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The US Acid Rain Program: Benefits and Costs

Introduction and Context

Authors Lauraine Chestnut and David Mills documented the benefits and cost assessment of the US acid rain reduction platform. Special attention was given to the parameters specified under the US Acid Rain Program, specifically Title IV of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. To accomplish that goal, the proponents of the study compared estimates made in 1990 to estimates made a decade after. Furthermore, the need to measure the benefits of the program in the context of human health was given special attention. Chestnut and Mills utilized estimates provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine the health and environmental benefits of the said program.

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About the geographical area, Chestnut and Mills focused the scope of the study to include only the power plant industry within the United States. Therefore, data reports from specific regions in the United States became part of the said study. This measurement process was guided by the use of the Integrated Planning model, which is a multiregional model of the country’s power plant industry (Chestnut and Mills 253). Nonetheless, the spotlight was on a 36 by a 36-kilometer grid that covers portions of the continental United States and southern portions of Canada (Chestnut and Mills 256).

The proponents of the study were focused on determining the emission rate of electric power plants in terms of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Be that as it may, it is not possible to fully understand the health issue without stating that the emissions of the aforementioned chemicals were mere precursors. The critical part of the emission reduction program was to find out the end-result when these pollutants entered the atmosphere. It was revealed later on that the most disconcerting discovery was that sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions were precursors to the emergence of particulate aerosols, a compound that is harmful to human health. Therefore, the health issue was to reduce emissions to reduce particulate aerosols.

Methods and Data

To understand the cost-efficiency of the acid rain program about the perceived health benefit, it was important to figure out the estimated total annualized cost of applying the legal mandate found in Title IV. Using a report submitted to the U.S. Congress containing cost estimates derived from different assumptions and modeling tools, they were able to derive the correct data.

About the measurement of human health benefits, the study relied on data supplied by the US EPA. The US EPA in turn utilized information taken from a published source that was using a quantification method to calculate the human health benefits in the context of particulate matter aerosol. Once the estimates had been tabulated the data was fed to a simulation program called the Regulatory Modeling System for Aerosols and Deposition or REMSAD.

The appropriate use of the REMSAD enabled the US EPA to determine the expected volume of particulate matter in the atmosphere in the year 2010. Once the data measuring the particulate matter became available, this information was utilized and combined with health effects made available to the U.S. EPA. As a result, the proponents of the study were able to determine the health benefits of emission reduction protocols.

The proponents of the study were also interested in determining the ancillary benefits with regards to the reduction in the emission of pollutants from electric power plants. As a result, they also wanted to find out the following outcomes: 1) effects on visibility, 2) effects on natural resources; and 3) effects of acid deposition on materials.

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Results and Discussion

It was discovered that for every ton of emission reduced, the government spent at least $250. The U.S. EPA and other related agencies did not expect the low cost of reducing the emission of pollutants. The cost projections in the 1990s were much higher than the recent estimates supplied to the U.S. EPA. In other words, to achieve a significant level of reduction in emissions, the government had to spend $3 billion in 2010.

After calculating the cost of hospitalization, medical expenses related to symptoms and the reduction in productivity due to weak lungs, inflammation, and morphological changes, the proponent of the study reported a positive cost-benefit outcome of at least $100 billion. In other words, if the reduced emission resulted in the prevention of health problems, there is no need to spend a hundred billion dollars in medical expenses. The proponents of the study provided a detailed breakdown of the health benefits with regards to the following medical issues:

  1. adult mortality rates;
  2. infant mortality rates;
  3. non-fatal heart attacks;
  4. acute bronchitis;
  5. asthma exacerbations;
  6. respiratory symptoms,
  7. work loss (Chestnut and Mills 258).

The cost-benefit analysis was in favor of the reduction of the emission of pollutants. However, the article discussed ancillary benefits as well. It was made clear that the successful application of reduction protocols was beneficial to the nation’s natural resources as well. The said pollution control process also ensures the security and integrity of the food chain with regards to the threat of bioaccumulation of toxins.

Conclusions and Criticisms

There was a favorable cost-benefit assessment with the application of Title IV protocols into the proposed reduction of the emissions emanating from U.S. power plants. The positive impact of the assessment was clarified through numbers 3 and 100. It only required 3 billion dollars to achieve savings worth more than 100 billion dollars. As a result, it was easier to conclude that the implementation of the acid rain program exceeded expectations. Be that as it may, there were concerns regarding the liberal use of simulation models that supplied the estimates in cost as well as health benefits.

The proponents of the study pointed out that there are always uncertainties in the use of simulation models in generating this type of data. Nevertheless, it is imperative to refine the process. Thus, they proposed the utilization of more limiting assumptions. They also suggested the use of stringent standards in the interpretation of the literature that was used to create estimates. Nonetheless, it was acknowledged at the end that the significant difference in the expenses needed to reduce emissions versus the estimated health benefits was more than enough to acknowledge the favorable cost-benefit assessment of the said acid rain program.

Aside from inputs on how to improve the calculation of the cost and health benefits, the proponents of the study also made recommendations regarding the need to look into the ancillary benefits of the said pollution control program. Taking everything into consideration, it was clear to all parties that it is prudent to suggest further reductions in the power industry’s pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

Works Cited

Chestnut, Lauraine and David Mills. “A Fresh Look at the Benefits and Costs of the US Acid Rain Program.” Journal of Environmental Management 77.1 (2005): 252-266. Semantic Scholar. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, December 25). The US Acid Rain Program: Benefits and Costs. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-us-acid-rain-program-benefits-and-costs/

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StudyCorgi. 2020. "The US Acid Rain Program: Benefits and Costs." December 25, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/the-us-acid-rain-program-benefits-and-costs/.

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StudyCorgi. (2020) 'The US Acid Rain Program: Benefits and Costs'. 25 December.

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