Walter E. Williams

In 2001, thousands of Americans perished in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. In the early 1970s, when the World Trade Center complex was built, the asbestos scare had just begun. The builders planned to use AsbestoSpray, a flame retardant that adhered to steel. The New York Port of Authority caved in to the environmentalists' asbestos scare and denied its use. An inferior substitute was used as fireproofing.

After the attack, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) confirmed other experts' concerns about asbestos substitutes, concluding, "Even with the airplane impact and jet-fuel-ignited multi-floor fires, which were not normal building fires, the building would likely not have collapsed had it not been for the fireproofing."

Through restrictions on asbestos use, our naval vessels are more vulnerable to our enemies, a disaster waiting in the wings. The Columbia spaceship disaster was a result of the EPA's demand that NASA not use freon in its thermal insulating foam.

Congress mandates auto fuel mileage standards -- Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards -- resulting in lighter, less crashworthy cars. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences calculated that CAFE standards caused 2,000 additional traffic deaths each year. In 1999, a USA Today analysis of government and Insurance Institute data found that since the 1970s CAFE standards went into effect, 46,000 people died in crashes which they would have likely survived had they been riding in heavier cars.

None of this is news to politicians. It's just that environmental extremists have the ears of politicians, and potential victims don't.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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