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How Environment vs Economy Could be a Win-Win Situation

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Environment and Economy: NOT Mutually Exclusive
Environment and Economy: NOT Mutually Exclusive

Every time someone, whether it be scientists, the federal government, or environment activists, suggest that we need to cut emissions and reduce pollution, the other side of the argument is always, “but it’ll ruin the economy!”

The short answer to that retort is, perhaps reflected best in the words of Elon Musk (regarding hydrogen fuel cell vehicles) “Bu1l$h1t!” Now, while I don’t particularly agree with Musk’s stance on hydrogen, I can understand his point. On the other hand, his response perfectly aligns with what I think about the short-sighted fools who say that one cannot address our impact on the environment without sacrificing the economy.

True, the economy is just recovering, but how is it that these people see “the environment” and “the economy” as two mutually-exclusive objectives? For example, back in 2010, while the country was debating clean energy policy, aimed at cutting CO2 emissions by 17%, the CBO (Congressional Budget Office [pdf]) calculated the impact on the economy to be, in the long term, exactly nil. Whoa, what about those poor coal miners in Ohio, and fracking operations in Pennsylvania, won’t they lose their jobs?

Yes, the CBO states, emissions-heavy jobs, like coal-mining and fracking, will be lost, perhaps by the thousands. Cutting emissions to reduce our impact on the environment is actually a job-creator, not a job-slasher, as some would assert. The CBO’s 2010 report went on to say that regulation, such as the EPA’s new power-plant emissions legislation, would favor clean-energy and emissions-reduction technology, creating as many as 500,000 new jobs in the clean energy sector alone, a significant boost to the economy.

At the same time, reducing emissions would also help to reduce medical and insurance costs, two drains on the economy that some people manage to miss. Health care for asthma sufferers, many of whom live in areas with high concentrations of PM2.5, costs as much as $18 billion annually! Certainly saving $18,000,000,000 per year and adding half-a-million jobs would result in an economic boost?

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