Thursday, March 03, 2005

Do Tougher Environmental Laws Lead to Greater Economic Growth?

A recent Christen Science Monitor article asks whether lax environmental regulation is to blame for the lack-luster performance of U.S. renewable energy companies over the past two decades, and questions whether tougher environmental laws might actually lead to greater economic growth:
When tiny Clipper Windpower builds its first factory, perhaps this year, it will automatically become America's second-largest manufacturer of wind turbines. The Carpinteria, Calif., company even has a hot new technology that should be a sure thing.

But it's still hunting for financing because being a wind-turbine builder in the United States is tough, so tough that only one other US manufacturer exists.

In 20 years, the US has gone from leading the world in wind-energy manufacturing - with at least a dozen enterprising firms - to lagging badly. Companies in Germany, Denmark, Spain, and elsewhere have grabbed the technological lead and now hold roughly 80 percent of a $8 billion market that's growing 25 to 35 percent a year.

The reason? Some experts point to lax clean-air laws in the US. That's right. Weak environmental regulations may hurt, not help, industries by blunting their technological edge. Such contrarian logic, controversial among economists, is about to be put to the test.

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