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George Bush wants to be "the environmental president." That's fine for him, but the United States - which already has the cleanest air and strictest regulations - is going to pay dearly for it.

The Bush administration says the version of the Clean-Air Act that has passed the Senate is going to cost us $21.5 billion a year. But everyone knows that is a deliberate underestimate. The real estimates of its annual cost range from $30 billion to $50 billion.Even these large sums are nowhere close to the full cost. They only represent the compliance and legal costs of the Clean Air Act. About half will be spent on equipment to reduce emissions - such as the $5 billion our hard-pressed steel industry will be forced to spend by 1995 - and the other half will go to the environmental law firms which are, of course, lobbying hard in favor of the bill.

The $50 billion also does not include all the jobs that are going to be lost from direct layoffs, such as West Virginia's coal miners, and from the inability of U.S. products to compete internationally once they are saddled with unrealistic environmental regulations.

It also doesn't include the $1,000 hike in the cost of our cars, or our higher electric bills - $600 per year in the Midwest. It doesn't include the electricity brownouts - especially in the mid-Atlantic states - that will deny summer air conditioning.

There are many more costs, too. The cost of gasoline and dry cleaning are going to go up. And as the bill bans methylchloraform, a cleaning agent essential to the manufacture of electronic circuits for which there is no known substitute, there may not be an American electronics industry or any modern weapon systems produced in the United States.

What do we stand to gain from this economy-wrecking clean-air bill? Its proponents claim, without convincing evidence, that the bill will prevent 2,200 annual cancer deaths. But more people than this will be killed in highway accidents as a result of the downsizing of cars required to meet emission and fuel efficiency standards.

Environmental extremists also promise that the bill will save us from acid rain, ozone depletion and global warming - three of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American people. We have bought these hoaxes; we are going to pay for them with jobs and living standards, and the boxes are empty.

The government has just released its acid rain study that took 10 years and cost $600 million. The study concludes that our lakes, rivers and forests are no more acidic than they were 200 ago before we were a settled industrial country.

Predictions of global warming are based on mathematical models that are even more inexact than the economic models that cannot predict the economy three months in the future. There is no credible evidence of global warming. Indeed, some scientists say we could use some warming to offset a cooling trend that will cut agricultural output.

The really bad news is that the huge sum we will spend to reduce our output of carbon dioxide will be wasted. The reason is increased emissions from China and other poor countries that are not going to handicap their own economic development for the sake of the Sierra Club.

The evidence for ozone depletion is largely speculation. Hysterical environmentalists claim that we are going to die from ultraviolet radiation because air pollution is causing holes in the ozone layer over the poles. However, the United States has been measuring ultraviolet radiation since 1974, and the evidence actually shows a decline in ultraviolet radiation. Moreover, since ozone is caused by the interaction of sunlight with oxygen, temporary ozone holes would be natural results of long polar winters.

Environmentalists enraged by discarded beer cans in scenic national parks respond by wanting to close down the industrial economy. But this is no reason for our government to pass a costly Clean Air Act that will only enrich lawyers and foreign competitors.