Among the E.P.A. measures the Trump administration wants to roll back is the Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants, which would shift production to gas-fired plants — and incidentally save American lives by further reducing fine particle pollution. The new fuel economy standards for the auto industry would cut gas costs for drivers and clean up the transportation sector that is now this country’s single largest polluter.
E.P.A. regulations make economic sense for two important reasons industry lobbyists (and their hired politicians) overlook when they stage their sky-is-falling complaints about cost. First, the new rules typically drive advances in technology and efficiency, making cost-effective what formerly seemed impossible. The result isn’t a job exodus; it’s a reshuffling, with productivity falling at coal-fired power plants, for instance, but rising at gas-fired power plants. Second, antipollution regulations move us away from the illogical idea that the unsuspecting public at large should pay the cost of pollution. Instead, that cost gets shifted onto the polluters themselves and into the price of the polluting product, exactly where it belongs.
Richard Conniff, “In Beijing, and Washington, a Breath of Foul Air”, The New York Times (22 January 2017), SR8.