If you want to lessen the chances of future blackouts and keep the prices you pay to utility companies reasonable, you ought to love the Environmental Protection Agency's new rules on the emissions of power plants and other industries.
And if air pollution is your concern, don't fear. The rules won't cause it to increase. It will in fact continue its beneficent decrease.
Of course, you would not guess as much by listening to some environmental groups, which make the decision by the Bush administration sound like one more of its many devious plots to pull in campaign contributions while poisoning air, land and sea. What is really going on in the administration is something practical and sensible.
It was in the 1970s that Congress passed laws requiring tough standards on new power plants. Congress left older power plants off the hook unless they undertook major new upgrades. Such upgrades would have to abide by the standards. Routine maintenance would get a pass.
A consequence was that some companies avoided those upgrades, which would be costly and require consumer price hikes, even when the upgrades were sorely needed and would make the power plants more energy-efficient and environment-friendly. Some companies tried to get by on what they called routine maintenance, but ended up in court, with consequent delays and sometimes expensive settlements.
The new EPA rules, though less restrictive, don't say anything goes. No plant can increase emissions beyond limits already spelled out in permits, an official has told the press, and there will still be a point beyond which tougher standards kick in. But the rules clarify what is acceptable and will thereby prompt more energy creation, which is badly needed. There's research showing that air pollution will continue to decline. Meanwhile, the administration is working on another policy to bring pollution down even more.
All of this may strike some people as the end of the Earth, but must surely strike others as just plain old common sense.