WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Environmental and labor organizations said Wednesday attempts to provide cleaner air do not have to result in lost jobs.
The coalition released a study by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for a Sustainable Economy that examines how efforts to control emissions thought responsible for global warming might affect the U.S. economy.
"Americans need to understand that we don't have to make the choice between a safe environment and good jobs and good economic development; we can achieve both," said Bruce Raynor, president of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, speaking via videoconference from Miami.
The study represents the start of a push toward that dual goal, he said. The study considered a four-part policy package designed to improve energy efficiency that included:
-- taxing fossil fuels based on their carbon content, combined with reducing labor taxes to keep the revenue impact neutral;
-- promoting research, development and commercialization of cleaner, more efficient energy technologies;
-- maintaining U.S. competitiveness by adjusting the fuel-tax structure for disproportionately affected products, and;
-- creating job-transition packages for workers in industries affected by the changes.
Projections based on the package show the United States would reduce its emissions 33 percent by 2020, the study said. At the same time, the plan would create about 660,000 new jobs by the end of this decade, and an additional 800,000 by 2020, largely because of growth in renewable-energy businesses.
Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, said the results might be difficult to accept, but precedent exists. The group is working in California to make solar power more affordable, and the plan will employ many union workers to install solar systems, he said from Miami.
"There's another bonus for dollars we spend on renewable energy and energy-efficient technology," Pope said. "It all stays in the country, bolstering our economy."
Another example of existing labor-environmental cooperation is found in the Pacific Northwest's aluminum industry, said David Foster, director of the United Steelworkers of America's District 11. The situation had been in a bit of a standoff in recent years; aluminum smelters, which require vast amounts of electricity, had relied on hydropower, which among other drawbacks threatens salmon species.
Last year's energy crisis caused layoffs among smelter staff, and environmental groups were among those calling for retraining programs and other assistance, Foster said. The union pushed for the aluminum companies to develop more earth-friendly, renewable electricity sources such as wind power, he said.
"It is out of concrete experiences such as this one that I have come to realize that a healthy environment is essential to a healthy economy," Foster said.
Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, said some businesses and their employees obviously would feel the impact of clean-air programs. He is glad the environmental movement is including their concerns in planning future actions.
The report is not alone in its conclusions, said Kevin Knobloch, executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. A UCS study of energy-efficient cars mirrors the EPI/CSE research, he said.
"Increasing the fuel economy of our nation's fleet of new cars and light trucks to 55 miles per gallon by 2020 ... will result in the increase of 100,000 new auto industry jobs," Knobloch said.
The Bush administration's clean-air proposals represent the worst of old thinking, Knobloch said, subsidizing inefficient technology and pushing the consequences on to future generations.
The Sierra Club's Pope said the Senate probably has the votes to defeat another White House plan opposed by environmentalists and some labor groups -- oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Senate is more likely to seriously consider raising automobile fuel-efficiency standards, he said.
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