Over the weekend, state lawmakers arrived at a deal to finally pass a transportation package. Well, "deal" is a strong word. Over the weekend, certain lawmakers capitulated to certain belligerent assclowns demanding that the state continue to prioritize the interests of the fossil fuel industry over public health.
The capitulation came down to a "poison pill" lodged in the transportation package. The "pill" would have diverted $700 million from transit to roads if Inslee passed a clean fuel standard—a measure to limit carbon pollution gradually over a decade. This Washington Clean Fuel Standard would have started limiting carbon pollution from tailpipes in 2017, cutting total carbon pollution by 10 percent by 2026. According to consultants working for the Office of Financial Management, the measure would have created thousands of jobs over time and hundreds of millions of dollars in personal income, and... added two cents in gas prices per gallon by 2020, and 10 cents per gallon of gasoline by 2026.
So Republicans refused to budge over the so-called "hidden gas tax" in the Clean Fuel Standard. But if the fight was truly over money, it makes very little sense, because whatever we pay at the pump is already a lie. The price of gasoline and diesel doesn't consider the cost of increased asthma hospitalizations, stroke, heart disease, and heart attacks brought on by pollution from tailpipes. In other words, we're already paying a gas tax in the form of adverse health outcomes (not to mention adverse climate outcomes down the road). In this sense, having a gas tax that's part of an overall Clean Fuel Standard could help save society a lot of terrible costs in the long run.
After California instituted its own low-carbon fuel standard, for example, researchers at University of California-Davis estimated that reducing carbon pollution would also cut down on other contaminants from cars, like fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5. Evidence increasingly shows that PM 2.5—tiny particles we breathe in that get absorbed into our bloodstream—can cause damage and inflammation in other parts of the body. Reducing PM 2.5 by 6 percent would prevent 880 premature deaths because of air pollution, researchers concluded, "a monetary benefit from avoided mortality of $5.4 billion for the year 2030."
Washington's Clean Fuel Standard would have reduced fine particulate matter pollution between 1 and 3.5 percent, according to Craig Kenworthy, executive director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. "That doesn't sound like a huge number, but on PM 2.5 the latest science is telling us there is no safe exposure level," he said.
The science is also telling us that we still don't know the full cost of fine particulate matter pollution. Earlier this year, researchers even linked PM 2.5 pollution to premature brain aging. And we already know that health outcomes are worse for people who live closer to highways.
So what's the actual hidden public health tax of not passing a Clean Fuel Standard? I don't have a hard number to pull out of my butt. But earlier this year, the dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health, the president of the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific, and Kenworthy published an editorial in which they agreed that "we can’t afford not to provide a wider range of cleaner choices."
The rest is bullshit.