Pollution abatement costs and expenditures by industry

[$17.7 billion total]

Mining (operating costs) 3%

Mining (capital costs) 2%

Electric utility industry (capital costs) 6%

Electric utility industry (operating costs) 7%

Electric utility industry (capital costs) 6%

Electric utility industry (operating costs) 7%

source: Adapted from "Summary of 1999 Survey Results," in Pollution Abatement Costs and Expenditures: 1999, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, November 2002, http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/ma200-99.pdf(accessed July 20, 2005)

source: Adapted from "Summary of 1999 Survey Results," in Pollution Abatement Costs and Expenditures: 1999, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, November 2002, http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/ma200-99.pdf(accessed July 20, 2005)

chemicals ($3.8 billion) and petroleum/coal product manufacturing ($1.7 billion).

It is not surprising that business and industry leaders object to these costs. Some claim that environmental regulations will make their businesses unprofitable by driving up prices and production costs, which will in turn force them to close plants and lay off workers, if not shut down entirely. As early as the 1970s these sentiments were finding support among politicians and the general population, and an antiregulatory movement developed.

does environmental protection destroy jobs? By the end of the twentieth century, the large-scale layoffs that some businesspeople predicted had not come to pass. Michael Renner, in State of the World 2000 (New York: Worldwatch Institute and W. W. Norton Company, 2000), states that job loss as a result of environmental regulation has been relatively limited. According to Renner, at least as many people have gained jobs, due to the restrictions, as have lost them. He points out that environmental regulations have led to the creation of an entirely new industry that earns its profits by assisting other businesses with compliance, mostly by helping them to minimize pollution.

Even for those who accept this positive view of the overall effects of environmental regulation on business, it is unquestionable that some industries and their workers are badly hurt by environmental regulations. Renner contends that policy changes intended to protect the environment must have a clear and predetermined schedule. This way workers will know in advance what is expected of them, what jobs will be in demand, and what training is needed to get them into those positions. As long as environmental regulation results in shrinking profits and loss of jobs, however, attempts to expand such regulation will certainly be met with opposition from those whose livelihood would be affected.

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