“Politicization”

The flacks for the American Petroleum Institute are so full of it their eyes are brown.

I know even lobbyists and flacks for polluters have to make a living,  but sometimes you have to wonder how they can stand to look at themselves in the mirror.

In March 0f 2008 the Bush Administration issued new rules establishing a standard of 0.075 parts per million for ground-level ozone, the main precursor of smog.  (Not to be confused with the stratospheric ozone that protects us from ultraviolet radiation.) In doing so, the Bushies over-ruled their own scientific advisory panel, which had recommended a standard of between .06 and .07.  Reportedly, the Beloved Leader intervened personally on behalf of his friends in the ahl bidness.

Now the Obama Administration has re-opened the rulemaking, and will accept comments on a proposed range of between .06 and .07, just as the Bush Administration’s scientific advisers had suggested.   The American Petroleum Institute promptly issued a statement denouncing what it called “an obvious politicization of the air-quality standard-setting process.”

I haven’t looked at the benefit-cost analysis.  I suppose it’s possible that the tighter regulation will turn out not to be cost-justified, though I’d be surprised, given the rules under which regulatory benefit-cost analysis is done.  But to call a decision that respects scientific advice “a politicization of the process” is just gibberish, and I wish that the conventions of American journalism allowed reporters to follow up with appropriately withering questions, or just to say to the flacks, “I’m not printing that crap. Say something that isn’t a flat-out lie or I’ll just report that API is against the proposed new rule.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

5 thoughts on ““Politicization””

  1. Ah, yes, but that would mean disposing of the convention that when it comes to a political matter, there is no truth out there to report, or if there is then it's somewhere between what the two sides are saying. And that would require, you know, hard work and detailed knowledge about a complicated issue.

  2. This one wasn't just the usual EPA scientific advisory process, there was even a National Research Council report evaluating the issues and supporting the findings, and the National Academies are as close to politically independent as you're going to get. The NRC report did look at economic issues, which the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee can't. I'm not an economist so I can't evaluate how good the economic assessment was, but the rest of the NRC report is very well done.

  3. Maybe the new health care bill will be a new political force to counter myopic business community attacks on environmental standards which affect their own health. In a 2004 Policy Statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that approximately 146 million Americans were living in areas where monitored air failed to meet the 1997 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for at least 1 of the 6 "criteria air pollutants" including ozone…Legal challenges were made by the American Trucking Associations, the US Chamber of Commerce, and other(s)". Once the new health care bill gets signed into law, the Chamber of Commerce will look penny wise and pound foolish when they oppose stronger pollution standards while their members also pay higher health insurance premiums caused by the resulting illnesses. If the new health care bill drives new and creative preventative health policies, it will be truly a landmark act.

  4. It's true that scientific evidence alone, considered apart from (non-epistemic) evaluative criteria – ethical, political, whatever – doesn't entail any practical conclusion. One shouldn’t hide a proposal's normative basis behind scientistic skirts. But that's not what's going on here.

    The API press release is just dishonest. Its specific complaint (which the NYT article doesn't quote), the reason it says the proposal "lacks scientific justification" & "is an obvious politicization" of the NAAQS process, is that EPA’s "Provisional Assessment of Recent Studies on Health & Ecological Effects of Ozone Exposure" (Sept 2009) concludes that the post-2004 literature it reviews does "not materially change any of the broad scientific conclusions regarding the health & ecological effects of ozone exposure" (pp. 1, 38) that are used in its 2006 AQCD.

    The quote is accurate, but the implication that the reported findings scientifically justify Bush Administration’s March 2008 standards, but not the new proposed ones, is just wrong. And I don’t see how it can be an honest mistake.

  5. This is something important to remember about these guys – they've left any gray areas far, far behind. They flat-out lie, openly lie, deliberately lie. And they can face themselves in the mirrors as long as their checks clear the bank.

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