In his weekly radio address tomorrow, President Obama will discuss the new rules to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. One might be tempted to think this is just a boring old regulatory matter ("Who cares what EPA rule 111(d) says?!"). But the ramifications are huge, and not just for the climate. This announcement, which the EPA is expected to make on Monday, portends a whopping new jobs opportunity for the country: The new rules will give businesses in the states a chance to torque up their plans to develop and manufacture advanced products -- via good paying jobs -- in response to the new requirement.
For example, businesses in some states might form or enhance industrial clusters to make the products that will make U.S. buildings and factories more energy efficient. Businesses in other states will see the opportunity in making the lightweight materials for wind turbine blades, cars or boats. In other states, business clusters might amp up their production of batteries for clean energy storage or electric cars. In Pennsylvania, an industrial group might take root around finding solutions to the environmental challenges with natural gas fracking. Alaska can stoke businesses and supply chains to harness tidal energy off of the Aleutian Islands. Georgia and Iowa might become the go-to states for advanced biofuels from forest or farm waste, and could develop those technologies and manufacture the machines necessary for U.S. bio-refineries. Imagine Florida as the epicenter of advanced solar panels, shingles, roads -- you name it -- exporting them to other states and countries. West Virginia and Kentucky might become the experts on clean coal technologies. Idaho and Utah can pull geothermal heat from the ground; New Jersey might be able to advance safe, modular nuclear energy plants. From purple mountains majesty to amber waves of grain, every state has something to offer in response to our president's decisive commitment to reducing carbon pollution.
And every state can benefit by adopting policies to make it irresistible to advanced manufacturing jobs clusters.
We've all been wringing our hands over the "hollowing out of the middle class" and the "structural changes" the U.S. economy has undergone as a result of the global shift in manufacturing jobs. But the advanced products necessary to help the world reduce carbon emissions do not have to be made half a world away. Advanced manufacturing is increasingly co-locating with R&D, and returning to the U.S. Why? Manufacturing costs are falling in the U.S. because of the low cost of natural gas and manufacturing costs are climbing in other countries because labor costs are rising there. With Monday's upcoming announcement, the U.S. has a moment to roll up our sleeves and compete for the clean energy manufacturing sector - we don't have to throw up our hands and cede the fight. The U.S. can be the place where the solutions are found and the products manufactured to export to a world that will and must find ways to reduce carbon emissions. It matters not that climate nay-sayers have their doubts; a global market hungry for carbon-reducing products can transform even a climate-skeptical conservative into a clean energy capitalist.
Monday's announcement is already bringing a new round of political noise-making. Meanwhile, some states will strike the sounds of the future with the whir and pop of new manufacturing in industries of growth. Let the clatter begin.