Media Ignores Vast Improvement in Nation’s Air Quality

You’d never know it from the media’s selective coverage of the environment. But our nation’s air quality has vastly improved over the past several decades, even as the economy tripled and our population and energy use significantly grew.

The EPA’s annual air quality report out this week documents a huge decrease in six crucial air pollutants since 1970. But the mainstream media ignored the good news story, leaving it up to online outlets like the Daily Signal to do their work for them.

Americans who value clean air and robust economic growth do not need to make an either-or choice, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s new annual report on air quality.

The EPA report released Tuesday finds that between 1970 and 2017, the combined emissions of six main kinds of pollutants decreased by 73 percent even as the U.S. economy grew substantially over the 47 years.

The acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler subtly chastised the lack of media interest in his statement on the progress report.

Through federal and state implementation of the Clean Air Act and technological advances in the private sector, America has achieved one of the great public-private successes of our time—dramatically improving air quality and public health while simultaneously growing the nation’s population and economy.

This report details a remarkable achievement that should be recognized, celebrated, and replicated around the world. A 73 percent reduction in any other social ill, such as crime, disease, or drug addiction, would lead the evening news.

Here’s how much our air has improved compared to 1990 levels in measurements of several major air pollutants mentioned by the Daily Signal.

Carbon monoxide (65%)
Ammonia (22%)
Nitrogen oxides (58%)
Direct particulate (2.5 microns) matter (29%)
Direct particulate (10 microns) matter (25%)
Sulfur dioxide (88%)
Volatile organic compounds (40%)

Significantly, these reductions occurred even as we used more energy and drove more miles than ever. Yet an admittedly quick check for coverage in outlets like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times came up empty. Ditto for the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press.

One of the few media citations came from Bloomberg news service which used the development as a vehicle to attack recent Trump administration policy proposals.

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is in the final stages of vetting a proposal to put the brakes on federal rules boosting fuel efficiency and curbing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. It also is reviewing drafted EPA proposals to scale back Obama-era limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and the methane and volatile organic compounds that flow out of oil and gas wells.

The moves are “putting the air we breathe in severe peril” and “reversing decades of clean air progress,” said Jeremy Symons, vice president of political affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund.

The remarkable advancements in our air quality are an achievement all Americans can take pride in–if only the media let them know.