Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Climate Change < Jobs

This article first appeared on The Epoch Times    

     There is a monumental policy split between most Democrats and most Republicans when it comes to climate change and global warming.  This policy difference has become a major issue during the midterm election season and is poised to continue throughout the 2016 presidential election season.  Why is there such a schism between most Democrats and most Republicans concerning this issue?  One clear answer is jobs.

     With the economy (slowly) recovering from a downward spiral, jobs are still scarce despite positive numbers from the most recent jobs report, which many economists have begun to examine through a very skewed lens.  The fact of the matter is, jobs and the economy are the most important issues to American voters, even more so than foreign policy, defense spending, and yes, climate change.  At the moment, climate change mitigation measures are job killers and there are few policies for bringing back the jobs lost through these measures.

     Republicans have been hammering the Obama administration on the "war on coal."  Coal plants are one of the largest producers of greenhouse gases and have been linked to substantially contribute to global warming.  This week, it was reported that the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing the most drastic anti-pollution regulations yet.  The EPA is taking aim at mitigating carbon emissions from existing coal plants, a distinct difference from previous policies that just focused on new plants.  Such regulations have forced several coal plants to shut down causing widespread job loss among the coal community.  These regulations have also contributed to schisms within the Democratic Party with members such as Joe Manchin, (D-WV), and Mary Landrieu, (D-LA) criticizing the administration for killing jobs in the name of climate responsibility.  As Darren Goode of POLITICO stated recently, the Obama administration's new regulations require a balancing act between jobs and the environment.  In Kentucky alone, the coal industry has lost over 2,000 jobs causing Democratic Senate candidate Allison Lundergan Grimes to denounce federal proposals.      

     The EPA has taken several approaches to mitigating climate change and pollution in the past given the political volatility in Congress, which has forced the president to bypass Congress.  Under the auspices of such legislation as the Clean Air Act, the EPA has enjoyed fair amounts of discretion in their abilities to carry out rules to satisfy their goals.  The Supreme Court recently heard a case involving the travel of air pollution from one state to the other and ruled that the Clean Air Act does allow the EPA to carry out such policies and intervene if a state's plan does not match federal guidelines.

     Just last week, however, the EPA announced a $3.6 million environmental job training grant to, "provide unemployed and under-employed, including veterans, minority, and predominately low income individuals with the comprehensive skills and certifications needed to enter full-time careers in the environmental field."  Such grants combined with green infrastructure development, the EPA hopes, will help curb unemployment while creating environmentally sound jobs.        

     Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, (R-FL) stated in an interview recently concerning climate change measures taken by the administration, "I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it [climate change], except it will destroy our economy."  For many who share Rubio's view, the Keystone XL pipeline is a no-brainer.  The pipeline is expected to create 9,000 jobs and "generate $20 billion in economic impact in the United States, including $99 million in local government revenues and $486 million in state government revenues during construction."  With the new found shale boom, the US is poised to become one of the largest exporters of oil and natural gas in the world as well.  Democrats, such as Landrieu whose constituency resides at the conclusion of the pipeline, would benefit substantially from it.  However, many pro-environmentalists believe the repercussions of such a large pipeline carrying the world's dirtiest oil, will further contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, further perpetuate reliance on fossil fuels, and fear potential spills similar to Mayflower, Arkansas.

     Some do not believe that alternative energy is safer or better than the Keystone pipeline or other forms of fossil fuels.  In fact, according to some, wind turbines are noisy, they devaluate property, and they can be detrimental to bird migration as they contribute to the deaths of millions of birds each year.

     Currently, the money is not there in terms of alternative energy the way it is for existing fossil fuels.  Furthermore, with elections on the horizon and Americans wondering when jobs will be returning, lawmakers will support any measure to bring forth the most jobs.  It is difficult to say if most Republicans (and some Democrats) would be so vehemently against climate change mitigation efforts if the alternatives for jobs lost were higher.  At least for now, jobs remain the pressing issue and until job training and rehabilitation programs and replacement jobs that match those lost come forth, such regulations will always face stark opposition in the face of an embattled economy.       

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