WASHINGTON, DC—Resources for the Future (RFF) today released a new installment of Resources Radio: “Lessons from 50 Years of the Clean Air Act, with Maureen Cropper.”
In this episode, host Daniel Raimi talks with Maureen Cropper, an RFF senior fellow and professor of economics at the University of Maryland. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Clean Air Act (CAA), Cropper discusses a recent working paper she coauthored with fellow RFF scholars, which assesses the full benefits and costs of the groundbreaking law’s many programs to protect the environment. While Cropper acknowledges that the CAA has been successful at substantially reducing air pollutants, she also discusses how varying the stringency of regulations across US counties has imposed unforeseen costs on local economies, and how imperfectly competitive markets have limited some of the potential benefits of the Acid Rain Program.
Notable quotes from the podcast:
- New insights from a retrospective analysis: “The paper really focuses on the difference between ex ante analysis of the benefits and costs of the Clean Air Act and what we can say ex post … The problem is that ex ante, both the world with the NOx Budget Program and the world without the NOx Budget Program are uncertain. And obviously, before the fact, we can't say whether the benefits that we predict actually were realized.” (3:41)
- Benefits of the Acid Rain Program: “Not everybody's a cost minimizer, but we do find cost savings … That's the important thing. The gains from trade here are about $200 million for the year 2002, and that's about 20 percent of what I would call the total costs of complying with the Acid Rain Program that year. So, there still were savings—significant savings—generated by the Acid Rain Program.” (15:51)
- Adverse consequences of inconsistent regulations: “What the literature [about the National Ambient Air Quality Standards] has shown is that the more stringent standards in non-attainment counties shifted the location of manufacturing, at least in high-emitting industries (like iron and steel, plastics, pulp, and paper) from non-attainment counties to attainment counties. It also reduced manufacturing employment in non-attainment counties … So, this really raises the question—it's great to have stringent emissions standards in non-attainment counties, but why not have the same stringent standards everywhere?” (26:45)
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