OpEd: When Environmental Regulation Hurts the Environment

While environmental regulation is an important protection in preserving our great outdoors, there comes a point where it does more harm than good for the environment and America.

For example, the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on car emissions and fuel economy are not effective. They require that car manufacturers meet a certain standard in CO2 emissions and that their product line has a certain average MPG rating. This is a great idea, but it makes the average consumer wonder when the EPA only tests about 15-20% of new cars. These tests are largely inaccurate because the cars are tested in a laboratory setting, which doesn’t account for carrying loads, going uphill or downhill, accelerating then decelerating, or wind resistance. The other 80-85% of fuel economy ratings are given by the car companies, which are usually inflated to satisfy the EPA and attract more customers. 

The issue with this lapse in testing is that these cars become more expensive and complex for manufacturers and consumers. To engineer a car to get 40 miles to the gallon requires sophisticated technology that may not be fully perfected. This technology is expensive and heightens the cost of repair bills when things do break. While these cars are technically more efficient, it’s worse for the consumer because the cost of cars rises. 

To give perspective on how these regulations are not cost-effective, here is an example: A 2001 Toyota Corolla that costs about $19,000 in today’s money, gets on average, 30 miles to the gallon. A 2021 Toyota Corolla that costs about $20,000 will get about 33 miles per gallon. Is the extra $1,000 worth only 3 miles to the gallon? For people whose funds are tight, they would greatly benefit from having that extra money. 

Environmental regulation goes well beyond cars. In 2017, a company called Petra Nova, a subsidiary of NRG Energy from Texas developed a method of decarbonizing their coal-fired power plants. All the company had to do was build a new addition to already existing infrastructure, but the regulation stipulated that the EPA must conduct a typically costly review of modifications to power plants. As a result, Petra Nova decided to build a whole other plant to avoid the review. Instead of modifying their existing plants and lowering carbon emissions, they built new ones in addition, technically increasing emissions because Petra Nova and NRG thought it was more cost-effective to build a new power plant.

Environmental regulation, when logically implemented, can preserve nature while still allowing our economy to thrive. When it comes to politicians fighting for climate policy proposals, I will begin to take them seriously when they consider nuclear energy as a viable option for the future. 


Thanks for reading,

Brian Inguanti