Posted by Leonard Steinberg on January 4th, 2013
While we tend to complain about the quality of air in New York, many things are being done that are truly effective in reducing harmful emissions. Aside from the electric hybrid busses, converting building boilers away from that black smoke belching oil, hybrid government vehicles, etc some buildings such as 150 CHARLES STREET are installing filtered fresh air systems that distribute clean air throughout the building thereby vastly improving the quality of life of its inhabitants.
Our gasoline is also refined differently to omit many toxins, and cars in the USA are equipped with catalytic converters that reduce omissions. Natural gas is helping reduce our reliance on oil. Solar and wind help too. My point is, much of this awareness is spurred by government policy and regulation. And while it would be lovely if industry did not need government to become more socially responsible, a quick peek at Beijing should answer why: China’s extreme growth and greed for profit has produced dangerous air quality. Many sources contribute to air pollution levels that hit records in January, but analysts say the oil companies’ foot-dragging and disregard of environmental regulations underscore a critical challenge facing a toothless environment ministry in its mission to curb air pollution.
With widespread and rising public anger changing the political calculus, it also poses a broader question of whether the incoming administration led by Communist Party chief Xi Jinping will stand up to powerful vested interests in a country where state-owned enterprises have long trumped certain ministries in the quest for economic growth at all costs. Delays in implementing stricter emission standards are rooted in money — chiefly, who should pay for the price of refining cleaner fuels? By some estimates, auto emissions contribute as much as a quarter of the most dangerous particles in Beijing’s air.
So while government is best at wasting money, it also has its uses. They become especially beneficial to society if industry and government work in harmony. If profit kills, its not good profit. If the pursuit of profit now produces untold health costs later, surely that profit is stupid and short sighted?