Environmental and legal articles
updated in real time.

Jan 05 2018

It’s not genius . . . it’s plagiarism

The Draft Clean Air Act of 2018

(Houston) – January 5, 2018 – Letter from the Editor


Most of the underlying concepts in the draft Clean Air Act of 2018 are plagiarism.  I stole most of them from the ancients, and then just applied them to a new problem and changed the wrapping paper.

                —– “All my best thoughts were stolen from the ancients.”—-Emerson


The Clean Air Act of 2018 and Parsimony


The principle or heuristic device of parsimony for example is not my invention.  Ockham came up with the principle in the 14th century.  And Ockham largely stole it from Aristotle, who I’m sure stole it from someone else.  The geniuses of history seem to all steal from each other from what I can tell—and often it’s their obsession with simplicity wherein lies much of their commonality.


Parsimony or Occam’s Razor is essentially that “entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.”  Occam—borrowing largely from Aristotle—posited the following:


(A) It is futile to do with more what can be done with fewer. [Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora.]
(B) When a proposition comes out true for things, if two things suffice for its truth, it is superfluous to assume a third. [Quando propositio verificatur pro rebus, si duae res sufficiunt ad eius veritatem, superfluum est ponere tertiam.]
(C) Plurality should not be assumed without necessity. [Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate.]
(D) No plurality should be assumed unless it can be proved (a) by reason, or (b) by experience, or (c) by some infallible authority. [Nulla pluralitas est ponenda nisi per rationem vel experientiam vel auctoritatem illius, qui non potest falli nec errare, potest convinci.]


In physics, parsimony was used to formulate the theory of special relativity by Einstein, the principle of least action by Mauepertuis and Euler, and quantum mechanics by Planck, Heisenberg, and Broglie.  In chemistry, parsimony was used to develop the theories of thermodynamics and the reaction mechanism.  And in statistics and probability theory, several explanations have derived or expanded from parsimony including; Kolmogorov complexity, Bayesian model comparison, Akaike Information Criterion, Laplace approximation, and the Kolmogorov-Chaitin Minimum description length approach.


Applying Parsimony to the Clean Air Act


The complicated requirements in the Clean Air Act are increasing the likelihood of errors in the system and decreasing the effectiveness of the law.  Take a look at the laws of accelerated motion for example:


               S = a + ut + ½gt2 + bt3


Neither Galileo nor any student of physics would consider using a higher degree polynomial in calculating the horizontal distance of an object falling from an inclined plane.  You might wonder, “a higher degree polynomial would increase accuracy—so why would scientists prefer the simpler quadratic equation?”  Because adding the higher degree polynomial makes it unnecessarily complicated without improving the law.  Moreover, as counterintuitive as this might initially sound, the higher degree polynomial actually is likely to yield much larger errors than the simpler quadratic law because of the wider oscillation in the increasing data points (see diagram).


The same goes with the Clean Air Act.  Complexity is increasing the chance of error and decreasing the usefulness and effectiveness of the law.


 The Clean Air Act of 2018

Simpler . . . Better

2018 Clean Air Act

The intent of the Clean Air Act of 2018 is to unleash the power of simplicity on air quality and economic improvement.  With simplicity will come better transparency.  With transparency will come better accountability.  The more simple things are, the more everyone understands them.  The more everyone understands them, the better they can comply with them.  It’s that simple.


For a summary of the “Clean Air Act of 2018”, click here.  For a powerpoint presentation, click here.  For the draft legislative text, click here.


Jed Anderson is the editor of TexasEnvironmentalNews.com.  Mr. Anderson is a principal attorney with the AL Law Group–and a former attorney with Baker Botts and Vinson & Elkins and an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Houston Law School where he taught the Clean Air Act.  In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Anderson has become a national leader over the past 15 years and a hub for Clean Air Act reform efforts–writing articles, gathering people and ideas, speaking across the country, writing a book, helping to lead national efforts to transform the Act, and even himself re-writing the Act (for more information, see www.cleanairreform.org).

Call The AL Law Group, PLLC.

Talk to Texas Environmental Lawyers Now!

Call AL Law Group (281) 852-8064

Texas Administrative Code: Title 30: Part 1

Get Texas Environmental News by Email

Texas Environmental News