Federal chemical policy reform would create sustainable jobs in the U.S. chemical industry while protecting public health and the environment, according to a report released today.
The study, produced by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) and commissioned by the BlueGreen Alliance, shows that innovation in sustainable chemistry can reverse the industry’s job shedding trend in a market that increasingly requires cleaner, safer production.
The study counters the chemical industry’s primary argument against updating the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and a coalition of nearly 300 environmental health groups, is urging Congress to consider it closely.
Just last month Senators Frank Lautenberg and four others introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 to curtail dangerous chemicals used in everyday products with known links to cancer, learning disabilities, infertility and more. Advocates predict action in this Congress despite the partisan divide.
"The Safe Chemicals Act will not only help curb the dramatic rise of chemical-related diseases in this country, but will also positively impact our nation’s economy," said Andy Igrejas, Director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition. "We can no longer afford to keep this outdated law in place."
Today’s report states that the U.S. chemical industry shed 300,000 jobs since 1992, despite production increasing by 4% per year. Under the current scenario, the industry stands to lose approximately 230,000 jobs in the next 20 years. However, if 20% of current production were to shift from petrochemical-based plastics to bio-based plastics, 104,000 additional sustainable jobs could be created in the U.S. economy.
The report, "The Economic Benefits of a Green Chemical Industry", argues that the U.S. chemical industry has relied on cost cutting to remain profitable, which has eliminated American jobs, while under-investing in innovation. The industry spends just 1.5% of sales on research and development, compared to 3.4% for the manufacturing sector as a whole.
By taking clear steps toward sustainable production, spurred by chemical policy reform like the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, the U.S. chemical industry will become more competitive by: lowering costs for the industry and downstream users, ensuring access to important global markets, reducing waste by using inputs more efficiently, curtailing future cost pressures from non-renewable fossil-fuel inputs, meeting demands from consumers for safer products, protecting shareholder value, and encouraging research and development of innovative products.
"This study shows that an effective regulatory environment will support the chemical industry’s ability to take advantage of new markets in sustainable chemistry," said James Heintz, Associate Director of the Political Economy Research Institute. "Either we can continue with weak and ineffective regulation–continuing to produce potentially hazardous chemicals while manufacturing jobs disappear–or we can move toward disclosure, regulation, and sustainability; encourage innovation; create stability for businesses and investors; and build new markets for safe and sustainable chemicals."
The report makes three recommendations to build a stronger chemicals industry. First, it recommends reforming TSCA to create an effective new regulatory environment that reduces hazards and supports innovation and competitiveness.
The second recommendation is to implement complementary policies to promote innovation, commercialization, and the development of human resources to create a greener and safer chemical industry. Finally, it recommends disseminating environmental and health-related information on the chemical industry as widely as possible to improve the choices available to consumers, workers, downstream users, and investors and to mobilize investment in emerging opportunities.
"The United States is searching for answers to our unemployment crisis and this report – demonstrating the job-creating potential of chemical policy reform – shows that embracing sustainable chemistry provides just the opportunity our economy needs, while protecting the health of our people and our environment," said BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster.
The report is available at the link below.