EPA Carbon Rules
8:02 pm
Sun June 15, 2014

Cutting Carbon Emissions: Creating Or Killing Jobs?

The Environment Protection Agency’s proposed regulations on carbon emissions released earlier this month are sparking debate on whether the rule changes will create jobs or kill jobs.

Credit (Veronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)

The new rules seek to reduce American’s carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. States have until June 30, 2016 to draft plans for how to reduce their average emissions.

In Missouri, more than 79 percent of the state's electricity was generated by burning coal in 2012. The EPA is proposing a 21 percent drop in carbon dioxide emissions in Missouri. This means lowering the emissions from 1,963 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour to 1,544 pounds per megawatt hour in 2030.

There are conflicting opinions on what these changes mean for jobs and the economy. 

The Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that it will mean 3,900 new jobs in Missouri, mostly focused on energy efficiency by 2020. In a fact sheet, the NRDC  spells out how the focus on energy efficiency will require expertise in a wide range of fields:

"There will be greater demand for electricians, heating/air-conditioning installers, carpenters, construction equipment operators, roofers, insulation workers, industrial truck drivers, construction managers, and building inspectors."

Credit (NRDC)

Nationwide, the NRDC put the number of new jobs at 250,000 --jobs created as a result of stimulated growth in the energy efficiency industry.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce disputes those numbers. Instead it estimated an average of 220,000 fewer jobs annually through 2030. The senior director of communications for the Chamber's Energy Institute, Matt Letourneau, said huge amounts of money will be tied up in revamping the electric grid.

"That means there’s a lot of capital, and a lot of man hours and manpower that are going to get tied up by rebuilding what you already have," he said. "That’s investment that could have gone elsewhere, could have gone into other industries that are actually growing the economy."

Credit (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

In its report, the Chamber broke the numbers down by region, estimating about 27,000 fewer jobs each year in the upper Midwest, a region that includes Missouri.

All of this remains theoretical, however. The EPA is seeking public comments for several months on the draft proposal and will not finalize the rules for another year. Meanwhile, several states have threatened lawsuits or noncompliance if the rules move forward.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Help Inform Our Coverage

Please help St. Louis Public Radio report on this story. Click here to become a source in the Public Insight Network and share what you know about the EPA's proposals to reduce carbon emissions.