Cleaner Air, the Right Way

Commentary, Environment, Tom Harris

Re: Environment Canada presses for urgent crackdown on coal, Feb. 22.

Environment Canada is mistaken to think that "Canadians will directly benefit from cleaner air in their communities" due to the proposed greenhouse regulations for coalfired electricity generation stations.

The government's own analysis shows that there will be negligible, in fact immeasurable, "air quality improvements experienced by typical residents" of Canada by 2030.

Specifically, fine particulate matter pollution is forecast to drop by 0.21 per cent and ground-level ozone by 0.09 per cent for the country as a whole.

The forecast pollution reduction, according to government modelling, yields health benefits from reduced smog exposure of $1.4 billion. This is highly speculative and ignores the fact that, below certain levels, pollution often has no impact on health whatsoever. Regardless, practically all of the regulations' $1.5 billion net present value – the gap between the benefits and the cost – is accounted for by these alleged health benefits.

If Environment Canada wants to reduce air pollution, then it should do so through regulations that concentrate exclusively on pollution.

The approach of regulating the benign gas carbon dioxide and hoping for some pollution reduction on the side is obviously backwards.