Today’s Commentary on the News
As if things aren’t expensive enough… Let’s regulate cooking utensils, food packaging and more… Good grief!
Trying to write about particularly stupid legislation that is moving forward in the State Legislature is a sport akin to shooting fish in a barrel (see the video). That is to say that the freedom and liberty of Californians are under assault from so many directions that it is literally impossible to follow it all. In the case of hundreds of terrible, terrible bills, the only thing that stands between them and becoming terrible laws will be the veto pen of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Yesterday, our own Matt Cunningham blogged on a bill by Democrat Senator Ellen “free, unregulated people make me nervous” Corbett, SB 1313. In layman’s terms, this bill would seek to ban/severely increase the cost of the use of the “non-stick stuff” that is used in products like Teflon pots and pans, and in food packaging that is designed to not stick to the food inside of it. I thought that I would add my voice to Matt’s in a “blogospheric chorus of concern” – I mean, with a massive state budget problem due to billions upon billions in overspending, that Senator Corbett even has time to pen this kind of bill is beyond me. But then, Corbett is so liberal that she probably sees the budget financial mess as a unique opportunity to stick it to taxpayers.
This bill was up in a key Assembly policy committee last week, and I was stunned to see five Republicans casting votes in support – Bill Emmerson, Ted Gaines, Bob Huff, Alan Nakanishi, and Jim Silva. But, opportunity knocks as the legislation is still lacking the votes in that committee, and is coming back again today in committee – and I urge opposition from Assembly Republicans. We have a responsibility to present a contrasting view to that of the liberals who run the legislature, whether it be on a high-profile bill such as a major tax or fee increase, or this legislation here – the left’s assault on – Teflon. I would urge the aforementioned GOPers, all of whom I know, to step back and ask whether their support for this bill is a vote for increasing the role of state government in an area that is already extremely regulated, and are we making matters worse?
In closing, I am not a scientist, and the reality is that that the meat of the argument against this particular bill is extremely technical in nature. Fortunately, here at the FlashReport, we have access to a stable of actual scientists, one of whom is my friend Tom Tanton, who can walk FR readers through the evils of this legislation in a way that dots the I’s and crosses the T’s for those who need a more “technical” argument for opposing SB 1313. To summarize what he says: (1) There is no scientific support that shows that “non-stick stuff” is bad for people, (2) More regulation means higher prices and less choice for consumers, and (3) Those who use “non-stick stuff” are already in dialogue with the federal government about dealing with remote concerns.
From Tom Tanton, the Sci-Guy (Warning, if you are not a policy-technical type, it’s Advil time):
My friend Jon Fleishman, publisher of the FlashReport, spied my blog at Pacific Research Institute last week regarding Senator Ellen Corbett’s SB1313. I’ve also written on the Bill at Heartland Institute’s Environment and Climate News, due out July 1. Jon has asked me to write a bit, about why the Bill is ill advised. SB1313 seeks to ban certain trace chemicals (PFOS and PFOA) in any “food contact” product—such as packaging and cookware. There are three good reasons this is a bad Bill: it is not supported by science; it will raise food prices at a bad time; and the affected industry is already taking action.
No Scientific Support: The text of Corbett’s SB 1313 offers the most tepid justification for the elimination-by-legislative-fiat of perfluorinated compounds: “Recent studies have demonstrated the presence of two particular perfluorochemicals, perfluorrooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in more than 98 percent of Americans’ blood, and 100 percent of 293 newborns surveyed.” Well, yes. This statistic, by which the Senator came to her conclusion that perfluorinated compounds should be banned, is quite true. The problem, for Corbett, is that it demonstrates precisely the opposite of her conclusion. Far from being a shockingly common danger, the ubiquity of perfluorinated compounds in the general population is evidence of its basically safe nature. Though the Food and Drug Administration regards certain perfluorinated compounds as “likely” carcinogens, there is not one single instance, nor even one suspected instance, of an illness or death resulting from exposure to any of them. Scientific risk assessment are underway, and inconclusive.
Food Prices: One danger of SB 1313 is its probable effect on food prices. Packaging is an integral part of food pricing — and unneeded regulatory intervention that will drive up those prices is especially unfortunate now. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices now are rising faster than they have in over a decade, with milk up 3.2%; oranges up 34.1%; ground beef up 2.7%; chicken up 5.5%; and coffee up 4.9 percent. The overall rate of inflation for food prices is now 5.3%, and it is predicted to go well beyond that before the year is out. All Americans are hurt by this, and all are worried. Packaging per se is not the main cause of raising food prices, but adding insult to injury does harm consumers.
Making Progress: PFOS and PFOA have been subject to health and safety studies and testing for years. PFOS was voluntarily phased out in the early 2000s and companies agreed to work toward eliminating emissions and the inclusion of these chemicals in consumer products by 2015. The companies reported 2000 baseline information in October 2006. In October 2007 they provided the first reports of progress toward meeting their commitments. Three companies reported better than 98 percent reductions in emissions of PFOA in the United States.