BY ON April 28, 2011

This piece was cross-posted at PunditMom.

As my fifth-grader might say, “back in the dinosaur days” when I was in middle school, the teachers gathered us all for an assembly to talk about the very first Earth Day and why we, as the “next generation” needed to be focused on cutting down on pollution of all types so when we grew up and had children, the health problems we were beginning to see then, like increased asthma related to air pollution, would be a thing of the past.

Hong Kong skyline

Last week, we celebrated the 41st anniversary of Earth Day and the sad news is that lots of things have changed when it comes to our air, but not for the better.  Sure, Richard Nixon put his signature on the Clean Air Act, making it the law of the land.  But corporations always have a way of finding all the loopholes they can to maximize shareholder profits.  So while United States has officially been behind the idea of clean air, some lawmakers have turned a blind eye to corporate donors who haven’t exactly embraced the idea of clean air for all.

Interestingly, as many of us struggle to fill the tank on the family minivan, some lawmakers say we can’t have clean air and cheaper gas.  So as many of us wonder if we’ll be able to afford a quick drive to the beach or a national park with our families this summer because of $4 a gallon (or more) gasoline, one lawmaker sees what’s really happening.  U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, put the pieces together and had this to say about how some in Congress are suggesting that if we want affordable gas, we have to settle for dirtier air:

… [D]espite our progress and the common understanding that we all benefit from cleaner air, many Republicans in Congress want to dismantle our environmental protections. They want to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its Clean Air Act authority to regulate carbon pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. They would block Clean Air Act standards that reduce harmful smog, soot and mercury in our air.

It is absolutely unconscionable that some in Congress want to weaken our clean air protections. That is why I introduced a resolution with 33 cosponsors to make it clear we will stand up for the Clean Air Act. I am happy to report we were able to defeat harmful anti-clean air amendments in the Senate, and kept them out of the budget.

But the fight to protect the Clean Air Act is not over, and Republicans succeeded in cutting the EPA’s budget by $1.6 billion for 2011. Now they are trying to deceive the public by blaming the Clean Air Act for high gas prices. This simply is not true. Among many other sources, The Washington Post and the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-check site have debunked it.

False choices like this one are de rigueur in politics these days.  A variety of opinion pieces lately have pondered whether certain political and legislative arguments being made about the budget are legitimate ones or whether they’re really setting up a false conversation to keep us from focusing on the real problems we face as a country.  I’m hoping we’re all smart enough not to fall for the latest one — if you want cheaper gas, you have to breathe dirtier air.

TOPICS: Economics, Politics, Pollution