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John Arensmeyer

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Small Businesses See Economic Opportunity in Clean Energy Laws

Posted: 09/21/11 01:00 PM ET

As time passes and the economy remains stagnant, the sturm und drang grows ever louder over whether regulations are weighing down small businesses and making them unable to pull the country out its fiscal slump. Lawmakers continue to bang the anti-regulation drum, and auto dealers from around the country are heading to Washington, DC this week to press for legislation that would stall recently proposed fuel efficiency standards for at least a year.

But what do the actual small business owners who are purportedly being crushed by regulations think? They think its hogwash.

Take Maine small business owner Adam Lee, chairman of Lee Auto Malls. His family has been selling Mainers cars since 1936--and as a third generation auto salesman, it's safe to say he understands his customer base. Adam knows for a fact that higher fuel efficiency standards will only bring in more business. He looks forward to the president's proposed 54.5 miles per gallon requirement, noting, "people want the best gas mileage they can get because it saves money--stronger fuel economy requirements will help me give them that mileage and they'll in turn give me more business." Standards that increase fuel efficiency, like those requiring seat belts and air bags before them, will deliver innovations that consumers want without putting the product financially out of reach.

According to an opinion poll Small Business Majority released this week, 87 percent of small business owners feel the same way as Adam. Small business owners believe higher fuel efficiency standards are necessary if our nation is to innovate and grow the economy. What's more, 4 in 5 respondents support even higher standards than those proposed by President Obama, saying they'd like to see standards of 60 miles per gallon by 2025.

And that anti-regulation mantra some politicians have been espousing? A mere 13 percent of small business owners surveyed in our poll say their business suffers most from regulatory restrictions. This percentage pales in comparison to the 46 percent of entrepreneurs who say their biggest hurdle to success is economic uncertainty and to the 43 percent who say it's the rising cost of doing business.

The poll numbers speak to the fact that entrepreneurs believe the burden of economic uncertainty could be lifted if bold policies are implemented, not only in regards to fuel efficiency but also to the Environmental Protection Agency. Allowing the EPA to regulate harmful carbon emissions could help stabilize the market and set clear goals for our nation's future in the clean energy economy. Small businesses--the majority of which are unaffected by the standards themselves--will benefit as they supply the services and products to help those who do have to meet them. Entrepreneurs could confidently innovate and create jobs knowing that the future would hold long-term financial returns resulting from the new standards. Our poll numbers prove that small employers are committed to this type of future: 87 percent of small business owners said that improving innovation and energy efficiency are good ways to increase prosperity for small businesses. Specifically, the poll found that by a 3:1 margin small business owners support the EPA regulating carbon emissions from power plants and other harmful emitters.

While these poll results might surprise the people who claim regulations are crushing small businesses and our economic recovery, these are the facts, straight from America's job creators. It's worth mentioning here that the poll represented a broad political spectrum--34 percent of respondents identify as Republicans, 25 percent as Democrats and 41 percent as independents. And only 12 percent of those surveyed say they generate revenue from the new clean economy.

With that said, Congress should review all regulations carefully and examine how they will impact small businesses. But it's easy to see why small business owners favor policies that will spur innovation and economic opportunity, helping them reap cost savings and create jobs.

Small business owners see archaic business models as no longer acceptable. They believe that businesses small and large, from local dry cleaners to major power companies, will need to innovate to survive--and smart national standards will help them do so.

 

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