Slashing EPA funding will cut gas prices? Really?!

By Nick Scott of Portland, Oregon. Nick is a health, safety, and political advocate with a passion for environmental conservation.

The proposed House spending bill for 2010 not only wants to chop $60 billion from the federal budget – it’s looking to decimate most initiatives of environmental regulation.

From protecting fish in California to water pollution limits in Florida and the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide, the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory programs were targets of the Republican budget resolution. The proposal slices the EPA’s budget by 30% - constituting the largest cut to any agency. It bars the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and hopes to eradicate The Clean Air Act.

The recent legislation has spawned a swirl of debate on Capitol Hill as of late. The House GOP claims that such legislation will work towards combating the rising costs of gasoline. This claim, however, is receiving a heaping amount of backlash from House Dems.

The Hill reports:

The claim — which Republicans including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are touting — has struck a nerve as pump prices move up the political agenda.

“It is one of the most pathetically, economically invalid arguments ever made in human history,” Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, told E2 Wednesday.

Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is the chief sponsor of the bill that will be taken up Thursday in the Energy and Power subcommittee.

Senior House Republicans have tailored their political messaging on the bill to focus more heavily on gasoline prices.

There is no question as to whether or not gas prices are sky rocketing. The AAA auto club reports that gasoline prices average $3.59 a gallon for regular in Oregon as of 3/7/2011. That’s 8 cents higher than the nation average. In fact, prices have risen 11 cents from a week ago, 35 cents from a month ago, and 74 cents from a year ago in Oregon. Regardless of the rising prices, the latest rhetoric from the GOP seems like a cheap attempt to pander to the uninformed masses. Their claims are rooted in an industry-commissions study of cap-and-trade legislation that died in 2009. It’s just downright unfair to compare a 2009 bill to the EPA’s rules of 2011.

The potential health threat this legislation present s is staggering. With an increase in pollution and environmental toxins comes an increase in the number of annual children diagnosed with asthma, brain cancer,mesothelioma, and other serious health problems. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has since echoed this message, stating:

“I am accountable for ensuring we squeeze every drop of public health protection out of every dollar we get. If Congress slashed EPA’s funding, concentrations of carbon pollution would increase … the result would be more asthma attacks, more missed school and work days … and more premature deaths.”

Asthma, even for adults, is one of the largest contributors to work and school absenteeism. The illness results in almost 15 million lost workdays each year. Furthermore, mesothelioma symptoms (a rare cancer that forms on the lining of the lungs) are often mistaken for symptoms of asthma. When left undiagnosed, the mesothelioma life expectancy does not generally exceed 14 months.

We can only hope that the proposed legislation does not become law. Slashing the funds to climate change programs is not the answer to our economic struggles. If anything, carbon emission regulation saves us on the collateral costs of things like hospital bills. We must raise public awareness of the threat posed by restricting the EPA.

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    This is a no win argument. Gas prices, unpopular as they will be, need to go up so that less is used so that there are less carbon emissions and less of our our dollars funding petro-dictators abroad (and more spent here).

    The German Ambassador to the US was just in Portland. He said that Germany has cut carbon emissions by 28% while growing it GDP by 30%. All with (or because of) gas at $9.50 per gallon. See my blog post here.

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    If there was a valid connection in terms of price and supply perhaps we might explore the assertion that EPA regulations are the reason for high gas prices.

    The modernization of commodities regulation and waivers extended by GW Bush account for this fact. Now please look it up for yourself if you want iron clad documentation. In 2008 when gas at the pump was 4.00 one half of that price was because of speculation.

    Prices in Europe have been high for decades because they funded mass transit. Among the reasons we can not compare Germany and the US is the way in which they have funded conversion to solar and their policies during the recent financial theft engineered by Wall Street.

    If Mr. Porter is looking for a case where privatization works it may be useful to consider Tepco. A current story regarding nuclear power may ring a bell. Locally, most will recall the deregulation of energy carried out in California and subsequent "benefits".

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