On Friday, President Obama announced that he had asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw the final National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone pollution, which she and her expert agency had sent to the White House for review. The president's announcement is terribly bad news, and terribly bad policy, on several scores.
The efficient wasteland In his essay, Richard Revesz argues in favor of a "cost-benefit environmentalism" that embraces economic analysis and "uses both reason and compassion to justify strong environmental rules." It is wonderful to have such a prominent fan of cost-benefit analysis explicitly embrace environmental values; this doesn't happen every day. The trouble is, however, that cost-benefit analysis is at odds with fundamental premises of environmentalism, and it's not particularly good at either reason or compassion. Environmentalism has many subtleties and variations, but I think most environmentalists share certain core beliefs. They are convinced that the future matters -- that we should protect the earth and its inhabitants into the indefinite future. They worry about other people and other living creatures and about their own complicity in causing others' suffering through environmental degradation. They prefer concreteness over abstraction: They don't just want to read about nature; they want to experience it. They understand the reasons that reason cannot know: the small shiver of joy upon seeing spring's first warbler, the glimpse of the infinite in a summer storm.