In 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered a 95 percent reduction in emissions of nitrous oxide for heavy-duty diesel engines to take effect in 2010. According to the EPA’s in-house cost-benefit analysis, this reduction would prevent, among other things, 8,300 premature deaths, 23,100 cases of chronic bronchitis, 360,000 asthma attacks, and 386,000 cases of respiratory symptoms in asthmatic children every year. Over ten years, almost 100 thousand people would be around who would otherwise be underground! EPA cost-benefiters monetized annual benefits of its regulation at $66.2 billion versus a paltry annual cost of $4.2 billion. What a marvel! We can save all these lives and prevent all these illnesses at virtually no cost to anyone.
Come 2010, Navistar, the third largest seller of heavy duty trucks and employer of 4,000 manufacturing workers failed to meet the EPA’s nitrous-oxide standards. Its competitors, largely foreign owned, complied. They are no longer killing people and making children sick, like Navistar. Instead of shutting Navistar heavy-duty truck division down until it meets its nitrous oxide standards, the EPA substituted a fine ($1919 per vehicle) in January of this year, which allowed Navistar to continue to produce and sell non-compliant trucks.
Using the EPA’s own figures, I calculate that Navistar’s “non-compliance penalty” will cause 2,075 premature deaths, 5,772 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 90,000 asthma attacks in 2012 alone – a small price to pay for 1,200 manufacturing jobs in an election year. (My calculations use Navistar’s share of the heavy truck market and the fact that heavy-duty trucks account for about a third of its business).