Obama’s Environmental Agenda: Will it Help or Hurt the Manufacturing Sector?

Well I guess it was just a matter of time before the opposition to a new, potentially progressive environmental policy began to spread across the media like roach trails on a dirty counter top.
It’s no secret that President-elect Obama is likely to push for a massive increase in renewable energy investment, and a drastic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Not surprisingly, the latter isn’t sitting well with the folks that are responsible for a big chunk of those emissions.

Last Friday there was an article in the Pittsburgh Business Times about how Obama’s environmental agenda could impact manufacturing operations in the U.S. Here’s an interesting excerpt from that article:

Climate change, first of all, presupposes assumptions that David Taylor of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association says are unproven, such as the assumption that climate change is caused by human industrial activity.

I’m trying to figure out how much longer we’ll have to play this game of “Do humans have any impact on climate change.” I suppose I could provide the thousands of pages of peer-reviewed data that could answer this question. But the deniers wouldn’t take the time to read it anyway. So let’s move on to Taylor’s second issue that was highlighted in the article, which is that the costs to implement emissions-curbing technology could place a burden on manufacturers, resulting in decreased output.
Well, I guess that all depends on which manufacturers you’re talking about. After all, in Taylor’s home state of Pennsylvania, there have already been some pretty impressive advantages for the manufacturing sector, thanks primarily to the state’s push for clean energy.
In 2004, Spanish wind turbine manufacturer, Gamesa, located its first North American plant in Johnstown, PA. Today, that plant is operational, and the workers are represented by the United Steel Workers of America. Gamesa is now building three more manufacturing facilities on the site of a closed steel mill, and is investing in eighteen wind farms throughout the keystone state. These wind farms, by the way, are expected to create over a thousand jobs during the next five years.
After Gamesa began operations in Pennsylvania, other renewable energy firms followed. Iberdrola, which is one of the world’s largest investors in renewable energy, is locating its North American headquarters in Pennsylvania, and Solar behemoth, Conergy is setting up its next manufacturing plant in the state too. So far, 3,500 new jobs have been connected to the state’s clean energy economy. And that’s just Pennsylvania. Here are a few things to consider on the national level…
* According to Roger Bezdek, President of Management Information Services, Inc. and co-author of the Hirsch Report, renewable energy and energy efficiency industries have created a total of 8.5 million jobs (direct and indirect). He also went on to state that as many as one out of four workers in the U.S. will be working in the renewable energy or energy efficiency industries by 2030. These jobs include engineering, manufacturing, construction, accounting, and management.
* The Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated that a national renewable portfolio standard of 20 percent would create an additional 185,000 new jobs from renewable energy development, and save consumers $10.5 billion lower electricity and natural gas bills by 2020.
* A report from the US Council of Mayors has projected that 4.2 million new green jobs can be added to the US economy by 2038.
Of course, the question still remains: Will the costs to implement emissions-curbing technology place a burden on some manufacturers? Perhaps. But it will also spur investment and growth for other manufacturers that provide a cleaner way of doing business. So should we forgo progress because the “business-as-usual” crew can’t keep up with the demands of the modern world? My friends, if that’s how we did things, I’d be writing this on a typewriter right now.
Listen: Climate change legislation IS going to happen. They can give us a thousand excuses why it’s not fair, and continue to fight it. Or they can make a legitimate effort to work with legislators to make sure the transition to less-pollutive operations is not a painful one, and perhaps even work out to be a profitable one. As Jim Rogers, the CEO of Duke Energy put it: “If you’re not at the table [when cap rules are written], you’re going to be on the menu.”
At the end of the day, we do have to work together to ensure a cleaner environment and a profitable manufacturing sector. But that must start with an understanding that the old way of doing business (i.e.- operating without regard for the environment or natural capital) will not be acceptable in the future. Those who embrace this, and operate accordingly will be rewarded. Those who don’t, will simply struggle and die off like the dinosaurs they are.

I am the co-founder and managing editor of Green Chip Stocks. We are an independent investment research service focused exclusively on "green" markets.

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