From this week's LEO
The future of breathing
You don't have to be Al Gore's PowerPoint designer to see that Louisville's got an air-quality problem in summer. The bad news: our ground-level ozone currently hovers at about 75 parts per billion, making it the most unpleasant air this side of the Clinique booth at the mall. But hey, look on the bright side: The other 999,999,925 parts of the billion aren't smog. Yet, even at that concentration, the city is soon to be once again out of compliance if EPA administrator Stephen Johnson gets his way. Johnson pulled off the fancy trick of pissing off both environmentalists and the pro-pollution lobby by proposing a stricter standard of 70 parts per billion instead of the current 84.
Environmentalists are upset because they believe the standard should be a stricter 60 parts per billion, which would better safeguard public health. The pro-pollution lobby claims the EPA's proposal would be bad for business, presumably allergists and cancer wards. After a public comment period, the new standard will go into effect next March.
So who are the evil bastards spewing all that ozone into the air? They are us. Much of the lung-irritating ozone comes from industry, but most of it occurs when we put our running lawnmowers on our idling boats and tow them to the airport with our pickup trucks and fly them all in circles over Smoggytown. Most experts believe we'll never solve our smog problem without drastic measures, most notably the M-word: mass transit. With political courage and personal sacrifice both sorely lacking, the outlook for breathers doesn't show much promise.