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How EPA Climate Protection Can Be America's Greatest Jobs Producer

Climate change is destroying American jobs right now — but climate protection will produce millions of new jobs. Here’s why.

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Climate protection: A new jobs program?

The next item on the EPA climate-protection agenda is regulation of emissions from existing power plants.  Predictably, opponents are claiming that such regulation will be “bad for jobs.”  The opposite is the case: EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions will be positive both for jobs and for the broader economy.

How many and what kind of jobs EPA regulation will create of course depends on the specific rules it establishes.  Let’s consider one example.  A study by Synapse Energy Economics developed a Transition Scenario for the electric power industry based on reducing energy consumption, phasing out high-emission power plants, and building new, lower-emission energy facilities.  The study estimated the number of “job years” — one new worker employed for one year — that would be created by the Transition Scenario over a decade.

•  444,000 job-years for construction workers, equivalent to 44,400 construction workers working full time for the entire decade.

•  90,000 job-years for operations and maintenance workers, equivalent to about 9,000 full time workers employed over the decade.

•  3.1 million indirect jobs for people designing, manufacturing, and delivering materials and jobs in local economies around the country induced by spending by workers hired in the Transition Scenario.

Of course, this is only one piece of the climate-protection puzzle.  A comprehensive program to convert to a climate safe economy will produce tens of millions of jobs.

When the US went from the Great Depression to World War II, it created millions of new jobs making the products needed for the war.  Faced with the devastating threat of global warming, the best protection for the future of our jobs and our communities is to create millions of jobs making what we need to protect us against climate change.

Jeremy Brecher is a historian whose new book  Save the Humans? Common Preservation in Action , published by  Paradigm Publishers , addresses how social movements make social change. He currently works with the  Labor Network for Sustainability . This piece is drawn from a longer, footnoted discussion paper  available here .

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