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The Phony "Train Wreck" - Part II

David Doniger

Posted December 4, 2010 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming

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The World Resources Institute (WRI) yesterday nicely cut the legs out from under the Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) sly campaign for Congress to block EPA from finally doing its job under the Clean Air Act to curb dangerous power plant pollution.  EEI is peddling the claim that we’re headed for a “train wreck” unless Congress intervenes.  The original “train wreck” rhetoric came from former President Bush, to explain his refusal to carry out the Supreme Court’s landmark global warming decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. 

WRI shows how the punch in EEI’s campaign comes from a single misleading Rube Goldberg powerpoint slide.   

Remember Rube Goldberg?  His weekly cartoons specialized in laughably complexifying the simplest tasks.  Here’s an example:

RGoldberg Pencil Sharpener.png

(Go here for an explanation of the 18 steps in his “Simplified Pencil Sharpener”.)

Following the master, here’s the EEI “train wreck” timeline:

Picture1.png

WRI’s John Larsen shows that most of the events pictured refer to either (1) public health standards EPA has already issued or (2) process steps towards a discrete number of long-overdue standards for toxic and other dangerous power plant pollutants.  WRI crossed all of these factors out of EEI’s timeline, leaving only the actual future standards:

Picture2.png

Here’s the timeline with all the Rube Goldberg clutter removed. 

Picture3.png

Simpler, no?

Power plant pollution imposes an enormous public health and environmental toll.   EPA is doing its job, carrying out the intent of Congress, to clean the nation’s air and water and to protect public health.  The standards being set now will save thousands of lives and prevent tens of thousands of illnesses, saving over $20 billion dollars in health costs, as described by my colleague, John Walke, in his blog here.  They will help bring the much-needed transition away from dirty, polluting energy sources toward a clean energy future.   

Let’s not get fooled by clever chart-makers who, like Rube Goldberg, try to make simple matters infinitely complex.  The power industry is long overdue on cleaning up its pollution.  EEI’s effort to dodge the bill collector mustn’t be allowed to succeed. 

Speaking of dodging the bill collector, here’s one more drawing from the old master:

RG_bill collector.PNG

(Thanks to Starla Yeh for help with this post.)

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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