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Category — Particulate Matter (PM) Policy

EPA’s Flawed Science: From Pretense of Knowledge to Fatal Conceit

“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design. To the naive mind that can conceive of order only as the product of deliberate arrangement, it may seem absurd that in complex conditions … adaptation to the unknown can be achieved more effectively by decentralizing decisions and that a division of authority will actually extend the possibility of overall order. Yet that decentralization actually leads to more information being taken into account.”

- F. A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (1988), p. 76

Whenever the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is confronted with evidence that its proposed regulations will kill jobs, risk blackouts, or otherwise harm economic growth, it typically seeks refuge in its own estimates of the amazing public health benefits the proposal will have.

By 2020, EPA rules “will prevent 230,000 early deaths,” one recent Administration report claims. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has gone so far as to testify before Congress that the new regulations would provide health benefits as valuable as a cure for cancer.

Such unequivocal declarations scare the public and can intimidate the skeptic. If EPA claims about saving lives were true, the case for its aggressive regulatory agenda would be compelling. How can society worry about higher electric rates or losing American jobs to foreign shores, after all, when thousands of human lives are at stake?

But as I document in my recent paper, “EPA’s Pretense of Science: Regulating Phantom Risks,” peeling back the layers of assumptions behind EPA’s conclusions reveal that the agency’s claims are misleading at best and deceptive at worst.

Deadly Dust

At the heart of EPA claims about health benefits is a methodological change made in 2009 to the way it calculates the health risks from exposure to fine particulate matter. At a stroke, this change more than tripled the number of deaths attributable to ambient particulates. Since then, EPA has used this vast reserve of claimed deaths to justify virtually every one of its major new regulations, regardless of whether the regulations were targeted at particulates or not. [Read more →]

June 5, 2012   10 Comments