Clean air or jobs?

Discussion in 'Economy' started by CSM, Feb 16, 2005.

  1. CSM
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    CSM Senior Member

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    Officials Fight Air-Pollution Designations

    Wed Feb 16, 2:55 AM ET U.S. Government - AP

    By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer

    WASHINGTON - Robert Stec would like to help clean up the nation's dirty air, but at $1 million a plant to install air-pollution control technology, it would be cheaper for him to move his furniture manufacturing business overseas.

    "What good is fresh air if you have a lot of unemployed people breathing it?" asks Stec, president and CEO of Lexington Home Brands. The North Carolina furniture maker employs 1,700 workers at three plants, including one that's in a county with air pollution problems.

    "Domestic manufacturing is at a cost disadvantage anyway, so when you lay on all this extra environmental stuff ... it becomes the straw that breaks the camel's back," Stec said.

    Mayors and economic development officials say Stec's company is one of a growing number of businesses that are not inclined to expand or open new plants in areas cited by the federal government as having too much smog-causing ozone or microscopic soot.

    They consider the costs and permits required to operate in those places — called "non-attainment zones" because they have not achieved acceptable pollution levels — far too burdensome.

    "We're taken off of the look list," said Ted vonCannon, president of the Metropolitan Development Board in Birmingham, Ala. "Most of the time, we'll be dismissed right out of hand."

    This conflict between jobs and clean air has gained attention as lawmakers consider President Bush (news - web sites)'s air-pollution plan, which has failed to pass Congress for three years. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee was trying again this week to advance the plan, despite opposition in both parties.

    In Alabama, some automotive companies — Mercedes in Vance, Honda in Lincoln, Hyundai in Montgomery — opted to put their plants on sites that already complied with air pollution standards.

    "In our case, it was preferable for us to be in an attainment area because you didn't have the restrictions that you would have had in a non-attainment area," said Linda Sewell, a Mercedes spokeswoman who helped select the plant site in 1993.

    Some 509 counties nationwide have been cited over the last year as non-attainment zones by the Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites). The Clean Air Act requires states to develop a plan for reducing emissions in those areas, a prospect that creates uncertainty for businesses because they are likely to face restrictions on production and higher costs.

    Environmentalists say that's the way it should be and ask: What good are jobs when people are dying from respiratory illnesses and heart disease caused by polluted air?

    "If we move to aggressively clean up the air, that's actually the best way to ensure economic growth throughout the country," said Frank O'Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch. "Not only can people in these communities have clean air, but businesses can locate anywhere."

    Bush's plan would reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury by 70 percent by 2018. It also would bring non-attainment regions into compliance through a trading plan in which companies with emissions under the federal limit could sell credits to companies over the limit.

    Critics note, however, that actual emission levels are not lowered by the exchange.

    At two recent hearings, Sen. George Voinovich (news, bio, voting record), R-Ohio, cited the concerns of economic development officials as a critical reason the bill is needed.

    Democrats and environmental groups argue that Congress should instead pass a stronger bill that also would regulate carbon dioxide, the chief "greenhouse" gas blamed for global warming, and require faster emission reductions.

    A competing bill from Sen. James Jeffords (news - web sites), I-Vt., would reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels and cut the other pollutants by 72 percent to 90 percent by 2009. A proposal from Sen. Thomas Carper (news, bio, voting record), D-Del., calls for cuts in all four pollutants by a few years later.

    Meanwhile, Macon, Ga., Mayor Jack Ellis says while he hopes for a federal solution, he's also working hard to reduce the amount of particulate matter floating around his city's air.

    "If we don't do anything, we could very well be faced with not a lot of new industries coming in," Ellis said.


    I have no answers for this, but it seems to me there has to be a happy medium someplace.
     
  2. Huckleburry
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    What about all of the jobs created by the firm producing high tech clean air filters? Interesting that those who cry for protection conviently forget that their protection comes at the expense of someone else in the economy.
     
  3. CSM
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    CSM Senior Member

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    Why choose indeed. But then, where do the companies that create the "clean air systems" locate?
     
  4. Huckleburry
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    That is a good question. I do not know for sure but if I had to guess I would say the technology is developed in the US and most of the high tech components are built here as well. If you look at the trade schedual you will see that our comparitive advantage is greatest in financial services and high tech industry.
     
  5. CSM
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    CSM Senior Member

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    Of course, but those high tech industries are the ones causing a good amount of pollution themselves; they are not "clean" industries per say. SO where do they set up shop? The communities griping about pollution dont want them nearby so where do you put them? There has to be a balance between the economic needs of this country and the care of the environment. If we listen to the radical environmentalists, we would soon be living like pre European Native Americans, which may appeal to some re-enactor types, has no appeal to folks who are used to modern amenities. On the other hand, corporations (most of them anyway) look only at the bottom line and could give a rat's butt about the environment. Where is the center on this issue?
     
  6. Said1
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    China.
     
  7. CSM
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    CSM Senior Member

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    Oh yeah...great place for industry there...after all, they can pollute all they want and cheap labor too.
     
  8. Said1
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    I don't happen to think the production of clean air filters will replace jobs lost due to emission reductions ect as set by Kyoto. Call me a pessimist, but Kyoto limits growth.
     
  9. CSM
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    No question about that. In my opinion, the Kyoto thing is really an attempt to curb the US economy. After all, anything that has no teeth to it that excludes certain nations is not a fair treaty at all. Given the anti US sentiment from Europe and other places around the globe, bashing the US with Kyoto seems like a win win for the anti US crowd.
     
  10. Said1
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    It's funny that certain nations will still do business in places like China and India after signing Kyoto. Kinda hypocritical isn't it.
     

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