxide per year. Significant, and thank you for the referral, but still a rounding error in comparison to human emissions. http://rimg.geoscienceworld.org/content/75/1/323.full

In fact, the same study contains this quote “The global subaerial CO2 flux we report is higher than previous estimates, but remains insignificant relative to anthropogenic emissions, which are two orders of magnitude greater at 35,000 Mt/yr (Friedlingstein et al. 2010).”

Can you provide a scientific study to back up your claim that a single volcanic eruption has 100x more CO2 than all the CO2 ever emitted by humans? It honestly just sounds like you made it up. I freely admit that I didn’t know any of this stuff until yesterday, but your comment made me curious, so I looked it up. I’m not a scientist, but as far as I can tell, neither are you. The only way for amateurs like us to debate this kind of technical stuff is to rely on the conclusions of experts whose credentials we trust, in properly refereed scientific journals. I trust that the USGS is not engaged in a massive fraud (which would starve them of research money, let us note) and that dozens of scientists who have published articles on this are not complicit in the scam. If you believe differently, show your work.

Nathan W June 3, 2014 at 9:57 pm

At most, man is responsible for 99% of BS, and the other 1% can be attributed to random error.

At most, man can invent as much false data as he has time to invent.

Nature is more involved in mitigating our CO2 output (for example, plants assimilating CO2, oceans absorbing it and becoming more acidic as a result) than in creating its own. You are correct that we must account for natural sources of CO2. However, you are clearly inventing numbers here.

At most, man cannot be held responsible for more than that which he has the knowledge and abilities to confront.

yenwoda June 3, 2014 at 9:29 am

One big difference is that in 1963 there wasn’t reliable widespread monitoring of air quality / pollution. So part of that act involved quantifying the problem which is inherently going to make for slow progress in fixing it… this really isn’t the case with power plant emissions, which are localized emitters and already thoroughly and reliably instrumented. Apples to oranges in my view.

Nathan W June 3, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Hard to make a case when there’s no data.

One does wonder why the Canadian government is such a big fan of reducing capacity to produce and analyze statistics which provide information which is useful for guiding decision making with regard to social policy … but people like you who know that data is required to make a case would be quite wise to that sort of stuff :)

Steve Sailer June 3, 2014 at 9:56 am

The three-way catalytic converter wasn’t invented until 1973:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_J._Mooney

It had the nice side effect of phasing out lead in gasoline since lead wrecked it.

The research was in response to the Clean Air Act of 1970.

Steve Sailer June 3, 2014 at 10:31 am

My vague recollection is that the catalytic converter, which was made mandatory on new cars in 1975, was the Big One in fighting smog. Without somebody inventing it, we would have been out of luck. Eventually, the state of California started paying people to junk their pre-catalytic converter cars because they emitted so much more pollution than newer cars.

Somewhat similarly, Mexico City’s smog has lifted a lot recently because around 2005 limits on imports of American used cars were lifted and so Mexicans stopped keeping their junkers running and started buying American used cars with modern pollution controls.

Axa June 4, 2014 at 5:38 am

Or perhaps the distribution of ultra-low sulfur gasoline and diesel in Mexico City by September 2009. Mexico city is not Tijuana, the percentage of 10yr+ US cars running is negligible.

Willitts June 3, 2014 at 10:22 am

Thanks for the interesting and informative post.

CM June 3, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Why are you reminded of the 1963 Act? The 1963 Act did not impose any limits on emissions. Rather, it created an incredibly unwieldy system of conferences and hearings involving local and state government officials to determine if harmful pollution was occurring and whether anything should be done about it. And the 1963 Act placed primary responsibility for abating pollution in the hands of local and state officials according to local and state law.

The proposed order, by contrast, (1) requires set reductions in GHG emissions, (2) requires states to develop plans for compliance with these requirements, (3) affirms the EPA’s authority to impose a compliance plan on any state that fails to adopt an adequate plan or refuses to engage in the process altogether, and (4) empowers the EPA, rather than state or local officials, to enforce compliance. It seems to me that they are nothing alike.

JCW June 3, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Most successful, large-scale government policy is the product of a very, very long process of successive negotiation, tinkering, iteration, and evolution that involves not only Congress and the executive branch, but the court system, the state and local governments, industry, interest groups, etc. Very few of these stories, whether you are talking the structure of economic policy and regulation or the organization of government “safety-net” systems, ever play out over less than a decade, and many never get fully settled. Environmental is no different.

The ’63 CAA was a significant step (though actually, not the first, by a long shot; air regulation was a local and legal question more than a hundred years old by 1963) in the process of dealing with air pollution. If this move by the Obama administration is as successful in the long run as the ’63 CAA, i.e. successful as a vehicle or starting point for a long-term move to explicitly address and limit carbon emissions at the Federal level, then I suspect that it’s proponents will ultimately regard it as a success.

Making policy is usually a messy process and rarely a satisfying one, in the “this thing we did WORKED RIGHT NOW” way.

JCW June 3, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Editorial Corrections: “environmental regulation” and “its”

Ugh.

I wish this comment thread had an edit function. I have been reading student essays all morning, and the bad grammar is clearly rubbing off on me.

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