The good news that went unreported on air quality

posted at 3:35 pm on March 15, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Last week, the EPA released its annual report on air quality trends … and no one noticed.  Why?  Unlike most environmental reports, this one didn’t contain dire warnings about the threat of disaster.  In fact, as the Institute for Energy Research notes, the EPA discovered that our air has gotten progressively cleaner over the last four decades, and significantly so over the last twenty:

On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly released their annual report on air quality trends.  You would never know it from picking up a newspaper or reading news websites, but the report contains great news. Air quality in the United States has dramatically improved and, according to all indicators, it will continue to improve. …

EPA reports that air quality has improved for the six main air pollutants:

Since 1990, nationwide air quality has improved significantly for the six common air pollutants. These six pollutants are ground-level ozone, particle pollution (PM2.5 and PM10), lead, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Nationally, air pollution was lower in 2008 than in 1990 for:

  • 8-hour ozone, by 14 percent
  • annual PM2.5 (since 2000), by 19 percent
  • PM10 , by 31 percent
  • Lead, by 78 percent
  • NO2 , by 35 percent
  • 8-hour CO, by 68 percent
  • annual SO2 , by 59 percent …

This is good news that air quality continues to improve and even more so because the American people do not know it. According to a 2004 poll from the Foundation for Clean Air Progress, only 29 percent of people thought that “America’s air quality is better than . . . it was in 1970.”

This graphic from the EPA shows the trend since 1970:

Since 1990:

A few points to note here.  First, I grew up in Southern California, when smog alerts were commonplace and it sometimes got so bad that it hurt to breathe.  That would have been at the front end of the 40-year trend graph, and emissions have dropped over 60% during that time.  However, a big part of that came over the last 20 years, as the second graph shows.  Both graphs show remarkable economic growth unrelated to emissions-restriction efforts and, for that matter, population growth.  Most intriguingly, travel has gone up much faster than population growth while emissions declined.

The carbon emissions data is also instructive.  In both graphs, its linkage to population growth is so close that the actual percentage has to be moved off of the right border of the graph.  It also parallels energy consumption, which has grown at a slightly lower rate than population, especially over the last couple of years of the report (which may have more to do with the recession).  Either way, carbon emissions are not out of control — and attempts to lower them will require an effort much different than the attempt to eliminate pollutant emissions.

Why hasn’t any news outlet reported these results?  Maybe they don’t like good news, especially on the environment.


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But, but I thought BOOOSH pumped sulfur into the air to kill us.

Enoxo on March 15, 2010 at 3:37 PM

omg the earth is dying

blatantblue on March 15, 2010 at 3:37 PM

Good, now I can breathe again. I’ve been holding my breath until the environment go clean.

hip shot on March 15, 2010 at 3:38 PM

thats why i love obama
he cleaned the air

and hes so humble he isnt taking the credit thats due

blatantblue on March 15, 2010 at 3:38 PM

go=got cleaned.

hip shot on March 15, 2010 at 3:39 PM

Positive Environmental news must be silenced or the Progressive have no club with which to pummel the producers with.

thomasaur on March 15, 2010 at 3:40 PM

If there is cleaner air, then there is less need for cap and trade….If we don’t get cap and trade, how can we fund the church of AGW and install Algore as the Minister of the Church. Moreover, how can we get funds to make our new churces, the “green” buildings and pay all of our employees with all of those “green jobs.” Of course we must hide this data.
/philjonesmikemannandallwarmersareascientificwussies

ted c on March 15, 2010 at 3:41 PM

But, but I thought BOOOSH pumped sulfur into the air to kill us.

Enoxo on March 15, 2010 at 3:37 PM

Nope. That was the JOOOOOOOOOOOS. I read it in CHavez-Ahmadinejad Nature Global Environment journal.

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on March 15, 2010 at 3:41 PM

And strengthening the EPA will give us MORE clean air!

Skywise on March 15, 2010 at 3:41 PM

Al Gore won’t like this. No sir…he won’t like it one bit. Secretly, the EPA is wanting to ratchet down even harder on the above listed hazardous air pollutants. Hopefully, this little report will kill that agenda.

Wyznowski on March 15, 2010 at 3:42 PM

Great news! Quick, kill a baby seal so the MSM will have something to report.

Mord on March 15, 2010 at 3:44 PM

The polar bears will appreciate your posting this good news, Ed.

Knucklehead on March 15, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Thank goodness they did not measure methane gas emissions…that would have had my signature all over it.

WashJeff on March 15, 2010 at 3:45 PM

The polar bears will appreciate your posting this good news, Ed.

Knucklehead on March 15, 2010 at 3:44 PM

if they could only get off of those ice flows.

thomasaur on March 15, 2010 at 3:46 PM

Now can I have my properly functioning asthma inhalers back?

myrenovations on March 15, 2010 at 3:47 PM

heartache for the cap and trade churchgoers.

ted c on March 15, 2010 at 3:47 PM

Now can I have my properly functioning asthma inhalers back?

myrenovations on March 15, 2010 at 3:47 PM

no, your friendly neighborhood death panel has given you the thumbs down. They mandate that you resubmit your request for your inhalers not less than ten days following your funeral. Chances are good that it’ll get approved and you’ll get those babies back within two weeks of your request.

/hope

ted c on March 15, 2010 at 3:49 PM

Breathe deep the gathering gloom
Watch lights fade from every room
Bed sitter people look back and lament
Another day’s useless energy is spent

John the Libertarian on March 15, 2010 at 3:50 PM

Now can I have my properly functioning asthma inhalers back?

myrenovations on March 15, 2010 at 3:47 PM

So the Breathalyzer isn’t doing the job?

thomasaur on March 15, 2010 at 3:51 PM

It’s getting so disgustingly transparent. This isn’t “news” because it doesn’t follow the agenda of the MSM who are in the tank for the Progressive/Liberal/Environmental agenda.

Things like this make it crystal clear that the whole environmental movement is about power, money, influence and politics, not about the actual environment.

Opposite Day on March 15, 2010 at 3:53 PM

I blame Bush.

And this no reason not to flush a few trillion dollars to appease Gaia. Because Gaia is not pleased.

Besides, how else will Al Gore get a 5000% return on his investment and isn’t that what really matters?

NoDonkey on March 15, 2010 at 3:54 PM

Air… AIR…. AIR!!!!

/love that movie.

July 10 on March 15, 2010 at 3:55 PM

It will soon get even better as they drive the last manufacturer overseas. We can all take comfort in high quality air while standing in the bread line or waiting in line for our government doctor to hand out sugar pills.

ClanDerson on March 15, 2010 at 3:56 PM

ahhhhh! Co2 pollution is up %44 since the dawn of the next ice age..can the human race possibly cope?

TheVer on March 15, 2010 at 3:57 PM

AlGoresBrain is always good for information.

Prepared a temp graph of this winter & turned it upside down. Crap! We’ve been looking @ things the wrong way!

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on March 15, 2010 at 3:57 PM

It will soon get even better as they drive the last manufacturer overseas. We can all take comfort in high quality air while standing in the bread line or waiting in line for our government doctor to hand out sugar pills.

ClanDerson on March 15, 2010 at 3:56 PM

True, but the United States will be the cleanest third world economy. What are you, some sort of raaaaaacist?

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on March 15, 2010 at 4:00 PM

But watch out for “environmental justice” – the EPA’s top priority.

fred5678 on March 15, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Why hasn’t any news outlet reported these results? Maybe they don’t like good news, especially on the environment.

Or as in this case
they did hide the decline

macncheez on March 15, 2010 at 4:09 PM

Ed – what is the link to the first graph?

“This graphic from the EPA shows the trend since 1970:”

Can’t find it – only the second graph.

fred5678 on March 15, 2010 at 4:12 PM

The MSM needs more time to figure out that the air is cleaner (and clearer) allowing more sunlight to reach the earth’s surface, leading to global warming. Then they’ll need to figure out how not to blame the sun.

Jeffster on March 15, 2010 at 4:18 PM

What about CO2? That’s a pollutant, too, according to the EPA. Adding that in should result in a major worsening of our air quality.

hawksruleva on March 15, 2010 at 4:19 PM

A government agency that actually did the job they were supposed to. And in only 10 years even though, 40 years later, they are still here.

That make it unanimous, EPA is the first to go. Next!

Caststeel on March 15, 2010 at 4:23 PM

From the report:

Air pollutants are
emitted from a variety of sources including stationary fuel combustion, industrial processes, highway vehicles, and non-road sources.

Shouldn’t that add: animal digestion, breathing, aging of the planet, and tectonic plate movement? All of those things contribute CO2 to the air.

hawksruleva on March 15, 2010 at 4:24 PM

Actually this is good news.

I spent my youth in SoCal during the 50′s and 60′s sucking up smog.

Often, it was so thick that you couldn’t see the surrounding hills and mountains because of the airborne muck. The air stank and by the end of the day my lungs would hurt from running around outside all day in the crap. Schools would cancel PE classes and Fullerton airport would have to close because they couldn’t meet vfr requirements.

It’s a wonder I’m not dead from lung cancer by now.

So, as much as I hate government bureaucracies, kudos to the EPA for clean air. It’s just too bad they can’t stick to just doing the minimum to fix a problem rather than killing industry and bankrupting states like California with their out-of-control, over-kill regulations.

Rod on March 15, 2010 at 4:24 PM

Having lived in Pittsburgh for 60 years,I find this news unexpectedly obvious.Side note:I’ve been wondering if the improved air quality might have something to do with the supposed rise in skin cancer?

DDT on March 15, 2010 at 4:25 PM

That make it unanimous, EPA is the first to go. Next!

Caststeel on March 15, 2010 at 4:23 PM

I’m in favor. If the EPA wasn’t hogging all the funds for research on air quality, private watchdog groups could spring up to keep tabs on corporate polluters. The permits and regulations on businesses would be less, lowering costs, and bringing more products to market, faster.

hawksruleva on March 15, 2010 at 4:26 PM

So, as much as I hate government bureaucracies, kudos to the EPA for clean air. It’s just too bad they can’t stick to just doing the minimum to fix a problem rather than killing industry and bankrupting states like California with their out-of-control, over-kill regulations.

Rod on March 15, 2010 at 4:24 PM

I wonder if the EPA cleaned up the environment, or if private industry did it?

hawksruleva on March 15, 2010 at 4:27 PM

I wonder if the EPA cleaned up the environment, or if private industry did it?

hawksruleva on March 15, 2010 at 4:27 PM

I’ll assume that you just don’t think you’re being witty or you’re obtuse and answer you’re question:

Industry cleaned up the mess, of course. After emission standards and regulations were put in place.

Rod on March 15, 2010 at 4:38 PM

No wonder they made CO2 a pollutant, they needed a new bugaboo.

conservnut on March 15, 2010 at 4:45 PM

One intriguing implication of the graph: air pollution could be the explanation for the cooling blip in the temperature graphs from about 1940 for about a third of a century. If so, the slope of warming in the 80′s and 90′s was not caused by high CO2, but more simply — by cleaner air.

levi from queens on March 15, 2010 at 4:48 PM

What\’s that inflection point in every data trend, that hits at 1995? I see they added a dashed line to highlight it, but I can\’t think of anything in 1995 that\’d warrant it.(Yes, I\’m assuming the Gingrich Revolution getting sworn in doesn\’t count for anything good on the EPA\’s historical radar)

Blacksmith on March 15, 2010 at 4:50 PM

Compare the air in our (temporarily still) Capitalist system with that that you saw in Communist China during the summer Olympics.

kurtzz3 on March 15, 2010 at 4:57 PM

It’s not just the air that’s improving … it’s everything …

As a kid, growing up in south Mississippi in the 70′s – all of us kids used to deer hunt – but only a relative few of us ever actually bagged a deer. You could only shoot bucks back then – never doe. The deer populations weren’t that plentiful.

At the same time – we used to have “rumors” about coyotes and “panthers” that roamed the woods – but only a few had ever seen them – we laughed at those guys as if they had claimed to have seen UFO’s. You couldn’t hunt alligator back then – they were “endangered” and you really rarely saw them in the swamps.

What a difference today … Deer are plentiful, and you can even shoot a limited number of doe. I often see more dead deer on the side of the interstate now than dogs – deer are so plentiful they are a road hazard now. I routinely see coyote walzing about the woods without a care in the world and I recently saw a “panther” … more accurately – these things look like “moutain lions” as I’ve seen them in Califormia. Game and Fish now pick them up regularly on their game cameras. You can’t jump in the swamp anymore without keeping an eye out for aligator – they are everywhere. I also have no fear of eating the fish I catch – pretty much wherever I catch them – don’t have to worry anymore. Back in the 70′s we had to worry about some places.

This world is really getting a lot better – almost a paradise if you look at the natural world and the way we’ve cleaned up.

But you’ll never hear that from the Socialists.

HondaV65 on March 15, 2010 at 5:02 PM

Note that big jump from 1970-95 with air pollution?

Two words: Rust Belt.

40% of your decline in that period, just 21% thereafter. And most of that between 1970-85. Those are the Rust Belt years.

ajacksonian on March 15, 2010 at 5:11 PM

that would have had my signature all over it.

WashJeff on March 15, 2010 at 3:45 PM

If you quit living a vegan lifestyle & eating all those dark green veggies, you wouldn’t have such a problem. LOL!
Perhaps some hormonal therapy would help reduce the problem, & hence, your carbon footprint.
The soy is working on the population of vegans, though. It is suspected of causing infertility.
So perhaps being a vegan isn’t all bad.

Badger40 on March 15, 2010 at 5:12 PM

HondaV65 on March 15, 2010 at 5:02 PM

I’m not sure, but I would bet those populations had less to do with pollution & more to do with changing land use.
Animals like that are pretty hardy & I think that their populations would be affected much by the pollution in many areas.
Probably got too many gators bcs of the hysterical protection of ‘wetlands’.

Badger40 on March 15, 2010 at 5:14 PM

Oh, sure, go ahead and cheer about all that “clean air” we’re breathing…

Until we all get carbon dioxide poisoning and DIE!!!

logis on March 15, 2010 at 5:23 PM

Either way, carbon emissions are not out of control — and attempts to lower them will require an effort much different than the attempt to eliminate pollutant emissions.

And this is why, even as a rather radical environmentalist, I still see the issue as one of pollutant emissions, not carbon emissions with no discernible effect. Pollutant emissions are literally dangerous to our health, and regulatory efforts to lower them, according to this data, seem to be working. Lets continue our efforts in making our air cleaner, while leaving this boondoggle of carbon emissions where it belongs, in the dustbin of history.

ernesto on March 15, 2010 at 5:52 PM

More proof that the allegation that “carbon dioxide is a pollutant” is just a wacky extreme left environut urban myth.

…And also very strong proof that “carbon is life”!!

No wonder the EPA tried to bury this: it means that they are an agency which is out of step with the facts.

landlines on March 15, 2010 at 6:58 PM

Granted, it’s purely anecdotal, but I’ve lived in SoCal for 44 years and I, like Ed, can remember days you could cut the air with a knife the pollution was so bad. I honestly can’t remember the last stage one alert we had, let alone a stage two or greater. I suspect it is due, at least in part, to the loss of dairy farms and heavy industry

NTropy on March 15, 2010 at 8:11 PM

But, but I thought BOOOSH pumped sulfur into the air to kill us.

Enoxo on March 15, 2010 at 3:37 PM

Don’t be silly, Bushitler is much more clever then that, he orchestrated Katrina and Haiti to kill black people only.

Osis on March 16, 2010 at 10:45 AM