By Junayd Mahmood, CAP energy intern.
President Obama made the short trip across Lafayette Park Monday morning to address business leaders at the United States Chamber of Commerce. The trip was widely seen as an overture to a familiar adversary in order to consolidate support for future economic initiatives. While President Obama pledged his efforts to promote American business and cut corporate taxes, he also mounted a spirited defense of environmental regulations:
Few of us would want to live in a society without the rules that keep our air and water clean; that give consumers the confidence to do everything from investing in financial markets to buying groceries.
Studies demonstrate that the costs of environmental regulations are miniscule compared to the benefits to Americans. In a study assessing the net benefit of the Clean Air Act, the EPA determined that Americans gained $21.4 trillion in health and environmental benefits between 1970 and 1990. The Clean Air Act prevented 205,000 premature deaths and millions of cases of asthma, heart disease and child IQ loss. According to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the Clean Air Act “returns $40 dollars in health and environmental benefits for every dollar of compliance costs.” Rather than tax future economic growth, benefits are expected to grow further. A 2010 EPA study predicts that the Clean Air Act will produce health, environmental and productivity benefits valued at $2 trillion in the year 2020.
Obama pointed out that some industries have predicted dire consequences on the eve of regulation, but those sensationalist claims have seldom come to pass.
Early drug companies argued the bill creating the FDA would “practically destroy the sale of “¦ remedies in the United States.” That didn’t happen. Auto executives predicted that having to install seatbelts would bring the downfall of their industry. It didn’t happen.
President Obama pointed to refrigerator efficiency standards as a model for regulations that produce benefits for both consumers and industry.
Look at refrigerators. The government set modest targets to increase efficiency over time. Companies competed to hit these markers. And as a result, a typical fridge now costs half as much and uses a quarter of the energy it once did, saving families and businesses billions of dollars.
Obama also highlighted his administration’s new fuel economy standards which combine various regulations in order to reduce fossil-fuel consumption and increase certainty for automakers.
We’ve turned a tangle of fuel economy regulations and pending lawsuits into a single standard that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, save consumers money at the pump, and give car companies the certainty they need.
Aside from his robust defense of environmental regulation and calls for energy efficiency, Obama addressed the need for investment in infrastructure and research and development. Obama pointed to a consensus between organized labor and the business community in order to consolidate support. Obama also reiterated his intention to extend high-speed rail service to 80% of Americans and increase investment in clean energy.
– Junayd Mahmoo