Labor Day 2014:
A Time to Refute the Myth of Jobs vs. the Environment
Baton Rouge – The Baton Rouge Group of the Sierra Club marked the occasion of Labor Day 2014 by calling for an end to the myth of “Jobs versus the Environment.”
“We hear continually from some politicians and pundits that regulations to protect the environment and human health cost jobs,” said Sam Wilcher, member of the BR Group Executive Committee. “But those regulations not only save lives – they also provide jobs.”
Wilcher cited a recent (2011) study by the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute that concluded that two new air quality rules from would create nearly 1.5 million jobs, or nearly 300,000 jobs a year on average over the next five years.
The UMass study also concluded:
“Since 1970, investments to comply with the Clean Air Act have provided $4 to $8 in
economic benefits for every $1 spent on compliance, according to the nonpartisan Office
of Management and Budget. Since the passage of the Clean Air Act Amendments in
1990, U.S. average electricity rates (real) have remained flat even as electric utilities have
invested hundreds of billions of dollars to cut their air pollution emissions. During the same period, America’s overall GDP increased by 60 percent in inflation-adjusted terms.”
“We hear the same story about job loss from the same players when any new regulations, such as those currently proposed for carbon emissions, ground level ozone, and water pollution, are put forward,” said Wilcher. “But the record shows that these doom and gloom claims have never been true.”
Wilcher pointed out that the same politicians and pundits who attack environmental and health regulations as “job-killers” routinely ignore the job growth in clean energy industries such as solar power. “Solar power is a growth industry,” said Wilcher, “and has experienced several record years. 2013 was the industry’s largest year on record for installations of solar systems, and in 2013 there were nearly 143,000 solar workers in the U.S., a 20% increase over 2012.”
In Louisiana, the solar industry has grown from about 5 firms to over 200 in the last four years. Around 1000 full-time solar industry jobs were created in Louisiana between 2009 and 2012, and an additional 2,000 full time jobs are expected to be created in the state by 2015.
Some Louisiana politicians are holding the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline up as a desired job-creator. Since the Pipeline would not be constructed in Louisiana, it is unknown how many jobs the state might gain if it were built, though some state-based firms could participate.
“Unlike the construction jobs that are predicted to be created [in states it crosses] if the Keystone XL Pipeline were built, the jobs created by the solar industry in Louisiana are long-term jobs,” said Wilcher, “without the negative environmental and health impacts that the Pipeline would bring if it were built.” Although the State Department’s January 2014 report predicted that 42,000 construction-related jobs would be created on a national level during the Pipeline’s estimated two year building period, it also concluded:
“Once the proposed Project enters service, operations would require an estimated 50 total
employees: 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.” (p. 4.10-5)
“Clean air and renewable energy can create jobs without an environmental legacy of pollution, health impacts, and sea-level rise,” said Wilcher. “It’s clearly an area where Louisiana needs more investment, and that investment will create long-term jobs.”
For more information on the activities of the Baton Rouge Group and the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club, go to www.lasierraclub.org.
University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute, “Employment Effects Under Planned Changes to the EPA’s Air Pollution Rules” (2011); http://www.eenews.net/assets/2011/02/08/document_gw_01.pdf
Solar Energy Industries Association, “Solar Industry Data,” http://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-industry-data
Gulf States Renewable Energy Industry Association, “Industry Impacts,” http://www.gsreia.org/jobs-community/
U.S. Department of State, “Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement Keystone XL Project,” http://keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/documents/organization/221186.pdf