Good News! New Smog Regulations Could Cost 7.3 Million Jobs

posted at 2:15 pm on February 28, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

With a hat tip to Jammie Wearing Fool, we find the AP reporting on a rather inflammatory potential job loss number coming out of a new study on the effects of proposed Obama administration smog regulations.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Industry officials say with confidence that 7.3 million jobs will disappear if the Obama administration goes through with tighter rules to reduce smog. The industry-sponsored researcher who came up with that number isn’t so sure.

“There’s uncertainty around that,” economist Don Norman said of the “shockingly high” job loss number he extrapolated using a study sponsored by the oil and natural gas industry’s American Petroleum Institute and covering just 11 states.

This story actually serves as a cautionary tale from two different directions, and for once I’m inclined to at least partially agree with the AP’s conclusions. Studies concerning things that have happened can be quite conclusive, assuming you’re given enough time to collect and analyze all of the appropriate data. But studies on what may happen in the future should always find the savvy news shopper exercising some restraint.

The models in question are, by the admission of the researcher, all using worst case analysis numbers, so the true figures may be considerably lower. Factor that in with the fact that you’re never going to bat 100% in the prognostication business and you’ll probably find that 7.3 million figure rather hard to hang your hat on. But that doesn’t mean that the general direction of trends is in question.

One would imagine by now that the effects of too much regulation would be well known. And when you start applying environmental standards which carry a direct impact on business without taking that into account, the rule of unintended consequences is in play.

But let’s say that the 7.3 million figure is complete pie in the sky. (Though not a pie any of you would care to eat, I’m sure.) I think I can still agree with Don Norman.

“Even if the numbers are half of that, the number is huge,” he said.

We’re still at the point where any number of jobs going out the door rather than being created is too large of a figure. And that doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.


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