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Regulators, Business Must Work Together for Clean-Energy Economy
March 31, 2014

Field of solar panels
The nation’s largest solar facility opened in February with about 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors, located on federal land in Nevada.

By Charlene Porter
IIP Staff Writer
28 March 2014

The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to bridge a gulf that some see separating environmental regulations and strong economic growth. Creating a clean-energy economy, an Obama administration imperative, demands that those two perspectives align, said Gina McCarthy at a March 28 Washington event.

“A healthy environment in no way should be jeopardizing a healthy economy because we can have both,” McCarthy said, “and that is the lens that President Obama has had us look through in the development of our energy and environmental policies.”

The EPA administrator was speaking at the National Renewable Energy Forum, attended by representatives of companies and organizations trying to gain a toehold in a rapidly evolving industry with fast-changing technologies.

McCarthy is one of the administration’s leading promoters of the Climate Action Plan that President Obama announced in June 2013. The plan is based on scientific findings that carbon dioxide emissions are causing the planet to warm as human use of carbon-based fuels has continually increased since the Industrial Revolution. Scientific projections also show that if humankind slows carbon dioxide output from last-century levels, the warming trends can be slowed in a way that causes less sea level rise, economic disruption and wildlife endangerment.

This 21st-century imperative arises in a 20th-century model of commerce. Traditionally, new technologies face resistance in the marketplace, reluctance from investors and opposition from established industries, which have a self-interest in protecting their market share. But McCarthy says the world is changing, and to be successful that change must be pursued.

“Forward-thinking people are cutting carbon pollution and expanding clean-energy markets,” McCarthy said. “Why? Because it’s not just the right thing to do, it is the economically sustainable, as well as the environmentally sustainable, thing to do.”

McCarthy offers plenty of examples of environmentally sustainable business activity and its resulting job creation, achieved at the same time new technologies reduce carbon dioxice emissions and advance the nation’s progress toward a clean-energy economy. Government regulation requiring automakers to produce vehicles with greater fuel efficiency is sparking new innovation and new consumer interest and creating more jobs, she says.

The number of large-scale solar energy production facilities around the country has doubled in recent years, McCarthy says, and wind power projects are also growing rapidly. In both cases, new jobs are being created to operate these systems and greater output of sustainably generated electric power keeps the country’s pulse beating.

Implementation of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan is bringing a level of cooperation among energy experts and environmental regulators that McCarthy thinks is long overdue. Recalling her experience working in a state regulatory agency, the EPA head said the energy sectors and the environmental sectors have existed in separate worlds for too long.

President Obama has demanded that federal energy and environment agencies start moving on parallel tracks to work in cooperation to reduce carbon emissions and create a clean-energy economy. She said the two camps may see conflict and barriers in pursuit of that goal, but dialogue will overcome those problems to serve “normal human beings who actually want to have jobs, who want to breathe clean air and who want lights to turn on when they flip that switch.”

McCarthy pledged that EPA will work with anyone in the energy sector to devise regulations that will help create incentives for production of more clean energy.