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Report: Regulations Spur Reluctant Industries to Innovate

Sept. 13, 2011

Report: Regulations Spur Reluctant Industries to Innovate

New Public Citizen Report Details Improvements, Cost Savings, Protections in Wake of Regulatory Action

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Many regulations that were originally scorned by politicians and industry as signaling the death of product lines, companies and jobs – including rules requiring more efficient light bulbs and banning chemicals that damage the ozone layer – in fact stimulated healthy innovations that have protected American lives and saved billions of dollars without harming industry, according to a report issued today by Public Citizen.

The report, “Regulation: An Unsung Hero in American Innovation,” describes five regulations that were originally excoriated but have resulted in innovations that improved public safety, helped the environment and led to better products. The rules increased light bulb efficiency, reduced sulfur dioxide emissions, protected workers from cancer-causing vinyl chloride emissions, prevented emissions of ozone layer-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and vastly improved the energy efficiency of home appliances. The report delves into reasons the safeguards were proposed, the stiff resistance and apocalyptic claims from affected industries and the important innovations resulting from each.

“The idea that we have to destroy the environment and kill workers to have a healthy economy must be put to rest,” said Negah Mouzoon, researcher with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and a co-author of the report. “The untold story is that regulations are catalysts of technical innovations and economic development.” 

The report comes as public protections are under attack from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and big business allies in Congress, who focus on the cost of rules while ignoring their public safety benefits and their potential to spur innovations.

Because of the five regulations:

  • New light bulbs have been invented that emit light almost identical to that of traditional incandescent bulbs, are 30 percent more efficient, last three times longer and will save consumers money over time;
  • Scrubber technology to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from coal-fired power plants has been vastly improved, resulting in significant reductions in pollution and yielding huge public health benefits;
  • A system was developed to produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that both shielded workers from cancer-causing chemicals and increased efficiency;
  • An improved aerosol system uses propellants that do not harm the ozone layer; and
  • Greatly increased efficiency of home appliances has saved consumers billions of dollars on their energy bills.

“Congress and the White House should look at the record instead of the rhetoric about regulations,” said Taylor Lincoln, research director with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and a co-author of the report. “This report shows what happens what the government calls on industry to do its best instead of caving in to its desire to do the least.” 

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.