AUSTIN—Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation released the paper, “The U.S. Leads the World in Clean Air: The Case for Environmental Optimism.”

The paper, written by TPPF’s Kathleen Hartnett White and Brent Bennett, Ph.D., examines how America achieved robust economic growth while dramatically reducing emissions of air pollutants.

“Although rarely recognized, the environmental record of the United States is one of dramatically declining air pollution,” said White. “From 1970 to 2017, the aggregate emissions of the six criteria pollutants listed in the Clean Air Act have declined by 73 percent. The U.S. should help developing countries mirror America’s environmental success in improving air quality and by embracing American ideals of economic freedom and limited government.”

The paper states that these achievements should be celebrated as a public policy success story, but instead the prevailing narrative among political and environmental leaders is one of environmental decline that can only be reversed with a more stringent regulatory approach. Instead, the paper urges for the data to be considered and applied to the narrative.

“Contrary to the popular narrative that our modern economy is leading us to environmental disaster, our economic prosperity — made possible by our diversified and reliable energy system — has enabled investments in technologies to improve environmental quality and human health,” said Bennett. “The evidence is clear that the twin goals of human flourishing and lasting environmental quality depend on abundant, reliable, and affordable energy. Instead of restricting our energy choices out of unfounded fear about environmental decline, we should encourage, both here and abroad, economic freedom and an all-of-the-above approach to utilizing our energy resources and technologies.”

Key Points:

  • Despite rampant negativity about the state of the environment in the U.S., air pollution has declined dramatically during the past 50 years.
  • This achievement was made possible by technological innovations and the prosperity afforded by economic growth, a free market economy, and a limited government.
  • Regulations always need to take into account the true costs and benefits and be feasible for cities and states to accomplish, metrics which the Obama-era EPA attempted to manipulate in order to justify more regulations.
  • Air quality in the developing world is sorely lacking, and the time has come to proactively share the ideas and technologies behind America’s environmental success.

To access the paper in full, please visit: