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Rick Nolan on the economics of environmentalism

by Jeff Rosenberg on October 10, 2012 · 1 comment

There’s one more excerpt I wanted to highlight from yesterday’s debate between Rick Nolan and Chip Cravaack, particularly because it relates to another post on MPP yesterday. Dan wrote yesterday that Our candidates shouldn’t shy from climate talk, emphasizing that independent voters agree with Democrats on climate change.

Republicans often attack environmentalists as anti-business. Chip Cravaack is no exception. Democrats, unfortunately, often don’t know how to defend their position. Rick Nolan doesn’t seem to have that problem, and I wanted to highlight his response here:

CRAVAACK: You have said that regulations actually create jobs. You said the EPA actually creates jobs. Well maybe they do in Washington, but they sure don’t create jobs back home.

NOLAN: Well, you know, if you look at the statistics, you’re just wrong on that point. The environmental industry created more jobs in this country than any other sector of the industry.

Just a few years ago, acid rain was destroying our forests and our lakes. And regulations came in and said “you can’t do that.” And guess what: The coal-fired power plants had to build scrubbers, to put on their plants, to scrub the sulfur out; the automobile industry had to put on what ultimately became the catalytic converter, to scrub the sulfuric emissions out of their exhaust. Someone had to build the catalytic converter, someone had to build the scrubbers, someone had to install them, someone had to maintain them.

It’s a classy example of how a regulation ended up saving our forest and our lakes, which were being destroyed at the time, and we did it in a way that at the end of the day created a lot of good jobs.

All too often, Democrats simply concede this point. We let Republicans paint environmentalism as bad for business, and that’s how we lose the independents, even though they agree with us on climate change. Nolan doesn’t concede that point, and he’s right not to.

We shouldn’t treat environmentalism and combating climate change as sacrifices. We can do the right thing and have a booming economy at the same time. As Nolan points out, solving the acid rain problem was actually good for business. Climate change can be the same way. It’s high time for us to fight climate change — and build a new generation of green businesses while we do it.  

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