Clean air is healthy business

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By John Bartlit


Business is business. Regulated companies make news when they wail away at the costs of buying and running pollution controls. The word goes out: pollution controls threaten jobs. 

At the same time, the Institute of Clean Air Companies (ICAC) is busy praising the healthy incomes from the same controls. 

The ICAC is the national trade organization that represents suppliers of air pollution control and monitoring systems, equipment and services for facilities. 

The ICAC’s endless task is to drive home the basics of business that facility spokesmen routinely skip. The basics have to be pointed out as often as they are ignored. 

Commerce runs on a simple principle: A buyer’s outlay is a seller’s income.

The equation is as true for pollution controls as it is for backhoes or diamond rings. What one company spends for goods and services is earned by other companies and their workers. 

To sum up: All the money spent on pollution controls is income, profit and jobs for companies and workers in the pollution control industry. The ICAC clarifies this business fact with a myriad of details.

Visit ICAC.com on the web and learn what they do. Their business case comes out in a few quotes:

The air pollution control industry designs, engineers, and constructs projects that require thousands of tons of steel, large quantities of concrete, and specialized equipment — translating to employment for skilled craft laborers such as welders, steam fitters and electrical workers.

For example, during a recent seven-year period, the implementation of (one clean air rule) resulted in 200,000 jobs in the APC industry. 

But the ICAC has a hard time making news. 

A quick test tattles on human nature. Raise your hand if you ever before heard of the Institute of Clean Air Companies. I count 10 ... 12 ... a rough dozen hands in the air. 

Now raise your hand if you ever heard industry groups complain about pollution control costs. ...Point made. 

Industry’s fears of pollution cleanup costs, like drunk driving crashes, make more gripping news than do healthy profits and wages earned from jobs in pollution control. 

Why is this? Let’s just say it is in our genes. 

The ICAC has another obstacle to overcome. A well-tested maxim of business says “The customer is always right.”

The buyers of pollution controls are the customers of companies that sell controls. The sellers, that is, the ICAC companies, praise the very business their customers paint as a drag on the economy. 

Ouch! Disputing your customers’ story does not curry favor with clients.

This is a big reason the ICAC was formed in the first place. The sellers tell their business story as a single entity, rather than each company speaking for itself. Buyers cannot stop buying from all the ICAC members. This is just business being business. 

To be clear, no one should argue for clean air rules simply because they create jobs and build business. The purpose of pollution controls is cutting pollution, not making jobs. 

Yet the prevalent theme of the buyers steers the dialogue far astray. Buyers neglect to add that everything they buy has a comparable seller, who sells products and services to make a living. 

Just as clean air rules should not be written to make jobs, they surely should not be vilified to avoid the jobs they create.

In the early days of pollution rules, I began making this point at hearings.

At first, buyers of pollution controls were genuinely surprised to realize the end result of new pollution control is new jobs in the pollution control business. 

Forty years later, the good news still needs repeating. 

Buyers do not relish expenses and do their best to keep them low. Yet economies get a boost from new markets for new goods and services. 

Business is business, all the way around.