Protecting environmental quality

Last time we saw how technology allows us to use more fossil fuels and have a cleaner environment. Now let’s turn to the role of laws in protecting and improving environmental quality.

The importance of thresholds

One of the motivators of the technology improving environmental quality is having laws that protect individuals from having their environment contaminated by other people. Proper pollution laws set thresholds of health and safety.

When we discuss policy we’ll talk about the trade-offs involved in setting those laws. For example, you can’t demand a perfectly zero emissions environment, which would mean among other things not allowing other people to breathe. Human diseases are actually much more dangerous than the emissions from the machines that we use.

We need laws that recognize that some amount of emissions is inevitable so that we have the right to produce and use energy but at the same time we need laws to protect our health and safety.

All forms of energy can threaten environmental quality

This is not just an issue for fossil fuels. All forms of energy can pose a threat to environmental quality without proper technology and laws. For example, producing wind turbines involves rare earth metals, which are highly toxic and can make the people mining them very sick and they can also be very hazardous when you need to dispose of the materials.

We need environmental laws and health and safety laws for every form of energy. Remember, every form of energy has potential benefits and potential risks. None are completely perfect, although some are better in different respects than others.

We need to look at the full context and we need to look at it carefully.

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