Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Concrete That Eats Smog?



priv8pete said...

Here is the most interesting quote for me (my twisted Economics brains just thinks this way):

But he cautioned that the cost efficiency of such products would depend on long-term performance, adding, “Catalysts tend to lose their effectiveness over time.”

The cost of environmental improvements always disproportionately affects the poor more than the rich, so the real choice is whether we'd rather have cleaner air for a spell or more people living in poverty. I'd like cleaner air, but then again I'm not poor.

Michael in New York said...

Wow, you should be working for Rush Limbaugh. The reason you oppose reasonable regulations to ensure cleaner air and water is...you care about the poor! That's a new one on me. The truly poor aren't affected at all because they don't pay any taxes, being poor and all. The lower and middle class are disproportionately affected by taxes -- which means they are disproportionately affected by the costs of gov't programs, the rising prices of a car when we insist manufacturers meet higher efficiency standards or insist a plant run cleaner. But that is not an argument for ending all environmental regulation -- that's an argument for reforming the tax code. (personally, I'm all for a pure sales tax and no income tax; it's just easier). But you're also assuming there would be higher costs for "environmental improvements" -- not necessarily. If tax breaks encouraged the use of smog-eating concrete or the gov't insisted state roads include them, their manufacturing cost would drop. Ultimately, they might cost the same or less as current building or road materials. Further, there is the cost savings of poor people who might see the astronomical rates of asthma in their neighborhoods drop, letting their children actually breathe and saving them medical costs. Being green is not only not a burden on the poor-- it can be great business. If the gov't would force our car manufacturers to innovate by regulating radically higher gas mileage, etc., the car companies would ultimately reap the rewards of tapping the massive demand in China and India for clean technology. This is one small example of "environmental improvements" that could nudge our economy towards massive new business and keep us on the cutting edge for the next decades. The poor neighborhoods in our country are invariably the dumping grounds for the worst pollution, ghastly plants, heavy-duty powerlines, sludge and so on. They already are disproportionately affected by pollution and I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any who wouldn't like to see healthier, cleaner neighborhoods for their kids to grow up in.

priv8pete said...

Construction mandates would not be federal, but would be at the state or local levels (ie added onto propery tax or sales tax). While the poor don't necessarily own homes, they still rent and those rental properties are affected by higher property taxes. And outside of farmers or communes everyone needs to buy food, clothing and other items. So yes, the poor will still feel the brunt of the tax. I'm not coming at this from a political vantage point, but rather trying to view it through the critical nature that I would have when I was still in my economics classes. I'm sorry if you feel that the discussion of tradeoffs is an attack on you or your views, but you can clearly see that my last line says I'm for these improvements. However, what is the harm at looking at an issue from a holistic approach?

The argument isn't "would you like cleaner neighborhoods or not?" but rather "at what cost are you willing to pay for cleaner neighborhoods?" If an acceptable cost at the margin can be achieved than there is no reason to hold back smog-eating concrete. But, if it needs to be retreated every 10 years and doubles the cost of maintenance and thus raises property or sales taxes an exorbitant amount, it may actually be detrimental for the poor to have cleaner air but more poverty to fight. I don't know the answer and that's why a comprehensive CBA needs to be done by someone with all the data (which actually sounds like fun to me).