When the time comes for government departments like the
Environmental Protection Agency
to produce new regulations, they have to do a cost-benefit analysis as part of the overall process. If the cost of implementing a new regulation exceeds potential benefits, the agency generally won't move forward. Over the last several years the
has twice lowered the value it places on a human life in its analysis. As recently as 2003, it used a figure of $7.8 million, but it now uses $6.9 million. While it's comforting to know that the EPA thinks I'm a Six Million Dollar Man (and then some), the lowered value effectively means that more lives would potentially have to be saved by new rules in order to justify their implementation.
The EPA's monetary value for life is still higher than what most other agencies place on it, and the
are based on estimaties of the amount of money people are willing to pay to avoid certain risks. There's no evidence yet that EPA has specifically adjusted the numbers in order to duck new regulations such as carbon dioxide
limits. That said, the Bush administration has never been particularly fond of new environmental rules. Unfortunately, statistical analysis like this is anything but an exact science and is, in fact, very much a judgment call. As such, it's easy for biases to creep in, intentionally or otherwise.