Did you see our post on the cost of air pollution?
It examines the topic of what pollution costs our personal health, the health of our planet and our economy. It specifically zeros in on which of those costs would motivate people most to do something to improve the air – personal health, protecting the environment or saving money.
Recently I got a little closer to understanding which is the key motivator, and it comes down to dollars and cents.
The American Lung Association surveyed 800 registered voters in the US about their opinions on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to protect public health by setting stricter standards on gasoline and tighter limits on emissions from cars, SUVs and trucks. In it, participants were first asked to respond on topics related to social economics, feelings about the country’s leaders, and how the EPA is doing in general as the nation’s environmental health protection agency.
As the survey interview continued, the questions got more specific about environmental health protection, air quality protection and how firmly the EPA should pursue stricter emission standards.
In one question, participants were asked if they “favour or oppose” an EPA proposal to set stricter standards on gas and tighten limits on tailpipe emissions from new vehicles. Most (62%) said they were strongly or somewhat in favour of this change. Thirty-two per cent were somewhat or strongly opposed.
The next question asked them to consider the exact same thing, but they were first read two statements which summarized some information and opinion on health and economic benefits and costs. (You’ll find these statements in their entirety below.)
Guess what happened?
The second time participants were asked the question (with the two statements read first), the number of people who favoured stricter standards dropped by almost 10 per cent, from 62% to 53%. And the number of people opposed to changes went up by 10, from 32% to 42%. Essentially, one or both of the statements tightened the gap between supporters of stricter standards on emissions and those who opposed. While protecting the air we breathe appeared to be a priority among the sample of society who participated in this survey, when personal commitment financially was introduced, it changed some people’s minds.
Would you have changed your answer?
Here is the survey question in its entirety and what the additional statements said:
Question 20: “As you may know, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, is considering a proposal that would implement stricter standards on gasoline, resulting in lower emissions from all cars, trucks and S.U.V.s. These standards would limit the amount of sulfur in gasoline and would tighten the limits on tailpipe emissions from new vehicles. Do you favor or oppose this proposal to have the EPA set stricter standards on gasoline and tighten limits on tailpipe emissions from new vehicles?”
Question 21: “Now let me read you two more statements some people on both sides of the issue might make.
(Some/other) people say: Pollution from cars has a devastating effect on the health of families and children, worsening asthma, bronchitis and emphysema and even causing cancer. This proposal is the most effective smog-fighting tool available – it would be the equivalent of taking 33 million cars off the road immediately, and would prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks and save thousands of lives every year. The proposal is supported by automakers, and independent economists say cleaner gas would cost less than a penny per gallon. American families would miss fewer days at work and would save billions of dollars in lower health care costs by keeping people healthier in the first place.
(Some/other) people say: This proposal would cost American families thousands of dollars. Economists predict that it would increase the cost of gas by up to 9 cents per gallon. It would be a hidden energy tax that drives energy prices up, raising costs for every American business. And they would pass the costs on to the rest of us, meaning higher prices for utilities, groceries, and everything we buy. Thanks to regulations we already have, cars today are already 90 percent cleaner than they were a couple of decades ago. The huge costs of this proposal just aren’t worth the marginal benefits it would produce. Now that you’ve heard more about this issue let me ask you again, do you favor or oppose this proposal to set stricter standards on gasoline and tighten limits on tailpipe emissions from new vehicles?
Now that you’ve heard more about this issue let me ask you again, do you favor or oppose this proposal to set stricter standards on gasoline and tighten limits on tailpipe emissions from new vehicles?”