The new EPA clean air standards call for new plant construction, investments in pollution controls, and the phasing out of older, inefficient coal plants. A report by environmental group CERES and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, ("New Jobs—Cleaner Air: Employment Effects under Planned Changes to EPA’s Air Pollution Rules") argues that the jobs created will be high-paying, skilled labor positions and intensive professional jobs. On average, 290,000 jobs will be created in each of the next five years.
"Americans can expect significant economic gains from implementing these new EPA rules in the form of highly-skilled, well-paying jobs that will help us clean up and modernize the nation’s power plant fleet," said Mindy S. Lubber, president of CERES.
The proposed EPA regulations are causing quite a stir between the political left and right over the impact on jobs, because of limits imposed upon plants and industrial facilities, but CERES—albeit with some likely bias toward investment in green jobs—argues that regulations will actually improve job growth, rather than hinder it.
"Given the state of the economy, many are concerned about the new air pollution regulations’ impact on jobs. Our research demonstrates that robust employment growth will take place alongside efforts to reduce harmful emissions," said Dr. James Heintz, PERI's Associate Director and Assistant Research Professor.
But it seems the real question is about innovation—while leaders have given the topic of innovation considerable attention lately, especially in the face of competition from Asia, new regulations actually make room for new ideas, given new restraints. And it seems that the left and right are missing that element in their debates.
So if not from the power regulations themselves, perhaps the innovations will come from the health benefits?
The health angle is being waved around by the EPA and its proponents.
"Now is the time to give Americans the clean, healthy air they deserve by putting American workers back on the job modernizing our electric generating fleet," said David Foerter, executive director of the Institute of Clean Air Companies.
"Health protections mean a more productive workforce, fewer sick days for employees and consumers that are spending less on medical bills and more on the economy," said EPA head, Lisa Jackson.
Less sick time presumably means more time to ideate and spend time with co-workers brainstorming new solutions as well. The EPA has said that around $120 to $290 billion will be saved in annual health fees in 2014 and that 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths will be avoided. So let's hope that some of those life hours are also devoted to thinking outside the rhetoric of job growth or job loss and instead what sustainable, scalable innovations the U.S. needs to move out of its current economic slump.
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[Image: Flickr user Uwe Hermann]