The uproar over new Environmental Protection Agency regulations focused on reducing carbon emission pollutants inevitably provoked indignation and predictions of thousands of jobs lost in the coal industry. Yet neither opponents nor supporters of tougher enforcement of the Clean Air Act discuss the innovation and jobs that only new regulations create.
Local news reported a statement from the Tennessee Valley Authority that it has already reduced emissions from TVA power plants by 30 percent from the level those facilities belched out in 2005, and expect the rate to decline another 10 percent by 2020.
How did the TVA accomplish this reduction? How many jobs emerged from requiring new and different methods of power production?
The industry needed people to develop the technology, build, install and operate the device or equipment necessary to meet new standards. A whole new industry awaits the political will to mandate its creation.
The lack of regulations, combined with the lack of enforcing what regulations already exist, simply encourages the energy industry to continue operating in the same cheapest and often the dirtiest methods available. One doesn’t have to be a history buff who knows what Pittsburgh or Akron smelled and looked like in the early 20th century to recognize where unfettered industry leads. Just look at reports from Beijing, China, months before it hosted the 2008 Olympics. City leaders worked to clean up their air before competition began, and again only a few weeks ago with air so toxic entrepreneurs brought canned and bottled “fresh, mountain air” to the choking city dwellers.
Critics of carbon control efforts bray that America curbing emissions will do nothing but hobble our businesses on the world market. The proper response to that complaint is, do we really want to be like China?
J. CHRIS HENRY