Wednesday, February 11, 2009

California Dreamin’

At the end of last year, California approved a plan to implement regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the state. As part of this process, they conducted an economic analysis which concluded that the regulatory plan would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and have a net positive impact on the state’s economy. However, there was a problem. Five independent economists selected by the state to critique the economic analysis disagreed with its conclusions (see Wall Street Journal article below).

Pretending that it will not cost anything to make the enormous changes to our energy system, and way of life, that will be required to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions is shortsighted. We need to have a frank discussion about the costs in order to craft effective policies.

But even more concerning is the fact that the costs of California-esque regulations extend far beyond our pocketbooks. Ironically, there will be some real environmental costs to these types of regulations. While it may be convenient to divide the world up into "green" and "brown" jobs, and pass regulations to promote the former, what the regulators fail to realize is that a "brown" job in America gets a heck of a lot browner when it moves overseas.

If we are going to have a frank discussion about energy and the environment then we need to acknowledge this fact: every manufacturing job in America is a green job when compared to that same manufacturing job in China. There isn’t a “green” economy or a “brown” economy. There is only one global economy.

Since 1998, this country has lost over 5 million manufacturing jobs. California accounts for 440,000 of those lost manufacturing jobs, while Minnesota accounts for over 71,000. If this country’s economy is going to recover, we have to start making things again – real things – that have real value. If we are going to take a leadership role on the environment, we are going to have to acknowledge the fact that it makes a lot more sense to promote clean industry in the United States than fuel the growth of dirty industry overseas. Restoring economic growth will need to include manufacturing new clean energy technology, but for the foreseeable future it will also include the manufacture of existing energy technology. We do not need to create false choices. We cannot afford to.

Dividing our country up into red and blue states did not do much to promote the bipartisanship that is required to address our nation’s most serious challenges. Dividing the job market into “green” and “brown” jobs is not going to aid our economic recovery either.

For more: “California's 'Green Jobs' Experiment Isn't Going Well”

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