Elections vs. Environment: Stigma of Successful Regulation

Originally posted on Triple Crisis.

What will the presidential election in November mean for U.S. environmental policy? Although we don’t yet know who the Republican candidate will be, we know all too well what will be on his environmental agenda. The endless televised debates have exposed what the New York Times called “the broken windows of the Republican idea factory.” It’s not a pretty sight.

The candidates all share the same approach to the environment. Ron Paul plans to govern primarily by abolishing things. His hit list includes America’s foreign wars, but also the Federal Reserve, most federal taxes, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and all limits on offshore drilling and the use of coal and nuclear power. Rick Santorum agrees that energy companies must be entirely deregulated. Newt Gingrich will build a moon colony by 2020, and will replace the EPA with a new agency that “will operate on the premise that most environmental problems can and should be solved by states and local communities.” Mitt Romney promises to “eliminate the regulations promulgated in pursuit of the Obama administration’s costly and ineffective anti-carbon agenda,” and to slow down or block regulations in general whenever industry complains about their costs (i.e., always). Continue reading…


Pollution is Not the Secret to Job Creation

Paul Krugman’s column in the New York Times this morning laments one of the many ironies of our time: politicians in Washington are finally talking about job creation but Republicans (and some Democrats I’m sure) pin their hopes for employment on environmental deregulation. As Krugman points out, “Serious economic analysis actually says that we need more protection, not less.”

By serious economic analysis, Krugman means peer-reviewed articles published in academic journals over the last few decades that have probed the relationship between environmental regulations, employment, and economic growth. He doesn’t mean the American Petroleum Institute’s latest report that purports to show job growth potential through….wait for it…relaxing restrictions on oil and gas extraction. He means the latest findings by Yale University economist, William Nordhaus, published in the American Economic Review (the top ranked journal in economics) that finds that the economic cost of air pollution exceeds the value added of coal-fired electric generation by a factor of nearly 6 to 1. And this estimate doesn’t include the economic damages from climate change. Pollution related costs impede productivity and growth in the U.S. economy. Imposing more of these costs on society through deregulation is not only undesirable, it is bad economic policy.

So let’s review what economists do know about the relationship between environmental regulation and jobs. The oft-cited concern is that environmental regulations will increase production costs, raising product prices and decreasing the quantity of goods and services demanded. The good news, however, is that empirical evidence finds little support for wide-scale job losses or relocations arising from strengthening of environmental policies in the U.S. Continue reading…


Coal Ash Regulation Creates Jobs

This post first appeared on Triple Crisis.

Does environmental protection destroy jobs? That may be the strongest argument that the pro-pollution lobby has going for it. No one wants to endorse dirty air and water in so many words, but hey, we’re just trying to save jobs at a time when millions are out of work. In one of the latest reincarnations of this idea, the electric utility industry claims that regulating the disposal of coal ash could eliminate up to 316,000 jobs.

Ever sensitive to industry’s needs and wishes, Republicans in the House of Representatives have drafted a bill to ban federal regulation of coal ash, H.R. 2273. It’s expected to reach the floor of the House for a vote this week. Lobbyists supporting H.R. 2273 helpfully point out that it will stop the destruction of 316,000 jobs.

A quick reality check: regulating coal ash disposal means using earth-moving equipment, which doesn’t drive itself, constructing new facilities which don’t build themselves, and so on. Close your eyes and try to picture this, and you may see some workers on the premises. Environmental regulation generally creates jobs, including lots of blue-collar jobs in construction and manufacturing. Continue reading…