Welcome to Friday! And congratulations for making it through the first week of 2012. Only 50 more to go before the world ends, so don’t despair – it doesn’t really matter if we fix the economy or take action to mitigate climate change anyway. Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of people who don’t seem to understand that the world is ending soon and all of this flap about jobs and the economy doesn’t even matter. What’s up with that?
Just kidding. As Republican Presidential hopefuls turn their attentions from Iowa to New Hampshire and continue to debate the best ways to shrink the federal government and its regulations, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a 28-page report this week on the link between jobs creation and the environment. Based on ten years of research in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, the Foundation examines the effect of environmental regulations on jobs in the area. Although the primary focus of the report is on the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the bay area itself, the report also broadly analyzes the longstanding assertion that increased environmental regulations decrease profits, slow the economy, and lead to job loss.
To quote the reports’s executive summary:
“Sweeping assertions about economic ruin caused by environmental regulations are nothing new, and many economists have concluded that there is no substance to them.8 Claims that a good quality of life demands a tradeoff between jobs and the environment have repeatedly been proven false9 over the last four decades. In 1976, for example, Henry Ford II warned that clean air and fuel efficiency standards would “shut down” the Ford Motor Company. Thirty-five years later, Ford not only remains in business, it ranks number 10 on the Fortune 500 list, with profits of $6.5 billion in 2010. The company is now marketing zero-emission electric cars with a sales pitch that they will “reduce your
Critics of 1990 federal Clean Air Act Amendments asserted that tighter air-pollution limits would mean “a quiet death for businesses across the country.” But these gloomy forecasts did not come true, and in the end, the amendments produced a benefit-to-investment ratio of more than 40 to 1, including over $70 billion in human health benefits annually and a significant reduction in acid-rain pollution.”
The report also cites that less than two-tenths of all layoffs are caused by government regulations, and that environmental regulations make up an even smaller percentage of these, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Furthermore, the environmental jobs industry itself has grown to a $312 billion per year and employs 1.7 million Americans. The Clean Water Act alone results in $11 billion of construction projects (aka, jobs, and not just white-collar jobs, either) per year.
What is admirable about Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s report is the extensive amount of research and statistical analysis – over a significant time scale – behind their claims. While most economists admit that the supposed link between environmental regulations and job killing is hogwash, it’s nice to see some facts and numbers to back the argument.
The unfortunate reality of this report, though, is that it probably won’t change many people’s minds. Sadly, there seem to be plenty of individuals who continue to hold to the belief that there is an inverse relationship between economic growth and environmental management despite significant, factual evidence to the contrary. (I’m looking at you, Newt Gingrich.) It’s one thing to oppose environmental regulations on principle – I don’t agree with those who do, but I can at least respect their view point. However, to oppose them based on supposed impacts of those regulations that do not actually occur is unacceptable.
The full report is available here.