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OMB economist uses conservative think tank’s talking points on acid rain, climate

12/04/2009

Is it strange that an economist at the Office of Management and Budget would attack the cost of a new clean air rule? Not when you consider the background of the economist, Randall Lutter, who is assigned to OMB from the Food and Drug Administration.

According to emails obtained by the Washington Post, statements from Lutter such as: “Are these really instances of zero-cost emissions reductions, or are they instead instances of emissions reductions that should already be in the baseline?” provide agencies like EPA cover in weakening regulations that protect the public.

But before Lutter was at FDA, he was a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, which famously offered scientists $10,000 to undermine the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in 2007. The AEI has taken aim at EPA’s role in combating climate change, a recent post on AEI’s Enterprise blog compared EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to Dirty Harry: “You can just see Jackson standing there with a .44 magnum in her hand, and a steely glint in her eye, telling industry “You’ve got to ask yourself one question, ‘do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”

And Lutter has committed many of his own distortions of regulatory recommendations, including using a “willingness to pay” estimate to challenge a lead exposure rule. Lutter asks how much parents would pay to subject their children to dangerous chelation therapy, used only on those exposed to severe metal poisoning. He does not estimate lost income due to reduced IQ of children exposed to elevated lead, or the harm that chelation therapy does in terms of leeching calcium from bones.

It’s not hard to believe that someone who thinks chelation is a reasonable countermeasure for lead exposure might grasp at something like geoengineering as a means to combat climate change. Geoengineering – the idea that to combat a massive-scale distortion of natural climate patterns is to stage a massive-scale distortion of natural climate patterns – captures the quick fix set. But, the technology poses many additional risks, and is by no means a replacement for efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Lena Pons is a transportation policy analyst for Public Citizen.

Flickr photo by davipt.

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