Opinion: Keep an open mind to new environmental rules

Rachel Godin is a junior journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.  Contact her at [email protected].

Rachel Godin

Perhaps Barack Obama’s opportunity to enact change as the nation’s leader is dwindling to a close is the motivating factor behind his moving forward on some necessary environmental regulation changes that have been put on the back burner by politicians for years. Regardless, the president started the barrel rolling this week when he said he supported new EPA regulations that pinpoint reducing sulfur in gas emissions.

The amount of sulfur in gasoline is what makes it difficult for car pollution emission controls to efficiently filter out dangerous gasses. The new rules will require oil refiners and carmakers to install equipment that will reduce greenhouse gas output by about two-thirds by 2017.

This push for cleaner air was a long time coming and is as exciting as it is unnerving, considering it took so long for the EPA to decide to regulate greenhouse gasses. Even now, The U.S. lags behind in sulfur limits. In 2007, and remember, this is only seven years ago, “the court ruled that if greenhouse gases were determined to endanger public health or welfare, the EPA would be required to regulate their emissions in accordance with the Clean Air Act,” according to The Guardian. In 2009, the EPA published an “Endangerment Finding,” stating that the current and projected concentrations of these gases indeed “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.” Although the document does state that these findings are a prerequisite to establishing greenhouse-gas-emission standards, it sure does make you wonder why it took until 2014 to act.

More than 2,000 premature deaths and about 50,000 cases of children with respiratory problems are predicted to be avoided by 2030 if the rules go into effect, the EPA said.

The question on everyone’s mind now is, what personal sacrifices will be required of them when such regulations fully develop? Apparently there is a lot of controversy about the real cost of the changes. The EPA said that cost to consumers would be less than a penny a gallon but according to an interview with The New York Times, Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers lobbying group, says that the price of gasoline could rise by up to 9 cents per gallon. Fine, if people are complaining about the differences in projected cost increase, let’s test it.

Today, you fill your moderately-sized, 25 gallon car up with gas at an average Ohio cost of $3.30, that’s $82.50. After regulations, you fearfully fill your car up again at $3.39, hmm … that’s $84.75. The conclusion here is that complaining about an increase of $2.75 is comparable with crying over spilled milk.

According to The Boston Globe, in an interview Tuesday, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy called new rules a win for consumers and automakers: “The benefits far outweigh the costs. These standards will reduce pollution, they’ll clean the air we breathe, and protect the health of American families.’’

If you’re really still worried, the whole auto industry is being made to make changes when they built new vehicles. So if you’re not willing to fork over nine cents more per gallon, new technology will be well on its way to helping you solve the problem of gas consumption before you hit the pump. New fuel-efficiency standards will require cars and light trucks to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Opinions are split, but to calm frustrated arguments about the issue, we need to remember that policy changes are made to prevent damage of the only environment we have. There are better ways to sustain life on earth and although many of us might suffer a bit as we transition from a bad habit to a better one, the trick is to keep an open mind and view these dime increases as our individual contributions to a cleaner, healthier tomorrow.