Saturday, September 1, 2012

Elections and the Valuation of Life

We keep seeing these "Energy Voters" on TV who are so concerned about oil and gas industry talking points. The site delivers the spin this way: "A Vote 4 Energy is a vote for more jobs, higher government revenues and greater energy security."

They forgot to mention a shorter life. You see , the EPA is in the process of implementing regulations limiting industrial fine particles emissions (such as those found in smog and haze) to between 11 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter (by contrast, the World Health Organization guidelines recommend 10 micrograms per cubic meter [1]). The analysis the EPA provided used before congress included an $8.9 million-per-life cost-benefit analysis figure. It might sound shocking to the general public that our government puts a dollar value on human life, but regulatory agencies have done this for years, and the valuations vary depending on who runs the Executive Branch (and thus the EPA) as illustrated in the graph below:

Despite the life-enhancing promises made by the fictitious energy voters, The Texas Public Policy Foundation (A fossil-fuel-centric right-wing think tank) is more transparent in their views of the EPA valuation:

' The EPA’s favored studies find that the median age of people to whom additional life expectancy accrues is 80 years. And the increased life expectancy is estimated in several months, not years. But when aggregated into one statistical life, the EPA sets a value of $8.9 million per statistical life-year gained. That figure is more commonly used as a monetized value for a healthy 25-year old adult. The monetized value of additional life expectancy for an 80-year old is more typically estimated at about one-sixth the value of an individual 25 years old. '[2]

To add to their morbid cynicism, the article is headed with a photograph of an octogenarian couple sitting by the beach, looking out into the ocean--presumably waiting for Mitt Romney to appoint an EPA death-panel to put them out of their misery.

If such a scenario seems as absurd as my sarcastic tone might imply, consider what Romney's campaign literature states:

' Other EPA regulations targeting the entire American industrial base pose a similar threat. The EPA has issued a 946-page “hazardous air pollutants” rule mandating “maximum achievable control technology” under the Clean Air Act.  Even the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, an unlikely source of criticism for the President, said the rule would place 250,000 jobs in jeopardy. In conjunction with other regulations that the EPA is seeking to impose, the total number of lost jobs may come to be much higher. '[3]

And this isn't the policy of one who is ignorant of the consequences... 

If you ask me, we can't call any arrangement by the name "Civil Society" that regards life, limb and health as commodities to trade at market--for sale to the highest bid, or the largest political contribution!





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"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men: Therefore the people alone have an incontestible unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it." -- Constitution of Massachusettes (1780)