Green Money

Doing well by doing good - the old line has new meaning for individuals, businesses, and governments that find economic savings and environmental improvement go hand in hand.

A householder takes a small step to reduce power plant pollution by switching to a more efficient light bulb - and saves money in the long run.

A congressional coalition enlists to cut 57 federal spending and subsidy programs that harm the environment - and, if it succeeds, taxpayers save an estimated $36 billion over five years. It's part of the Green Scissors Campaign backed by both environmental and tax-reform groups. Previous estimated tax savings of $20 billion included $711 million from stopping the proposed Auburn Dam in California and $2.6 billion from halting a lingering helium reactor project.

Polluting industries are asked to spend some $8 billion a year to meet tightened federal restrictions on smog and soot in the air. Mobil and others question lengthy scientific studies on which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has based the proposed standards. We have noted the feasibility of moving faster to reduce the tiny particulate matter found in soot than the elusive ozone found in smog. But it would be short-sighted to stem progress toward cleaner air. Dollars are a poor measure when safety is concerned, but the EPA estimates benefits of $120 billion. An EPA study of past results (1970-90) shows $45 in health and environmental benefits from every $1 to meet air regulations.

The president seeks to balance the budget but not on the back of the environment. He would increase support. Goals include speeded Superfund cleanup of more than 500 toxic waste sites and rehabilitation of "brownfields," former industrial areas polluted less than Superfund sites.

Affecting a number of agencies is a slight increase (to $1.9 billion) for the US Global Change Research Program. This may sound esoteric, but it has already documented that the threatened ozone layer is "healing" and provided evidence for the first time of "discernible human influence on global climate." It's none too soon for efforts to analyze and prepare for regional consequences of climate change, though the paybacks are for future generations.

Right now individuals are recognizing their economic interaction with air, energy, water, and resources far from the billion-dollar realms. The efficient light bulb is a small symbol of earning money by saving it through an environmentally friendly way of life.

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