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03/30/2020

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Giddings Harrison

There is clear worry about not only the health of Americans and other people around the world, but also about the economy. I understand that the government is trying to find ways to help companies get through this time as demand is low. However, I don't see how this relaxed regulation pads the economy at all. It seems that health and the environment are at odds with the economy currently. How do we keep people healthy and safe while also allowing people to work and maintain their livelihoods? This question is similar to how do we protect or conserve the environment while also finding ways to keep the economy growing? These are simple questions with complicated answers, but I think we are far from the solution if policymakers decide to relax environmental protection.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/30/climate/trump-fuel-economy.html

I found this article to be particularly helpful in thinking about the economy and the environment. In this case, rolling back the fuel efficiency standard seems like it would actually hurt U.S. consumers. With consumer spending accounting for 70% of the economy, I am surprised that policymakers to do anything that would negatively impact consumer spending--especially given the current consumer demand climate.
This policy not only will negatively impact the environment, it will also hurt consumers. Therefore, to answer your question, this policy makes no sense to me.

rrirwin

After reading this article I wondered not only what the long-term impacts of the EPA easing pollution enforcement will be, but what exactly this means for the manufacturing sector, including the general impact coronavirus has (and will have) on the manufacturing sector.

Before the outbreak, there were a lot of emissions from power companies and manufacturers. What I’m curious to know now, with a massive halt on production in almost every industry, is if emissions directly from the manufacturing sector have decreased. With this in mind we must also ask the question about manufacturers—such as General Motors and Ford—who have switched over to producing ventilators after Trump invoked the Defense Protection Act. I was unable to find anything regarding how the environmental impact of producing ventilators, only that they are extremely costly and require very skillful programming (as they rely on software more than hardware, which is very different than car manufacturing). It’s extremely confusing that while emissions from manufacturing ventilators have the potential to be detrimental to the nation’s overall respiratory health, these devices serve as the primary method to keep a person breathing. With the high costs these companies will most likely face in producing these live-saving medical devices, does it make sense to lessen the costs of emissions? And what if the emissions from producing ventilators are less than that of normal production (as we can only hope)?

Further, it’s important to examine the role of power companies—also responsible for a significant amount of air pollution—at a time like this. One could argue our dependence on electricity is greater than ever, so I could see why the EPA might resort to these measures to ensure power companies stay up-and-running (despite what we know might happen down the road).

I agree with my classmates that it is a simple MPC/MSC model, but in my case I think the marginal social cost might not be as far up as it is during normal times (because of changes in the manufacturing sector), but there is no way to know for sure right now.

Sources:
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/01/coronavirus-update-us-manufacturers-answer-gms-call-for-ventilator-parts.html
https://www.wired.co.uk/article/car-manufacturers-ventilators

Lauren Paolano

It seems completely irrational to me for the EPA to give factories so much power as these industries no longer have to document the amount of air pollution they produce in such a trying time for the world. From the research we know so far, COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, so I find it difficult to understand why this is good time to retract restrictions on air pollution that could harm people with health conditions and worsen their chances of contracting the pandemic virus. This article could be best modelled in MSC of pollution because the marginal social cost of the effects of retracting the restrictions of air pollution have a big impact on health effects of the infected or more susceptible people.

Here’s another article I found when doing further research.

https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/19/21186653/coronavirus-covid-19-air-pollution-vulnerable-lung-disease-pandemic

abrahamr22

“EPA to Ease Pollution Enforcement, Which Could Exacerbate Lung Illnesses” by Jean Chemnick exposes the positive feedback loop that the Trump administration encourages in their reactive policies to COVID-19. By being permissive and creating lenient air pollution enforcement, more of the population becomes vulnerable to infection and less likely to recover. As direct private costs decrease, the marginal social cost skyrockets especially during a public health crisis. In defense of weakening enforcement, it is said to be in place so any involved maintenance staff can practice social distancing as suggested by the CDC. Concern for the American public is seemingly the expressed concern of this new act. However, Chemnick brings attention to the nonenforcement policy’s lack of a concrete end date. As we have mentioned several times in class before, the petrochemical, power, and other intensive emitting industries are not far removed from government decisions. Chemnick’s piece looks to investigate the motives behind this government action and the unintended consequences that might unfold as a result. Gernot Wagner writes in a similar tone stating, “ decreased air pollution has immediate public health benefits, even if they are only temporary side effects of frozen economic activity.”1 Wagener also warns that there is not a perfect, silver bullet to reversing this crisis but there are ethical and moral principles to uphold and lead us in the right direction and there reasonable doubt with the current pieces put in place.


1 https://time.com/5813778/coronavirus-climate-success/

KT Hensler

As many people have mentioned already, the fact that the EPA would suspend fines and penalties for polluting during this crisis shocked me. The article highlighted multiple ways in which the social cost of citizens would increase as a result of the lack of regulation. It is no secret that air pollution increases risk of asthma, respiratory disease, cardiovascular problems, and even pneumonia. It is also no secret that people with these health issues are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Something is not adding up. The entire world’s economy is down, and I find it hard to understand why our country is prioritizing the economy over these obviously detrimental pollutants. I tried to find historical data on the air quality index of the United States, but I did end up finding a hard to understand visual towards the bottom of this page: https://aqicn.org/map/usa/ . Air quality around the world has been shown to be improving, but when I looked at this diagram, it seemed as if the United States had a huge increase in air pollution between Feb 2019 and last month. The March differences don’t show much improvement either. What I’ve gathered from the quick research I did on AQI, is that the amount our pollution has decreased is incremental to the amount that will now be produced with relaxed enforcement.

I believe that air pollution enforcement should be prioritized before the economic comfort of the firms doing the polluting. Or if it’s a matter of protecting the workers themselves, I believe that should be addressed within the firm itself. Healthcare and other front-line corporations have in place safety restrictions to keep the workers protected from COVID-19. It would be interesting to see if our nation could be convinced that pollution enforcers and people who work to keep the AQI down in this country are (or should be) on the front line fighting the pandemic from a different angle. The risks are significantly less than those of healthcare workers, but the impact these restrictions would have on the death toll from this virus would be massive. I especially took note of Mikki’s statistic regarding 16-20% of patients in ICU care. Pollutants are much harder to trace from diseases than viruses, but if all those patients are at risk of permanent lung damage, now is not the time to increase their risks even more.

Lawsonj21

After reading the article discussing the EPAs new policy of easing pollution enforcement, I was surprised and upset. During this public health crisis, we need to do all we can to maintain public health or even improve it during these trying times. As a nation, we need to come together to do everything possible to flatten the curve and to return to normal life as soon as possible. The idea that we are going to decrease the health of Americans and increase the likelihood that they are going to get sick from coronavirus or any other illness is crazy and illogical. If someone is to get sick, decreasing the air quality will increase the severity of that illness. Additionally, as hospitals are getting more and more crowded, we need to do all we can to ensure the health of people who are not infected with coronavirus to free up beds and hospital resources for those who need them the most. Also, the idea that social distancing somehow affects companies' air emissions limit makes no sense. I don’t understand how the requirement that people stay away from each other will increase the coal burn rate in a coal powered utility or how it could affect a huge furnace at a chemical plant. These giant furnaces and machines have little human interaction and if anything, social distancing should mean that they would not be able to run at full capacity which would decrease air emissions. As an individual who has asthma and lives in an industrial “hotspot city”, I am unfortunately someone who is at greater risk because of this new policy.

I personally think that the silver lining in all of this is the fact that many sources of pollution in the United States and around the world are seeing a decreased level of activity due to coronavirus. I think that a great opportunity exists at the moment where we can try to resume previous levels of economic activity without resuming previous levels of air emissions.

Bibliography:
Chemnick, Jean. “EPA to Ease Pollution Enforcement, Which Could Exacerbate Lung Illnesses.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 30 Mar. 2020, www.scientificamerican.com/article/epa-to-ease-pollution-enforcement-which-could-exacerbate-lung-illnesses/.

Lucas Roberton

I found this article to basically encompass the reaction I had when Professor Casey told us about this issue. Thinking about it from a health standpoint, considering that Covid-19 can be so damaging to a persons respiratory system, it is a bit confusing as to why we would allow for more carcinogens and damaging toxins to be released into the air as we fight a virus that has us scrambling to find respirators and masks in hospitals. However, thinking about it using the marginal abatement/ marginal damage function, I could see how a policy maker would try to justify this. Because people aren't working as much and pollution has supposedly been down, the marginal damage function would have decreased, which means that a policy maker could argue that if we loosen restrictions on air quality, it will keep us at/near the level that we were damaging air quality before. Additionally, as others have mentioned, loosening these restrictions could allow for businesses to produce more, which would stimulate the economy or at least provide jobs. It is a difficult scenario; but that said, I think that as we've tried to take so many measures to prevent more illness, we need to be more considerate of increasing other health risks and obviously try to avoid making things worse than they already are.

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