- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
Unemployment is currently hovering just over 9 percent and the long-term outlook from so-called economical experts does not see a great improvement any time soon. However, try to find out just who those experts are or what the actual employment data really is becomes an effort in futility. Each week, there is a government report that provides data on what the unemployment picture was for the previous week. They also have to adjust past data for new data that was received. One report will provide data showing that jobs were added. But then, another report claims total jobs actually declined.
On the other hand, we have come to expect nothing but spin from politicians. But some facts are just truths that cannot be spun. Consider the shape of the environment in the 1960s. The problem is what should it be compared to. We can only imagine how our rivers and streams looked in the 1890s. There are some photographic evidence for what they looked like in the 1930s. However, the best references would be personal experience. I can recall as a youngster in the 1950s that I could fish off a boat in many lakes or my great aunt’s dock and literally see the fish gather around the bait.
Twenty years later, those experiences are hard to find. My grandparents lived within a mile of a gasoline refinery. I hated being there when the wind came from that direction as the air was nearly unbearable because it stank so strongly.
Consider all of the jobs that have been created to clean our lakes, streams and air. Think of all the people that make regular reports, research innovative environmental science, build environmental equipment, etc. There are 100s of thousands at the EPA. There are 10s of thousands at each state. There are thousands of environmental consulting firms that each employs thousands of engineers. It is easy to see that this adds up to millions of jobs created because of environmental regulations.
But don’t stop reading my opinion at this point. I am sure that many reading this are jumping to the conclusion that I am just being a government lackey. Not so at all.
From personal experience, I can testify that our air and water are much improved today compared to 50 years ago. Business knew they had problems but very few leaders were willing and some were just not able to be the first to start taking corrective steps. The EPA was established and tackled the task of creating a level playing field and setting achievable goals for business to strive to achieve. At some point in time, it changed to a competition between companies to be better environmentally than their opposition. Environmental engineers started sitting in on staff meetings. Colleges created more classes for the topic. Associations blossomed and people of like-minded objectives gathered together to share experiences.
A lot of really great things have been accomplished due to the environmental regulations. But, while business has always claimed they could not take each step because they just could not afford it, the reality was that they could not afford not to take action. The steps that were taken actually helped business increase their market reach. This is due to the fact that the United States led the world in achieving environmental success and our EPA was often invited to other countries to help them establish their programs.
Businesses are crying that tough environmental regulations are stifling their ability to continue to grow and create jobs. Sadly, it is a little like the fable of the boy calling wolf too many times. Also sadly, I think some of the stuff coming out now does stifle growth and will end up losing jobs. The tragedy is that the environmentalists that have worked their way into positions of decision makers cannot see the damage they will wreak. President Obama put out an executive order to all the agencies to review their regulations and consider backing off those that are causing business problems and costing jobs. I was not privy to behind the door conversations but, to me, it does not appear that any of his subordinates are in any way taking this seriously even though they are coming out with statements to the contrary.
Let’s take energy for an example. It started with speeches from Obama during the election campaign and I have previously linked to them. He stated distinctly that energy rates “would necessarily skyrocket.” That prophecy has certainly come true and without the opposition against some of the plans, the prices for everything from gasoline to power to homes would be even higher than it is. The result is an uncertain way forward and a problem for businesses to have a 5-year plan with any certainty. This uncertainty adds no jobs.
Another part of the energy story is lighting. We are all aware that the government is requiring that we all begin phasing out incandescent bulbs starting in January 2012. Some members of congress have said this is not true but the actual intent is true. Incandescent bulbs can only be sold if they meet specific standards that they cannot meet. All of the alternative lights will be much more expensive and have additional drawbacks. The argument is that the new bulbs will reduce energy usage so much as to offset the additional cost of the bulb. But those same people are ignoring the additional environmental problems and the additional manufacturing costs and the jobs that will be sacrificed. I heard one proponent the other day on a radio interview compare this change to the automobile causing makers of horse carriages to go out of business. He forgets that it was the consumer that led the change to automobiles. Also, Mr. Ford worked quite hard to provide a product that was price competitive to the carriage makers so that the consumer had more of a choice rather than a mandate. For regulations to be effective, they must be applied in the light of public scrutiny and with care to avoid negative impacts. Then we create a better environment and more jobs.