Current government regulations in the power plant industry are lauded as being the “most extensive intervention into the power market and job market that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has ever attempted to implement”. coal-fired power plantThe rules entail large reductions of mercury and sulfur dioxide produced by coal-fired plants, leading EPA to estimate the cost for upgrading the plants to be around $12 billion.  Claims of forthcoming job losses associated with the new regulations are based on previously studied government regulations implemented over the last 10 years, but as always, there are two sides to every story.

Government studies show that similar regulations create new jobs with sustainable means over the jobs that are being eliminated; most of the time this process culminates in increased prices and the shutdown of the dirtiest coal plants, causing uproar amongst those being affected. But according to former EPA policy analyzer and Resources of the Future member Richard Morgenstern, “the job creation and the job destruction roughly cancel each other out.” 

Morgenstern has conducted over 10 years of studies detailing how past regulations have affected specific industries in paper, plastics, petroleum, and steel showing a combined total of $4.9 billion in costs and 14,000 jobs lost. These immediate changes caused quick responses from each of the industries to conform, and also be in accordance to the new regulations; as a result, 29,000 jobs were created and the firms were automatically brought into compliance with the new regulations.

These swift and abrupt changes are never going to be greeted wholeheartedly by those being affected. The truth of the matter is that the line has to be drawn somewhere with respect to regulation in order for progress to occur. There are always two sides to every story. The status quo will never be static, and that is proving to be a good thing for the future.

To take a look at the negative responses as well as the potential for job creation associated to these latest regulations @ businessweek.com.

coal-fired power plant photo via shutterstock.com