Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mobile sources and particulate pollution

If you have ever taken some time to wade through the ocean of ignorance, irrationalism, fear and loathing that constitutes the right-wing blogosphere, you've probably had the opportunity to read some hysterical rant against the evil and murderous EPA. If you've ever choked back your bile and opened the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal or National Review, you've probably read something similar there as well. In each of these venues, there is a familiar and recurring theme: that the EPA has become an abusive and obsolete bureaucratic stronghold which ought to be limited or dissolved because the environment is much cleaner than it was 30 years ago.

As with most right-wing arguments, there is a grain of truth here. Our environment IS much cleaner than it was in 1970 (or 1975 for that matter). The air is cleaner, the water is cleaner, emissions of 300 toxic substances on the TRI have declined dramatically. But these facts do not mean that the battle is over. This article in the New York Times makes this very effectively. Compare the two pictures of Los Angeles' City Hall for a perfect visual comparison. As the article points out, though Los Angeles ozone problem may be greatly decreased it now faces increased health risks from growing particulate pollution attributable to mobile sources. More importantly, because mobile sources are so diverse and because any regulation of them has a more direct impact on individuals, the problems posed by particulate pollution will be harder to address than ozone and its precursors.

Whatever the case, do read the article. It's a nice piece of environmental reporting and, even better, discusses lots of issues my lovely wife has been working on of late.