Believe it or not there are environmental policy issues being debated, discussed and legislated beyond global warming. I’m as guilty as the next policy wonk of ignoring these issues what with the all consuming media and policy attention paid to global warming, but other issues do have resonance (from a media perspective) and, arguably, more immediate affects on peoples lives (in the short-term) than global warming and possible climate change legislation.
For instance, an intern here at the NCPA and I wrote a little piece on legislation being proposed to raise the federal gas tax five cents per gallon to pay for bridge maintenance and repair.
The problem of decrepit bridges is not, of course, new, but the collapse in Minnesota brought it to the national media’s attention, where, for a short-time, they worried it like a dog with a bone. While the media spotlight has faded, the legislation to “fix” the problem is still under consideration. Based on the reception our article and the longer piece published by the NCPA is receiving, this issue has some importance or at least the media thinks that the public will care — a view I share.
While I share, with some of my colleagues the view that most road services should be privatized, as long as there is a gas tax, I think it should be spent on just that: roads and bridges. Let hiker’s, museum goers, and mass transit users pay their own way rather than being subsidized by drivers. 40 percent of the current gas tax goes to projects other than road and bridge construction, maintenance and repair. If this money were redirected to the original intended purpose, there would be no need for any gas tax increase.
Another policy that is about to take front and center in the countries cities and towns is proposal by the EPA to make the nation’s Ozone standards more stringent. As Joel Schwartz and I argue in a recent piece the proposed standards are lower than background levels of Ozone absent any human habitation or influence in some areas. As a result, cities and regions could quite possibly bankrupt themselves attempting to meet the standard (and still fail). Even the EPA acknowledges that for some areas, meeting the proposed standard will require an as yet unforeseen technological breakthrough.
Though the time for public comment on the ozone proposal has now passed, the issue still bears paying attention too.