Since he took office, Trump has been trying to do some very nefarious things, such as increasing restrictions on trade and immigration into the US. But he is also doing some good things, such as going after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
He has issued a gag order to prevent EPA agents from speaking to the press or posting stuff on social media. There are also expected to be $800 million in budget cuts and that is just the start. He has expressed a desire to abolish the EPA entirely.
How is that a good thing? Won’t the evil corporations pollute even more? These are valid concerns. But the evidence goes against this. The fact is that EPA regulations have done very little to protect the environment and have proven harmful in quite a few cases.
When we wake up, the first thing we do is take a shower. But the EPA has added a unique twist to this. In order to save water, the EPA has mandated that all shower heads come with a device called a flow restrictor. What this does is makes the water come out more slowly. Surely that helps conserve water, right?
No! What it does is take all the fun out of the shower experience, while making sure that people stay in the shower for 25 minutes instead of the usual five minutes, and use more water. Even Trump understands this!
Also, this is on a per shower head basis. For regular people, the shower sucks. The rich, however, can have fancy bathrooms with spray coming from all directions and enjoy the shower, while using far more water than they would have without the regulation.
What about pollution? The fuel for cars has been made more expensive by another nonsensical mandate by the EPA. Fuel manufacturers have to blend cellulosic ethanol into their product, since it would be less polluting. There is just one slight problem. It doesn’t exist yet, at any commercial level. The EPA has mandated the use of close to 53 million litres, while the total production is only about 76000 litres.
So what does this regulation do? It makes fuel manufacturers pay a hefty fine, which is passed on to consumers, while doing NOTHING to protect the environment.
“But these are just mild inconveniences to consumers”, you are probably thinking. “Surely all the good that the EPA does must outweigh the damage, right”? Wrong. Regulations by the EPA have been known to kill people. In order to control particulate matter entering the atmosphere, the wise and benevolent EPA requires all diesel engines to be fitted with a filter. This filter needs to “regenerate” (burn off the accumulated particulates), at regular intervals, meaning the vehicle shut down against the driver’s will. This resulted in the death of a gunshot victim who was being taken to the hospital, when the ambulance shut down.
The EPA later exempted emergency vehicles from this mandate, but vehicles that had already been sold prior to exemption have not been retrofitted. Fire departments and hospitals are dealing with this by keeping the vehicles out of service for extended periods to keep the filters clean, putting severe limitations on emergency services and risking countless lives.
So how do we protect the environment?
Regulation, as we have seen, does little to benefit the environment, while having a lot of unintended consequences. This happens because regulators can not collect all the relevant information and incorporate it into their policies. That information is dispersed among millions of individuals and cannot be aggregated in any meaningful sense.
Thus we must rely on markets to help the environment. There is a widespread consumer demand for environment friendly products, and manufacturers are responding to it.
For example, there are showers that use air induction, meaning that the same force can be obtained while using less water, keeping the shower experience still fun. It also saves on electricity (and money), since there is less water to heat, which means that less fossil fuels are burnt.
As for pollution, the market is again ahead of the EPA. Several manufacturers have or are planning to enter the electric car segment? Why? Because consumers want those. Not only is going green increasingly fashionable, it is also getting cheaper every year.
A study found that the cost of battery packs used in these vehicles has been declining by about 8% annually, and is expected to decline further with mass production. Government, for its part, has continuously subsidised oil companies, which makes petrol and diesel relatively cheaper and encourages pollution. Stopping these subsidies and letting market prices work would speed up adoption of electric cars.
Trump might deny climate change all he likes, but he cannot stop consumers from demanding environment friendly products. That is the power of the market. By curtailing the EPA and letting the market take over, as far as the environment is concerned, Trump is doing the world a service.