Economists have long known something that politicians apparently do not: If you need to impose expensive environmental regulations, there’s no better time than during a recession. Or so says macroeconomist Josh Bivens, writing in New Scientist.
In fact, says Bivens, when the economy is sucking wind, environmental regulations actually create jobs, for three reasons:
1. Investments in technology to reduce pollution don’t suck up money that would otherwise be invested in other stuff, because there isn’t any other stuff for that money to do.
2. Increases in energy costs aren’t passed on to consumers during recessions, because there is tons of spare capacity in the energy system. When times are tough, businesses are already using less electricity and fossil fuels and all the rest than they normally would, so the price of energy goes down, regardless. Also, corporate profit margins in the U.S. are at a 45-year high, so there’s plenty of buffer in those margins against increasing energy costs.
3. New environmental regulations mean new jobs building cleaner sources of energy and other goods, or cleaning up the old ones.
Bivens’ own research suggests that the EPA’s new rule on toxins in power plants would create 100,000 new jobs all by itself.