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It's been so long since I paid any attention, so long since it made any difference, so many years since I had any choice, that I didn't know, and had to run out the garage to check. On my 1995 Ford Ranger, it's still there; on my wife's 2005 Honda Accord, it's not. In that difference, as they say, lies a tale.


In the early years of the automobile, the choice of engines and fuels was far from settled. Although the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine held the upper hand in the United States virtually from the day the Duryea Brothers rolled their first carriage conversion out of the garage, upstart manufacturers, invited by the leeway afforded them by the ability of the low-compression engines of the day to burn fuels of varying purity, created horseless carriages powered by kerosene or various alcohols, produced both in sophisticated manufacturing processes as well as homemade in farm stills from plant and animal wastes. Adventurous entrepreneurs marketed steam and even electric-powered vehicles to challenge the supremacy of the gas-engined cars. One of the inherent detracting characteristics of internal combustion engines used in most cars was an annoying "knock", the result of a phenomenon called pre-ignition, where hot internal parts and deposits inside the combustion chamber caused a premature explosion of the vaporized fuel released into the cylinder.


Auto manufacturers and gasoline refiners devoted considerable effort to finding a way to reduce the percussive knock of their engines to make their product more desirable, not only than the inventions of their competitors, but also more attractive than the entrenched four-legged competition that still dominated the personal transportation market in much of the country. As the search for a solution progressed, virtually nothing was off the table on ideological grounds -- they just needed something affordable that worked.


It was a matter of self-preservation. The people researching a cure for knock reasoned, rightly, that the malfunction caused inefficient burning of fuel, which was not only hard on the engine, but also would more quickly deplete the supply of what many scientists at the time believed to be a limited and dwindling source of fuel. An effective anti-knock agent would allow automotive engineers to design higher-compression, more fuel-efficient engines. They were at heart, some would claim, conservationists.


Charles F. Kettering, founder of Delco, by this time having sold out to General Motors and serving as the head researcher for GM's fuel research project , and his assistants Thomas Midgley and T.A. Boyd initially considered the alcohols to be the substances most likely to produce an effective anti-knock agent, but did not believe alcohol from food crops presented a reliable, stably-priced supply source. Only celluosic biomass crops dedicated solely to producing alcohol fuel additives offered the supply reliability necessary in a potential anti-knock agent.

At the same time, they began to explore some less-promising avenues as well. What followed was a process of scientific investigation that -- despite the long-term consequences of its result -- is studied as a textbook case of orderly scientific experimentation.

The experiments were guided by a peg board with a portion of the periodic table of elements pasted on it. The board helped the researchers compare their tests of already known knock suppressors (such as bromine, iodine, tellurium, tin and selenium) and new fuel additives (such as arsenic and sulfur). Historians have seen it as a beautiful piece of pure research.

The atmosphere in the labs grew more expectant as the pegboard seemed to point the way toward the heavy end of the carbon group: silicon, germanium, tin and lead. Visiting his father in Massachusetts in late October, Midgley had antiknock results from each new test sent via telegraph daily. Tetraethyl tin proved effective, but even more exciting was the prospect of metallic lead at the bottom of the column on the peg board.

 When the chemists finally delivered a small amount of tetraethyl lead on the morning of December 9, 1921, the knock in the one-cylinder laboratory engine was utterly silenced. Even diluted to a strength of two or three grams per gallon, or one thousand to one, tetraethyl lead had a remarkable ability to quiet the relentless knocking.
Chemcases.com: Fuels and Society B: 1. Charles Kettering, Thomas Midgley and Tetraethyllead


General Motors quickly partnered with Standard Oil of New Jersey to form a corporation to manufacture and market the product, founding the Ethyl Corporation in 1923 with Kettering as its president. Neither company owning a chemical plant, the new corporation contracted the Du Pont Corporation to produce tetraethyl lead for them.

There was a small potential pitfall with using tetraethyl lead (TEL) to reduce knock -- lead has been known since ancient times to be toxic to humans. It did not take long for this drawback to become manifest.

Reporters could hardly have missed the chain of events occurring at the Standard Oil refinery in Bayway, N.J. in October, 1924, just across New York harbor from what was then the world's largest and most competitive newspaper market. The story, as an unpublished du Pont Corp. report said, was a "natural."

Five men who worked at the Standard refinery suddenly, one by one, went violently insane and were hospitalized. The first died Saturday, Oct. 25, and the county coroner who investigated the case called the district attorney's office. New Jersey officials told reporters they had never seen anything like it., and although it had something to do with the refinery, Standard Oil refused to discuss it with them. Reporters tracked down the chief chemist of the Bayway refinery works, Dr. Matthew D. Mann, who provided the following statement: "These men probably went insane because they worked too hard." The World noted that Mann wrote the statement after 15 minutes of deliberation; the Times found it so extraordinary that Mann was quoted in a secondary headline on the front page. W.G. Thompson, Standard"s consulting physician at the company's headquarters in Manhattan, claimed that he had no knowledge of what had happened. He also insisted: "Nothing ought to be said about this matter in the public interest."

Times and World reporters also found that workers were well aware of the danger at the Bayway plant. Those who volunteered for higher paying jobs in the leaded gasoline works were given mock farewells and funerals. The workers (not the press) called the leaded gasoline additive "loony gas" because it caused hallucinations and delusions of persecution.
Bill Kovarik, Agenda Setting in the 1924 - 1926 Public Health Controversy over Ethyl (Leaded) Gasoline


As news leaked that two-thirds of the 49 employees working with the tetraethyl lead at the refinery were displaying symptoms of the frightening poisoning, newspapers trumpeted the controversy, and Standard Oil officials pursued a campaign of silence and denial, many northeastern states and cities scrambled to ban the sale of leaded gasoline. Dr. Yandell Henderson, a physiologist at Yale University, who had helped develop some of the first chemical weapons used in World War I and was regarded as a leading expert on respiration, automotive exhaust, and gas poisoning, opined that a malfunctioning auto on Fifth Avenue could cause hundreds of pedestrians to drop down dead of TEL poisoning. In fairness, his wildly inaccurate portrayal was based on information he had been given when approached by GM some years earlier about acting as a consultant on the project; at the time GM was considering delivering the lead into the gasoline via a separate tank of pure tetraethyl lead in each car. Once informed the actual method was a 1,000-to-one pre-mixed dilution, he promptly retracted his statement, but it served to provide ammunition for charges of hysteria and alarmism on the part of opponents.

As the controversy evolved, GM, Standard Oil, Ethyl, and Du Pont eventually released statements and produced officials to counter the claims of the other side. Since Kettering himself was in Europe at the time (ironically, researching less toxic alternatives to tetraethyl lead), Thomas Midgley stepped forward to demonstrate for reporters the "safety" of the substance, pouring alleged TEL over his hand and arm, and inhaling the fumes from a vial for an extended time. Given that Midgley had, only a year before, delivered a paper before a scientific conference on the dangers of just such exposure, it is likely the demonstration was a fraud, using glycerine or some similar substance.

The press dutifully reported the assertions of both sides, largely without fact-checking or further analysis, although post-mortem reviews of the coverage show a preponderance of page space given to industry spokesmen.


Dr. Alice Hamilton, the first woman on Harvard's faculty and the only female delegate to the League of Nations' health board, whom we met previously in part 2 of our diaries on the radium dial painters, was one of the leading experts on the effects of lead exposure. Although she was in Europe as the situation unfolded, she is believed to have funneled key scientific information and analysis, as well as inside knowledge of additional, hitherto undisclosed tetraethyl lead deaths and poisonings to a friend, Walter Lippmann, opinion page editor of the Joseph Pulitzer-founded New York World. As the furor mounted over the situation, the government found itself drawn into the fray. Finally, the Surgeon General announced a conference to held May 20, 1925 to hear from "all parties" in the dispute.

It's necessary here to back up a little to provide some context for this conference. It was not something the Surgeon General leapt into willingly; he had to be forced by public pressure. The Progressive Era, it can be argued, ended on March 4, 1921, when Warren G. Harding was sworn in as President of the United States after winning election in the largest landslide in U.S. history. The Harding campaign promised the nation -- weary of war and alarmed by the well-publicized "threats" of socialist and anarchist immigrants and the unions they were organizing -- a return to "Normalcy", an innocuous little word into which one can read pretty much anything ones little heart desires. Like modern Republican buzzwords, it had a very specific meaning to the insiders -- undoing the reforms of the Progressive Era. So as the Harding administration engorged itself on the time-honored pursuit of Republicans in positions of power, that of enriching themselves and their cronies, they also pursued policies of relieving commercial and industrial interests of the annoyances of regulations and public accountability.


By 1925, Harding was dead of an apparent heart attack and succeeded by his vice-president, Calvin Coolidge, a passive-government champion whose reputation Reagan Republicans of the 1980s invested much effort in resurrecting. Nothing in the administration's Progressivism-dismantling agenda changed with Coolidge's ascension. In that climate, the conference was convened.

A conference like this was not the kind of thing that had traditionally been a part of the office of the Surgeon General's purview. At that time attached to the Treasury Department, the chief duty of the Surgeon General was maintaining quarantine facilities at U.S. ports. He protested, likely correctly, that his office had no authority for monitoring or regulating harmful substances in either the workplace or the environment. No one in the federal government did. Federal legislation that allowed government officials to control such things did not exist. Only the 20-year-old Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 broke any kind of ground in this area of regulation. Now, the office would mediate a controversial showdown between powerful industry representatives and tenacious public health advocates.

Over 100 representatives of labor groups, oil companies, universities, government agencies and news organizations crowded into a U.S. Treasury Dept. auditorium May 20, 1925, to hear arguments about tetraethyl lead. The Interior Secretary, the Assistant Secretary of Treasury, the Surgeon General, and Charles Kettering, president of Ethyl Gasoline Corp., were listed as principal speakers; others from labor, universities and industry are listed in specific panels.
Bill Kovarik, "Charles F. Kettering and the 1921 Discovery of Tetraethyl Lead In the Context of Technological Alternatives" (PDF)

Thomas Midgley had told the press, presaging the argument officials of GM, Standard Oil, Ethyl, and Du Pont would make to the conference, "Knock is the one important thing which has for a generation past prevented the building of more important automotive engines." A few weeks earlier, even as his mentor, Kettering, evaluated alternatives in Europe, he had insisted to a conference of chemists, "So far as science knows at the present time, tetraethyl lead is the only material available which can bring about these [anti-knock] results, which are of vital importance to the continued economical use by the general public of all automotive equipment... " (This despite the fact that competitors were already dabbling in a plethora of alternatives with reasonable success.) At the conference, Frank Howard of Standard Oil asserted, "Present day civilization rests on oil and motors... We do not feel justified in giving up what has come to the industry like a gift from heaven on the possibility that a hazard may be involved in it..."

A few moments later, Grace Burnham stood up said: "It was no gift of heaven for the 11 who were killed by it and the 149 who were injured." (Actually, 17 men had been killed and many more had been injured). The Times also briefly took notice of Alice Hamilton who "urged the men connected with the industry to put aside the lead compound entirely and try to find something else to get rid of the knock."
[...]
The World's May 21 story described the decision to name a committee and discussed the "attack" on "doped fuel." The story did not include the Howard - Burnham confrontation over the "gift of heaven," and unlike the Times, the World did not attempt to provide an overview of the conference. It merely piled up facts about one aspect of the event -- the "damning" evidence from the Columbia University study that was presented at the conference. In its next story, on May 22, the World emphasized the search for a substitute to tetraethyl lead, quoting Alice Hamilton: "It would be foolish to talk of the industrial value of tetraethyl lead, when there is a health hazard involved. Men who could discover the fuel value of tetraethyl certainly could invent or discover something equally efficient and in no way dangerous. American chemists can do it if they will." Hamilton's idea that substitutes could be found flatly contradicted Midgley's assertion that there were no substitutes for tetraethyl lead.
Bill Kovarik: Agenda Setting in the 1924 - 1926 Public Health Controversy over Ethyl (Leaded) Gasoline

The conference adjourned after just one day of hearings, taking only testimony on the benefits and dangers of the tetraethyl lead additive, and not the anticipated investigation of alternatives. Industry representatives assured the conference that new processes being implemented in the refineries (despite some initial disasters) removed the danger to workers, and that the concentrations being used in the fuel presented no risk to consumers filling their tanks. A committee was appointed to study the impacts of leaded gasoline, with representatives of industry, public health, academia, and medicine, with a report ordered within six months. Public health advocates argued that six months was far too little time to perform adequate studies of any but the shortest-term effects of the product, but the industry supporters, arguing that the uncertainty created by a lengthy delay in resolving the issue would do irreparable harm to the industry, prevailed.

[The] committee of experts report, issued in January of 1926 ... concluded that there were "no good grounds for prohibiting the use of Ethyl gasoline." However, the committee did caution: "It remains possible that if the use of leaded gasolines becomes widespread, conditions may arise very different from those studied by us which would render its use more of a hazard than would appear to be the case from this investigation.... The committee feels this investigation must not be allowed to lapse."
Bill Kovarik: Agenda Setting in the 1924 - 1926 Public Health Controversy over Ethyl (Leaded) Gasoline


There were, however, no further investigations. The report was touted by proponents of tetraethyl lead as a "clean bill of health" proving the safety of their product. Most cities and states that had banned leaded gas at the beginning of the controversy now lifted the restrictions. As GM, Standard Oil, Ethyl, and Du Pont surveyed the landscape, where competitors were actively researching anti-knock agents to compete with TEL, the companies made a decision to abandon their initial strategy of keeping Ethyl gasoline an exclusive offering of Standard of New Jersey and a couple of other select oil companies, and offering their proprietary product for sale to all comers. Ethyl became the industry standard and research for alternatives, for all practical purposes, ceased.

It was a door open for a brief moment, and then it closed. Before the decade of the 1920s was out , the U.S. economy cratered, as the stock market lost 80% of its value, GDP plunged by 45% over the next four years, and almost 30% of the labor force was thrown out of work. Then, as the country was just clawing its way out of the dismal pit of the economic depression against which all others would be measured, the world exploded into another War to End All Wars (that, again, didn't), and then the country faced off against the Soviet Union in a series of shadowy proxy wars backed up by the threat of nuclear annihilation at the first false move by either side. There were seemingly far more urgent issues facing the country than the potential harm from a couple grams of lead in each gallon of gasoline.

It would be another four decades before the nation was prepared to deal with the pollution that had been building all through the industrial age. In a period where much of the public came to believe, as General Motors' then-president Charles Erwin Wilson told a senate confirmation hearing in 1953, that "what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa," there was little pressure to re-evaluate choices made a generation before.


But by the middle of the century the United States had become a filthy place. People dropped dead in the streets from deadly smogs, rivers burned, and oil gushed up from the bottom of the sea. The public was realizing they were being poisoned, and it was largely the business interests of the country who were doing it. A series of increasing stringent environmental laws were enacted during the sixties, leading to the Clean Air Act of 1966 and the Clean Air Amendments of 1970, the Clean Water Act of 1972, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.


At the same time, a crack opened in the veneer of invincibility enjoyed by the auto industry practically since its inception, as a 31-year-old consumer activist named Ralph Nader created a sensation with an exposé titled Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile in 1965. Unsafe at Any Speed laid out what was to become an all-too-familiar narrative, of powerful industry giants quashing attempts to introduce safety features; designing for style at the expense of safety; creating built-in safety hazards by cutting corners to save money; cultivating the complicity of the traffic safety establishment in blaming drivers for accidents and ignoring obvious design shortcomings; and ignoring fuel economy and pollution in designing vehicles.

Although Unsafe at Any Speed did not address lead specifically, it had plenty to say about the pollution caused by automobiles:

[M]ore than half of the Los Angeles air pollution problem is caused by automotive exhausts. The situation is not limited to Los Angeles; cars, buses, and trucks contribute half the air pollution in the United States. This pollution contains the most serious toxic contaminants which are associated with a significantly higher incidence of morbidity and mortality from emphysema, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, and heart disease. In property damage due to air pollution, the United States Public Health Service estimates a loss of roughly sixty-five dollars per capita each year, or over eleven billion dollars altogether. Pollution corrodes metals, deteriorates rubber products, erodes concrete and building stone, soils a great variety of materials, and deposits dust and soot on highly sensitive machinery and instruments. The total quantity of pollutants belched forth by motor vehicles in this country last year included over fourteen million tons of hydrocarbons, seventy-five million tons of carbon monoxide, and four million tons of oxides of nitrogen.
Ralph Nader, Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile

While the book did not stop the seemingly endless parade of automotive industry executives marching up to Capitol Hill to inform Congress that the American People did not want safety, did not want economy, did not want cleaner emissions in their cars, it did stop a growing number of people from believing them.

Three years after the creation of the EPA, and almost fifty years after the deaths of five workers at Standard Oil's Bayway refinery near Elizabeth, New Jersey, the agency issued the first rules restricting lead in gasoline.

[EPA press release - November 28, 1973]
Environmental Protection agency Administrator Russell E. Train today announced the promulgation of final regulations to protect public health by reducing the amount of lead in all grades of gasoline.

The new regulations restrict the average lead content, measured quarterly, in all grades of gasoline produced by any refinery to 1.7 grams per gallon (gpg) by July 1, 1975, 1.2 grams per gallon by July 1, 1976, 0.9 grams per gallon by July 1, 1977, and 0.6 grams per gallon by July 1, 1978.

According to EPA, a significant portion of the urban population, particularly children, are over-exposed to lead through a combination of sources including food, water, air, leaded paint, and dust. Although leaded paint is a primary source of exposure for poisoning in children, leaded gasoline is also a significant source of exposure which can be readily controlled. The total amount of lead used in gasoline amounts to well over 200,000 tons a year.
Environmental Protection Agency: EPA Requires Phase-Out of Lead in All Grades of Gasoline

During the Reagan Administration, plans were secretly put in place to rescind the lead regulations, but EPA Administrator Ann Gorsuch indiscretely blabbed of the plans to an industry insider, who launched a premature and altogether-too-public celebration. The firestorm unleashed in response to the leaked news forced the administration to not only cancel the plans, but, in effect, caused the phase-out to be sped up.

On January 29, 1996, the EPA announced the 25-year process of phasing lead out of all fuel for on-road vehicles was complete. No gasoline containing lead could be sold in the United States (except in some off-road uses, including aircraft, racing cars, farm equipment, and marine engines).

Since the virtual disappearance of leaded gas in the United States [...] the mean blood-lead level of the American population has declined more than 75 percent. A 1985 EPA study estimated that as many as 5,000 Americans died annually from lead-related heart disease prior to the country's lead phaseout. According to a 1988 report to Congress on childhood lead poisoning in America by the government's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, one can estimate that the blood-lead levels of up to 2 million children were reduced every year to below toxic levels between 1970 and 1987 as leaded gasoline use was reduced. From that report and elsewhere, one can conservatively estimate that a total of about 68 million young children had toxic exposures to lead from gasoline from 1927 to 1987.
Jamie Lincoln Kitman , "The Secret History of Lead", The Nation, March 2000 (PDF)

The action of the EPA on January 26, 1996 rendered the "Unleaded Fuel Only" warnings that had graced the fueling compartments of American cars since the mid-seventies obsolete. With the 1997 model year the EPA rescinded the regulation requiring automobile makers to apply the warnings. My little pick-up truck is the next-to-last year in which the warnings, along with a number of other regulatory requirements related to unleaded fuel, were required. There was no more lead in gasoline. Unleaded fuel was all that could be sold. By regulation. And we were better off for it.

                                                   

UPDATE: Fantastic first-person account from inside the EPA from DieselKitty:

[new] Not Just Catalytic Converters! (1+ / 0-)

I was involved in the EPA studies that resulted in the phase-out and eventual banning of leaded gasoline. At that time, the lead industry had a major disinformation campaign underway claiming that valve seats on older engines would be damaged by using unleaded gasoline. It was my job to look into that and other effects. SAE Paper No. 860090 is a review of the good and (mostly) bad effects of lead on vehicles.

My review showed that when engines were operated at high load for long periods, the oxide on the valve seat could wear away, allowing the valve to micro-weld to the seat when it banged down, and then jerking loose microscopic pieces of the seat when it pushed back up. Once it started, this "valve seat recession" would destroy the cylinder head in short order. Lead deposits on the valve seat acted like flour on a pastry board, keeping the valve from sticking. So far, that's what the industry had been claiming. However, my review further documented that this was ONLY a problem if you ran the engine continuously at high speed and load for a long time -- that is, in formula 1 racing or dynamometer testing, but not in typical automotive service. In fact, I was able to show that quite a few organizations (including the U.S. Army!) had already shifted all of their older vehicles to unleaded gasoline, as it was too much trouble to provide both leaded fuel for the old and unleaded fuel for the newer vehicles.

My review ALSO showed that lead oxide deposits formed on spark plugs, corroding them and shorting them out, and on exhaust valve seats. Channels formed in the deposits would allow exhaust gas to leak out during combustion, damaging the valve. To combat these deposits, chlorine and bromine compounds were used in addition to TEL, in a mixture called "motor mix". The chlorine and bromine helped scavenge the lead deposits, but also formed acids in the oil (reducing oil life), and corroded exhaust pipes. Overall, the engine and vehicle damage due to the lead additives was much more important than the valve seat recession issue.

While I was looking into the engine issues, an EPA staffer named Joel Schwarz (now a fomer McArthur fellow at Harvard School of Public Health) was doing epidemiologic studies of lead impacts on health. He found that it was MUCH worse than previously thought, at blood lead levels that had previously been considered safe. The main impacts were mental retardation, deafness, and other neurological problems in children, and high blood pressure in adults -- leading to stroke and heart attacks.

When the Reagan administration came into office, they trumpeted their plans to apply cost-benefit analysis to environmental regulations, and Anne Gorsuch gave a speech to a small refiner's conference where she said that the lead regulations were on their way out. Then Joel Schwarz and an EPA economist named Hugh Pitcher, published their report showing that the benefits of eliminating lead in gasoline were more than ten times the costs, and the evil bitch was hoist with her own petard. EPA wound up adopting regulations that dropped the lead content down to 0.1 gram per gallon very quickly, then eliminated it entirely ten years later.

Average blood lead levels in the U.S. and other countries have come down dramatically with the elimination of leaded gasoline. A large part of the drop in heart attacks since the '70s is now thought to be due to lower blood lead concentrations.

Since the work in the U.S., I've been able to contribute to government decisions to phase out lead in five other countries: Thailand, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Sri Lanka, and I wrote a report for USAID on why and how countries should ban lead in their gasoline. The arguments in each case were the same -- "but the lead companies tell us that the unleaded gas will damage the older engines!" In none of these cases was there actually any widespread engine damage due to unleaded fuel.

"My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right" -- Sen. (and Major General) Carl Schurz, 1872

by Diesel Kitty on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:56:47 AM PST

And that, dear Kossacks, is where regulation comes from -- not from bored bureaucrats sitting in an office in Washington trying to think up ways to make life miserable and expensive for some innocent and unsuspecting businessman, but from real human suffering and tragedy brought about, all too often, by people who shirk what should be obvious responsibilities, who neglect basic diligence, who sacrifice safety for profit. They bring suffering on those who trust them and their products, and society adopts measures to make sure it never happens again. We have to forcethem, through regulation, to behave as they should have been behaving all along. That's how regulation came to be.

You can submit online public comments on proposed rules and regulations at Regulations.gov (h/t to stusviews)

Previous installments of How Regulation came to be:

1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act The Iroquois Theater Fire Radium Girls - Part I
Radium Girls - Part II Radium Girls - Part III
Construction Summer
Red Moon Rising
The Cherry Mine Disaster, Part I
The Cherry Mine Disaster, Part II
Ground Fault, Interrupted
The Cocoanut Grove
DK GreenRoots: Donora
Confined Spaces
The Hotel Fires of 1946 - Part I
The Hotel Fires of 1946 - Part II
Our Lady of the Angels The Great Molasses Flood Toy Safety
The Power of One: Frances Oldham Kelsey
Santa Barbara
The Scofield Mine Explosion
The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
The Cincinnati Who concert tragedy
The Flexner Report
The Eastland Disaster
El Cortito -- the short hoe
The Buffalo Creek Act of God
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Originally posted to dsteffen on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 04:12 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yay! dsteffen has a new diary! (17+ / 0-)

    Rec'd and now off to read...

    We cannot be content...if some fraction of our people--whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth--is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure. FDR

    by wide eyed lib on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 04:16:08 PM PST

  •  But this is unconstitutional! (20+ / 0-)

    I read the Constitution last week and I didn't see anthing that said that the guvment could outlaw lead in automobiles.

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 04:23:46 PM PST

  •  Fascinating stuff... T'ed & R'ed. (13+ / 0-)

    I remember my parents bought an older riding lawnmower when we moved out to the country in the mid-90s, and we had to get a lead additive to mix with the fuel so it would work right.

  •  That Midgely fellow is also partly responsible for (14+ / 0-)

    Freon. Poison was his profession.

    In the late 1920s, Thomas Midgley, Jr. improved the process of synthesis and led the effort to use CFC as refrigerant to replace ammonia (NH3), chloromethane (CH3Cl), and sulfur dioxide (SO2), which are toxic but were in common use. In searching for a new refrigerant, requirements for the compound were: low boiling point, low toxicity, and to be generally non-reactive. In a demonstration for the American Chemical Society, Midgley flamboyantly demonstrated all these properties by inhaling a breath of the gas and using it to blow out a candle in 1930

     wiki

  •  Amazing to think that Kettering... (13+ / 0-)

    ...mainly thought that the color of the gasoline was the main avenue for controlling knock! I used to have a little booklet, published by GM, that gave a thumbnail sketch of the search for antiknock compounds. I just have to wonder what sorts of problems tetraethyl tin would have caused, and how much closer to biofuels we would have been if Kettering had pushed cellulosic alcohol production.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 04:44:25 PM PST

  •  Catalytic Converters, IIRC (18+ / 0-)

    If I recall correctly, the drive for unleaded gasoline had to do with the broader push to meet California fuel emission standards, which automakers could accomplish most cheaply with catalytic converters. Federal emission standards followed suit.

     Leaded gasoline fouled catalytic converters. Automakers' cars had to pass the standards -- if the new car burned clean enough without a catalytic converter, you could use leaded gas.

    I remember buying a new Subaru and/or Saab in the early 1980's that were cleaner burning than American cars and didn't have the catalytic converters, so I could get away with using the less expensive leaded fuel.

     The warnings "unleaded fuel only" wasn't a legal regulation per se, but a legitimate warning that leaded fuel would be bad for cars with catalytic converters. The fuel tank opening and nozzles were smaller, so you literally couldn't put leaded fuel in the tank.

    The decline of leaded fuel availability and the eventual irrelevance of the unleaded fuel warning label had to do with the gradual and inevitable rise of engines with catalytic converters as emissions standards tightened. As I recall.

    Our cause: a More Perfect Union

    by Roby NJ on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 05:06:32 PM PST

    •  Right. (17+ / 0-)

      Leaded gas ruined catalytic converters, so the reduction in lead technically came about as an indirect effect of the drive to reduce the other emission pollutants.

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      by dsteffen on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 05:17:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Half-right. (14+ / 0-)

      EPA required service stations to offer unleaded fuel for sale when catalytic converters started coming into use in 1975.  However, not all new cars needed catalytic converters at first, and older cars continued using leaded gasoline.  Lead was and is the cheapest way to make high octane gasoline, if you don't mind the damage it does to the engine.  However, the ultimate phase-out of leaded gasoline was not driven by concern over catalytic converters, but by new data showing that there were serious health risks even from blood lead concentrations that had been considered "safe" -- and that a large part of the population, especially kids, were at risk.  (See my long post below for more on the history).  

      "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right" -- Sen. (and Major General) Carl Schurz, 1872

      by Diesel Kitty on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:03:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also, the man who dated the Earth (9+ / 0-)

      Claire Patterson (graduated from U. Chicago, and on faculty of Cal Tech his entire professional career afterwards) became a champion against lead in the environment.

      His dating technique used the fact that many heavy element radioactive decay chains end up at lead, and so he spent years in the late 40s and early 50s finding ways to get rid of the excess lead from the environment (and mostly tetraethyl lead) from his experiments to finally get at the approx. 4.5 billion year age for the solar system.

      He had quite a fight on his hands (against lead in the environment) in the late 60s through early 80s, including corporate attempts to donate large amounts of money to Cal Tech if they got rid of him...

      For a great exposition of his story - there is a full chapter on him in Bill Bryson's wonderful book on science: "A Short History of Nearly Everything."  I teach a class each year just based on that book at the small college where I am a professor.

      James L. Petigru, SC Unionist: "South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum."

      by SC damn yankee on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 04:22:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yea! Now I feel better about DKos4 (11+ / 0-)

    because this awesome diary series is here!

    "Going to church does not make us Christians any more than stepping into our garage makes us a car." --Rev R. Neville

    by catleigh on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 05:21:46 PM PST

  •  Excellent! n/t (7+ / 0-)

    Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 05:52:28 PM PST

  •  Thanks, dsteffen (14+ / 0-)

    took a couple of tries before I could get this to load, but it was well worth the effort.

    I remember a few years back watching the TV show about the dinosaur family.  Earl Sinclair and his wife, Ethyl, and the rest of the gang thinking that about 90% of the viewing audience didn't get the joke.  But you've shown it was really no joking matter.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 06:18:47 PM PST

    •  Thanks, marykk. (8+ / 0-)

      Yes, the site's been pretty buggy today.  A lot more stable now than it was this morning.  I was about to have second thoughts about posting this week, but went ahead anyway.  So far, so good.  

      I had to turn off autorefresh because it kept giving me an "unresponsive script" message every time it activated, but otherwise not bad.

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      by dsteffen on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 06:46:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I Remember Cousteau Diving to A Sunken Transport (8+ / 0-)

      The ship had sunk in extremely deep water carrying many barrels of tetraethyl lead wich would seriously pollute the Mediterranean if leaked.  The diving effort to remove the cargo was extremely hazardous.

      Time Bomb at Fifty Fathoms

      In the passageway between the Adriatic and the Mediterranean seas, 3 miles from the Italian shoreline, rests a sunken freighter with its cargo of deadly tetraethyl and tetramethyl lead. These compounds, if swallowed or even absorbed through the skin, prey on the nervous system, causing delirium, insanity and death. Ever since the ship sank, Italy and Yugoslavia have bickered over their responsibilities and have discussed – but have yet to take – corrective action. Captain Cousteau examines this deadly dilemma created by the legal avoidance of responsibility and ineffective international regulations.
  •  Sorry I didn't see this sooner. (7+ / 0-)

    good dairy as always.

    WWJD - for a Klondike bar. Sign on a graduate student's door.

    by Hard to Port on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 06:27:26 PM PST

  •  another great diary (12+ / 0-)

    the Ethyl people didn't completely whitewash the dangers of the stuff - in " The Roman Hat Mystery ", the very first "Ellery Queen" novel (1929), the victim is poisoned with Tetra Ethyl Lead.

    "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

    by esquimaux on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 06:42:24 PM PST

    •  How interesting. (5+ / 0-)

      When I was a kid I used to spend a lot of time at my grandparents' house, and my unmarried aunt who lived with them was an avid reader with lots of Ellery Queen.  I cut my  "grown-up books" teeth on EQ.  Wonder if I ever read that one?  I couldn't remember now what any of them were about, but I remember I enjoyed reading them.

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      by dsteffen on Sun Feb 13, 2011 at 07:05:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not Just Catalytic Converters! (25+ / 0-)

    I was involved in the EPA studies that resulted in the phase-out and eventual banning of leaded gasoline.  At that time, the lead industry had a major disinformation campaign underway claiming that valve seats on older engines would be damaged by using unleaded gasoline.  It was my job to look into that and other effects.  SAE Paper No. 860090 is a review of the good and (mostly) bad effects of lead on vehicles.

    My review showed that when engines were operated at high load for long periods, the oxide on the valve seat could wear away, allowing the valve to micro-weld to the seat when it banged down, and then jerking loose microscopic pieces of the seat when it pushed back up.  Once it started, this "valve seat recession" would destroy the cylinder head in short order.  Lead deposits on the valve seat acted like flour on a pastry board, keeping the valve from sticking.  So far, that's what the industry had been claiming.  However, my review further documented that this was ONLY a problem if you ran the engine continuously at high speed and load for a long time -- that is, in formula 1 racing or dynamometer testing, but not in typical automotive service.  In fact, I was able to show that quite a few organizations (including the U.S. Army!) had already shifted all of their older vehicles to unleaded gasoline, as it was too much trouble to provide both leaded fuel for the old and unleaded fuel for the newer vehicles.  

    My review ALSO showed that lead oxide deposits formed on spark plugs, corroding them and shorting them out, and on exhaust valve seats.  Channels formed in the deposits would allow exhaust gas to leak out during combustion, damaging the valve.  To combat these deposits, chlorine and bromine compounds were used in addition to TEL, in a mixture called "motor mix".  The chlorine and bromine helped scavenge the lead deposits, but also formed acids in the oil (reducing oil life), and corroded exhaust pipes.  Overall, the engine and vehicle damage due to the lead additives was much more important than the valve seat recession issue.

    While I was looking into the engine issues, an EPA staffer named Joel Schwarz (now a fomer McArthur fellow at Harvard School of Public Health) was doing epidemiologic studies of lead impacts on health.  He found that it was MUCH worse than previously thought, at blood lead levels that had previously been considered safe.  The main impacts were mental retardation, deafness, and other neurological problems in children, and high blood pressure in adults -- leading to stroke and heart attacks.  

    When the Reagan administration came into office, they trumpeted their plans to apply cost-benefit analysis to environmental regulations, and Anne Gorsuch gave a speech to a small refiner's conference where she said that the lead regulations were on their way out.  Then Joel Schwarz and an EPA economist named Hugh Pitcher, published their report showing that the benefits of eliminating lead in gasoline were more than ten times the costs, and the evil bitch was hoist with her own petard.  EPA wound up adopting regulations that dropped the lead content down to 0.1 gram per gallon very quickly, then eliminated it entirely ten years later.

    Average blood lead levels in the U.S. and other countries have come down dramatically with the elimination of leaded gasoline.  A large part of the drop in heart attacks since the '70s is now thought to be due to lower blood lead concentrations.

    Since the work in the U.S., I've been able to contribute to government decisions to phase out lead in five other countries: Thailand, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Sri Lanka, and I wrote a report for USAID on why and how countries should ban lead in their gasoline.  The arguments in each case were the same -- "but the lead companies tell us that the unleaded gas will damage the older engines!"  In none of these cases was there actually any widespread engine damage due to unleaded fuel.  

    "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right" -- Sen. (and Major General) Carl Schurz, 1872

    by Diesel Kitty on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:56:47 AM PST

    •  Wow! Fantastic first-person... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WI Deadhead, hopeful, lineatus

      ...account!  Thanks for sharing.  This clears up a lot of muddiness I had from the source I read for this.  Thanks for sharing!

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      by dsteffen on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:50:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, dsteffen

      ..for both your comment and your work.

      We are not given mercy because we deserve it, but because we need it.

      by Ahianne on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 05:13:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The mechanic who did the regular service to my (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bobinson, G2geek, dsteffen

      '71 Ford had me add a shot glass of transmission fluid to the tank each time I filled up to counteract what he'd been told were the harmful effects of low-lead gas (valve stem damage).

      I probably did that for two or three years (starting around '75 or '76 IIRC) before everyone figured out it was a load of BS.

      I never looked into it, but I wonder now if STP and other additives were marketed as some kind of lead-replacement panacea at the time.

      CPAC: regressive genetics working overtime.

      by here4tehbeer on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 08:55:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, a lot of additives (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bobinson, G2geek, dsteffen

        were marketed that way.  Most of them used metal-containing lube-oil additives like calcium sulfonate, but some entrepreneurs also sold high-lead racing gasoline (racing fuel was exempt from the ban) in a can, at high prices -- until they were caught.  One of the brand names, as I recall was RealLead.

        "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right" -- Sen. (and Major General) Carl Schurz, 1872

        by Diesel Kitty on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:36:29 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  so how is it that we don't ban lead from all.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dsteffen, JeffW

      .... applications where humans might come into contact with it?  

      Seems to me you can still buy lead solder (there are substitutes), lead fishing weights (ditto), and perhaps worst of all, there is still lead used in PLUMBING FIXTURES that people install in their houses.  So unless you let the water run before using it (thereby wasting water), you might be drinking or showering with or cooking with water that has sat in a faucet that contains lead, thereby leaching some of the lead into the water.

      I'd sooner have something in the water that made my "male attributes" stop working, than something in the water that damaged my brain.  

      So the question is, how can one find lead-free plumbing fixtures?  Is there a label or something?  Are manufacturers supposed to disclose one way or the other?   Or does someone maintain a list that can be looked up?

      •  Well, there are ways to tell the difference (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dsteffen

        Lead solder for drinking water systems was phased out in new work plumbing in the 80s.  There may be old coils of tin-lead still sitting in toolboxes that are that old, but the new stuff doesn't have the same high lead content as the old low-temp solders did.

        There are new standards for "lead-free" fixtures (made with very, very low lead content) that you can look for from some manufacturers to meet recent state laws in CA and VT.  You are supposed to be able to look for a NSF certification on the packaging that shows compliance with the state standards.  Linky

        "I'm not a humanitarian. I'm a hell-raiser." Mother Jones

        by histopresto on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:09:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  very cool, i will keep that in mind. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dsteffen

          I expect to be building a little nest in a couple of years, at which point I'm going to take every reasonable step for sustainable design & construction, including keeping the lead and other neurotoxic nasties out of the water.  

          Thanks!

      •  Lead Solder is pretty much gone (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek, dsteffen

        Under new European ROHS rules, solder must be lead free, which has pretty much caused electronic manufacturers to go to lead-free soldering worldwide.  California requires most electronics to comply with the ROHS standard, apparently the rest of the U.S. does not.  That surprised me -- if you look online at Allied electronics, almost everything is ROHS compliant.

        Re plumbing fixtures --  here's environmental horror story from Egypt.  While I was working on automotive emissions in Cairo for USAID, some of my colleagues were working to replace small-scale battery recycling operations with a modern facility.  The existing operations were very low-tech -- they'd buy local auto batteries and auto batteries smuggled from outside Egypt, chop them open with axes, letting the acid run out onto the ground, and then melt down the lead plates in open cauldrons.  No emission control of any kind, which meant that the whole neighborhood was covered with toxic dust.  The people who worked in these smelters had very short life expectancy, as you can imagine.  Worst of all, my understanding is that the main product of these environmental abominations were lead water pipes.

        Not all of the U.S. aid money went into buying tanks and tear gas for the dictator -- quite a lot was actually used constructively.  According to this  USAID link ,  the lead smelter project was successful.  Alhamdilla!

        "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right" -- Sen. (and Major General) Carl Schurz, 1872

        by Diesel Kitty on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 06:13:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yow. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dsteffen

          Seems to me that the entire world should agree to ban all uses of lead that are not absolutely essential, and regulate the hell out of the ones that are.  As for batteries there are substitute technologies.  

          OTOH, natural selection at work.  Terrible thing to say, but nature does not pick favorites, and we can't choose our facts.

          This is what decline & fall looks like.  And to think, the 21st Century was supposed to be "the future," with all that implies.  

  •  A Repeated Irony - Regulation --> Innovation (8+ / 0-)

    The forces arguing against regulations are almost always exposed as mere agents in favor of a more toxic status quo, actors against the very innovation they claim regulation squelches.

    In the final analysis they are both economically and intellectually lazy. Their position creating a literal and figurative poison in our society.

    •  Too bad this is a common "business model." (5+ / 0-)

      And it's not that it hasn't been going on for centuries. The Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll's Tea "Through The Looking Glass" Party was a stereotype of what happened to "felters," the people who bathed in mercury compounds used to make the felt cloth that hats were made from way-back-when. Neurological impairment? Hey, as the SOBs say today, there's a whole raft of unemployed people who would LOVE to have your job!

      And of course there's the whole asbestos gig. The mining and manufacturing company rulers knew damn well (just like pharma and biotech and auto and so many other bigwigs do today) that their product killed employees and their families and lots of their fellow citizens. But who cares, when there's PROFITS to be reaped, and GROWTH to be fostered? As one of these was reported to have said,

      The president of Johns-Manville says that the managers of another company were “a bunch of fools for notifying employees who had asbestosis.” When one of the people in attendance ask, “Do you mean to tell me you would let them work until they drop dead?” According to deposition testimony, the response was, “Yes. We save a lot of money that way.”
      http://www.themesotheliomasociety.com/...

      "Our cardiac billion dollar best seller med actually causes heart attacks? Who knew? (And if I find out who told you, he's a dead man.)"

      Humans are one sorry species, in aggregate -- thanks for one tiny expose,lost as it is in the bitstream...

      "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

      by jm214 on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 05:04:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  What's bizarre (9+ / 0-)

      Getting rid of lead (and emissions regulations and fuel economy regulations in general) engendered a lot of innovation in car design.

      I personally like my turbocharger, my electronic fuel injection, and my engine diagnostics.  None of these work well with leaded fuel, and getting rid of it made a lot of engine technology development viable.

      •  Most people have no idea of the change (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        liberaldregs, dsteffen

        computers have made in cars from the design to the ultra close manufacturing tolerances to the control systems.....

        The average car today has twice the horsepower with 3 times the fuel economy and 1/100th the emissions of the average car in 1970, a couple years before electronic spark control started to become normal.....and man the 70's and the 80's when they were trying to figure this out were a nightmare....

        ask any tech if they'd rather work on a early 80's Ford or a modern one...hell even a very old one that's completely mechanical is a breeze compared to those learning years.......



        Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
        I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
        Emiliano Zapata

        by buddabelly on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:24:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I used to spent many visits... (0+ / 0-)

        ...with my late father-in-law sitting in the back yard with a couple (or more) of beers marveling at how much better cars were "now" (which was about 15-20 yeas ago) than they were back a few decades before.  engines that go tens of thousands of miles without a tune-up, blow by 100K without breaking a sweat, start practically every morning without fail even in bitterly cold weather, tires that last 50K miles, batteries that are still going strong after five years, etc. etc.  And it seems to be getting better every year.  I've got a 16-year-old truck without a trace of visible rust.  I just put a 72-month battery in my wife's car, and put new tires on for the first time at 70,000 miles, and the old ones weren't anywhere near as bald I usually run them to.  ;-)

        We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

        by dsteffen on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 04:34:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  do you have a group (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, barbwires, dsteffen, RiaD, dirtfarmer

    for this subject? I have done a ton of reading on these issues, i.e. health and safety regs for workers and others, would love to join such a group.  

    Sad that people forget why these regs were created in the first place. This is a top notch diary. Thanks!

    Inconceivable! You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    by hopeful on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 04:45:10 AM PST

    •  No, I don't have a group. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hopeful

      I wouldn't mind participating in one as an occasional contributor, but I don't have the kind of time right now to organize and run one.

      Thanks for stopping in and commenting.  I appreciate it.

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      by dsteffen on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:42:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, not quite. (6+ / 0-)

    "Regulation" comes from regular and started out in response to the desire by American enterprise to minimize uncertainty -- i.e. the natural condition.  To that end, governments were relied on not only to distribute our natural resources to favored individuals via a compendium of "rights"

    fishing
    logging
    grazing
    trading
    hunting
    water
    mineral  
    etc.

    but to "secure" those rights from competitors by making them exclusive.  That "regulations" should be applied to "natural" processes, including chemical transformations, really didn't come into favor until it was possible to hold the agents of government to account for their stewardship.  And that wasn't possible until the passage of the Federal Tort Claims Act in 1947.  Prior to that, public officials doling out "rights" to the public resources and assets to their friends and associates couldn't be challenged because, as long as they weren't soliciting material bribes for themselves, their actions were protected by the principle of "sovereign immunity."
    The consumer protection movement that took off after the middle of the century simply wasn't possible before then because there was no way to hold legislators, the people who initiate regulation for the public welfare, to account.  The FTCA injected a new principle which asserts that, if a public official knows better or should know that a decision has the potential to cause harm, then s/he can be held to personal account.  In other words, public official were suddenly rendered personally liable for their decisions.  Which is why some, instead of welcoming their new responsibility with open arms, retreated into the strategy we now refer to as "privatization."

    Instead of insuring that their stewardship, going forward, would be beneficial to the general public, our agents of government determined to shirk their responsibility by contracting the functions out to "private corporations" whose main mission isn't just to make a profit, but to do so under the umbrella of legislation that protects them from liability behind the shield of "proprietary information," patent rights and the right to privacy.

    The last is a big one for the simple reason that where the FTCA made public officials vulnerable to being held liable for malfeasance, it was the open government and public information laws which actually made it possible for the public to discover what previously had been shrouded in secrecy.  So, the board rooms of private corporations became the last refuge of the power-obsessed who need secrecy to protect their interests.

    You wouldn't think that public officials in responsible positions would want to shed their jurisdictions and areas of operation, but that's exactly what happened at every level.  Just think for a moment about public transportation, public hospitals, public libraries, public education and how much of it has been "privatized."  And then ask yourself what incentive there was for entrepreneurs to take on basically un-profitable functions (whose "success" is measured in a decrease of utilization).  The answer is none.  They had to be bribed with contracts that came with a "guaranteed" margin of profit (cost plus) by public officials who didn't want to be bothered because, if they messed up, they could be held personally liable.  

    That, btw, is the real agenda of "tort reform."  People who want to exercise power by making decisions that affect the lives of other people, want to be able to do so without being held personally responsible, as they were able to do before the FTCA.  They enjoyed sovereign immunity and they want it back.  Otherwise, enforcing rules and regulations is not much fun, even if its only developers who threaten to sue, if you don't let them do what they want with their land.  Landowners, of course, still steeped in the long tradition of property rights being something you get to enjoy, resent the idea that the effect of their behavior on Mother Nature should even be considered.  So, most of the actual so-called 1984 litigation has focused on the "capricious" denial of property rights and that case in Connecticut was a landmark because the SCOTUS decided that a person could be stripped of property rights to serve a community purpose that's to be carried out by a private corporation.  Eminent domain had always been on the books, but it was public corporations that were supposed to be carrying out the public function.  Handing the public right and the function over to a private corporation was a new legal development.

    But, it's all consistent with the conservative perspective -- the desire for power without responsibility or accountability.  That's where the push-back comes from.

    The conservative mind relies mainly on what is plain to see.

    by hannah on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 05:01:14 AM PST

  •  and they charged more to not put lead in (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bobinson, G2geek, dsteffen, JeffW

    gasoline.  I actually thought there was a costly process to remove lead from gasoline at the time.

    "Peculiar travel invitations are like dancing lessons from god" Bokonon

    by tRueffert on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 05:24:35 AM PST

    •  I wondered about that too (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dsteffen, buddabelly, ebohlman, JeffW

      My father was an engine combustion researcher at the time. He set me straight. The reason unleaded gas is more expensive is because it is a higher quality gas to begin with. It had to be refined at a higher temperature which costs a bit more.

      Leaded gas was a cheap, nearly kerosene quality gas before they put lead in it.

      "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."- Arthur Carlson

      by bobinson on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:43:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Big Biz owned this country back in the 20's (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bobinson, dsteffen, JohnnySacks

    and ninety years later, they still own this country


    80% of SUCCESS is JUST showing up

    Democracy is on the march, hope it comes to the USA

    by Churchill on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 05:41:26 AM PST

    •  It's an 80 year cycle (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Churchill, dsteffen

      80 years before the 1920s, we were gearing up for a civil war when the slave owning agribusiness folks refused to pay for labor.

      80 years before that, we threw out King George III and his East India Trading Company.

      We may be due for a bigger fight than we expect.

      "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."- Arthur Carlson

      by bobinson on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:49:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Heard Thom Hartmann talking about... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Churchill

        ...something like that last week.  A generation consumed with economic collapse, war, and depression, followed by a generation that builds back up, then a generation devoted to spiritual aspects and improving society, followed by a generation absorbed with greed and materialism, ant then the cycle repeats, on about 80-year intervals.  I don't remember who developed the theory, but he supposedly demonstrated the pattern held going as far back as the War of the Roses.

        We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

        by dsteffen on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 04:21:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent history lesson (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ice Blue, dsteffen, buddabelly

    Highly applicable as the "cost-benefit" mavens are back.  There are benefits to many industrial chemicals and processes, but costs have to weigh the potential human costs and consequences of exposure as well as the corporate costs and the benefits to the end-user.  These are not simple equations and they are easily manipulated.

    Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

    by barbwires on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 06:00:31 AM PST

  •  I wish you would print this series (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, sngmama, dsteffen, buddabelly

    out, bind it then sell it on the  Kos Katalogue

    hint hint hint . I am constantly giving books to my kids ... and I'd love to see this series become a multi volume set that I could give to them (yes they have the loose leaf binders -- but actually bound like what you can get on cafepress or done via fed ex would be so much nicer) ... (oh and you can get files converted to pdfs for free from Adobe - up to 5)

    and eventually, maybe, not soon (I hope) if ever, give them to my grandkids

    Since this history has been largely removed from history books, we need to make sure these lessons and stories of why never die.

    Bumper sticker seen on I-95; "Stop Socialism" my response: "Don't like socialism? GET OFF the Interstate highway!"

    by Clytemnestra on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 06:24:37 AM PST

  •  Note that (7+ / 0-)

    when tetraethyl lead was added, it increased the cost of gasoline. When lead was removed, it increased the cost of gasoline.

    Funny how that works, isn't it?

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 07:16:29 AM PST

  •  Diary rec'd and bookmarked. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, dsteffen, buddabelly

    A back story- the Japanese air force had problems with their high-compression piston engines.  As in the US, attempts to find anti-knock compounds faltered when Japanese industrial workers became seriously ill.  In 1939, DuPont stepped up and sold the Japanese the manufacturing methods we had used for tetraethyl lead.  The Pearl Harbor attack was now possible.  Better living through chemistry.

  •  Outstanding diary. nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen

    What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding? - Elvis Costello

    by bluesheep on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:42:43 AM PST

  •  excellent job, I've been in automotive (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen

    repair all my life....I watched the transition from leaded to unleaded gasoline and there were some problems but mostly in extremely heavy use or very tough conditions like excessive heat, jackrabbit accelerator to the floor then slam on the brakes, rinse and repeat etc....

    Now with modern manufacturing processes, better fuel and better lubricants, and electronic control systems, engines are much more reliable than they were in the day...

    back then an engine that made a 100k without a rebuild or at least a valve job was a rarity...Now a quarter million is considered the minimum for normal service......

    Spark knock or Pre Ignition is still an engine killer though much rarer with the advent of electronic engine controls.... Much of the cause of spark knock now is ignition timing that is too advanced due to a control failure, fairly rare, or a build up of carbon internally on the pistons and intake which acts as a sponge that soaks up the volatile compounds and allows the mixture to ignite from heat instead of spark, fairly common....

    I own a Honda on which one of my techs misinstalled the timing belt a tooth off....one too advanced...I figured it out after I melted down the cylinder head in the summer heat with vicious pre ignition....I was able to control it by manually retarding the timing as far as possible with the distributer and the use of premium gas which has better anti knock characteristics due to the higher octane rating but not before it ate a spark plug hole.....those plugs will never be changed again without a new head......

    Those are no longer valid options on a new car as I can't think of one that still has a mechanical distributer...all now run on a coil pack set up and computer that controls the spark and fuel mixture curve electronically through manipulation of the spark timing and the injector pulse length....

    Love this series overall and really like this one....thanks for doing these and it's a well deserved spot in the community spotlight.......



    Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
    I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
    Emiliano Zapata

    by buddabelly on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:14:52 PM PST

    •  Thanks for the kind words... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      buddabelly

      ...and taking the time for the comment.  Autos are one of the things that, when they say "they don't build them like they used to," I can only say "thank god"!  I look back on the stuff I drove when I first got my license, and all I can think of is "deathtraps."

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      by dsteffen on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 04:11:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, dsteffen

    This is a wonderful piece that I truly enjoyed reading for multiple reasons. I learned -- substantively -- about an issue that I had an inkling about but relatively little substantive knowledge.

    I truly appreciate the solid documentation of the path toward sensible regulation / policy, that those attacking the policy were promoting false information (that they understood likely to not be true), and that the cost-benefit relationship overwhelmingly favored the 'benefits'.  (In fact, over the long term, I would suspect that the 'benefits' are far greater than the order of magnitude suggesting 30 years ago.)

    Would you mind if I cross-posted this to  GESN?

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:17:04 PM PST

    •  Please, be my guest. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel

      Thanks for the kind words.  I'm glad you enjoyed the diary.

      Just checked out GESN and bookmarked it.  First thing I see when I get there is a post on Architecture 2030 and mention that it's founded by Ed Mazria.  I've got his book on passive solar lying around the house somewhere.  Very cool to know he's still active.

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      by dsteffen on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 04:05:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A gorgeous piece of research and writing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, dsteffen

    Well done and I'm absolutely in awe of your efforts.

  •  I LOVE this series, and have learned a lot ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen

    ... from it. Tipped & Recc'ed.

    BTW, have you considered a diary on food & drug "safety packaging"? IIRC, some psycho slipped cyanide laced capsules into bottles of Tylenol, and several folk died, which prompted the call for ways to securely seal such items.

    My memory is a bit hazy on the initial details, but I remember quite clearly that pharmaceutical companies bitched & whined & FUDded & threatened that protecting products from tampering would dramatically raise prices which, of course, never came to pass.

    That was my first "conscious, responsible adult" awareness of the cowardice & resistance to change of Big Business, and of a blatantly obvious disinformation campaign; I have distrusted large corporations ever since.

    I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.
    ~ Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by The Werewolf Prophet on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:20:39 PM PST

    •  Yup, you're remembering correctly. (0+ / 0-)

      Wikipedia:

      The Chicago Tylenol murders occurred when seven people died after taking pain-relief capsules that had been poisoned. The Tylenol poisonings, code-named TYMURS by the FBI, took place in the autumn of 1982 in the Chicago area of the United States. These poisonings involved Extra-Strength Tylenol medicine capsules which had been laced with potassium cyanide.[1] The incident led to reforms in the packaging of over-the-counter substances and to federal anti-tampering laws. The case remains unsolved and no suspects have been charged. A $100,000 reward, offered by Johnson & Johnson for the capture and conviction of the "Tylenol Killer," has never been claimed.

      Newsweek article on Johnson & Johnson's public relations response.  There were concerns, IIRC, that the incident could bring the company down.

      Sounds like a good candidate.  I'll put it on the list.

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      by dsteffen on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 05:23:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wonderful, wonderful work, as always. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen

    Thank-you so much for this diary.
    I first learned this story years ago when the Nation magazine devoted almost an entire issue to it.
    Believe it or not, melted butter was one of the substances used to eliminate knock.  And it worked!
    I would wager most folks today think their exhaust systems last years and years and years, instead of rotting out so quickly as they once did, because of the use of galvanized metal.  Partly correct. But the increased life span is due primarily to the elimination of lead, which would form acid upon combustion which would rot out the exhaust.
    Similarly, I'm old enough to remember when spark plugs had to be replaced quite regularly, and now they last 50,000 miles or so.  Computerized ignition is partly responsible for this, but the elimination of lead is the main reason.
    So here again we see regulations that industry predicted would have an onerous costs actually saving people money, in addition to the longer, healthier lives it has brought about.  

    •  Thanks. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jazzmaniac

      It never occurred to me that lead was responsible for helping kill exhaust systems.  Like you say, I just thought it was all the galvanizing.  I drive my Ranger almost daily for about 3,000 miles a year, so that's about as hard on an exhaust as you can get.  I bought the truck with 60,000 on it 15 years ago -- I have to believe the exhaust must have been replaced just before I got it, because I haven't had to touch the exhaust so far.

      I used to do a lot of my own mechanical work, and you're dead on about the spark plugs.  The few times I've pulled a plug over the past couple of decades, they looked practically like they'd been put in yesterday  I can remember back in the day in some of those car-won't-start emergencies scraping off deposits with a pocket knife after just a few thousand miles.

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      by dsteffen on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 06:42:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bravo! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen

    Excellent piece and well worth the time to read it in its entirety.  Thank you.

    "The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now." - Chinese proverb

    by VALuddite on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 05:39:25 AM PST

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