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What Place Do Regulations Have in Protecting the Environment

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Keeping up-to-date on pertinent regulations within the energy industry can often be a tireless task. Regulations can rapidly change with the ebb and flow of technological innovations, as well as the agenda of a particular political party or leader. For instance, the Trump administration has drastically altered the environmental and alternative energy landscapes in just a few short years. 

In 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Trump unveiled its Affordable Clean Energy rule, essentially rolling back coal-fired power plant emission regulations put in place during the Obama era. And environmentally detrimental energy policy rollbacks didn’t stop there. The Trump administration has also rolled back protections of public land, allowing major pipeline, drilling, and mining projects to move forward in a hasty manner. 

The reality of relaxed environmental policies is complex, and they could do much more harm than good. From a societal standpoint, one could argue that regulations provide the only concrete avenue towards widespread environmental protection. Yet the matter remains a strong point of contention from a business standpoint: Regulations can be costly and often require major structural changes and/or a drastically altered corporate methodology. 

What We’re Up Against

The beauty of free market capitalism is that people from all walks of life, in every industry imaginable, can enjoy financial success and run a successful business. Of course, the system also has its downsides and is effectively unsustainable. Corporate profits are consistently emphasized over public health and environmental issues, and social justice-related concepts such as sustainability and ethical business practices are frequently pushed to the wayside.

But make no mistake, the continuous rollback of valuable environmental policies effectively equates to a public health crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “public health can be affected by disruptions of physical, biological, and ecological systems.” These disruptions can occur in a variety of sectors, and may result in poor air quality, food insecurity, extreme temperatures, and waterborne diseases.  

Governmental regulations are thus necessary to help keep global populations safe, but they are also subject to limitations. While numerous organizations exist that oversee public and environmental health matters, those organizations typically have no say in whether a law or regulation is passed. the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), for example, helps promote public health by implementing environmental health studies and initiatives. As exemplified by the NEHA, cultivating a healthy natural environment for all humans is a group effort. 

Regulations and Incentives to Promote Sustainability

Where public health is concerned, the energy industry is at the forefront of potential change. Environmental standards related to the energy industry are only put in place following a lengthy development and adoption process, yet they can be rolled back much more quickly. All it takes is a simple administration change, and the subsequent repeal of environmental standards, for the world to be drastically altered. 

The good news is that there are still ways in which individual consumers can make a difference, perhaps helping to fuel a push towards greater environmental protection. Businesses can join in the effort as well, advocating for particular regulations by taking actionable steps towards sustainability. As it stands, Americans of all political backgrounds strongly favor clean energy in lieu of fossil fuels, despite Trump administration rollbacks. 

Along with utilizing alternative energy, homeowners can conserve energy in a number of ways, from incorporating sustainable design from the ground up, to minimizing electricity and water waste. There’s no reason that similar habits can’t be cultivated at a corporate level. Especially within the energy industry, we must lead by example to help advance sustainability and fuel the implementation of regulations designed to conserve the natural environment. 

Advocating for Increased Environmental Protection

What’s more, business owners and executives must consider their environmental impact on a much larger scale than individuals. Individuals may cultivate sustainability by considering the ways in which their actions can impact the environment, such as the proper disposal of old and broken appliances. Some areas have regulations in place regarding mindful appliance recycling, which may provide free pick up and/or rebates, for example. 

Despite the inherent differences between consumer and corporate-centered environmental protection, the overarching concept is the same — we should strive to reduce our environmental impact as much as possible, and promote policies that are sustainable and ethical, as well as good for business. Ultimately, we need to avoid viewing governmental regulations as a necessary evil, and instead look on them as an opportunity to make a difference that could also potentially transform the energy industry for the better.

The public perception of the energy industry is constantly evolving alongside technology, and sustainability may hold the key to lasting change. Americans are increasingly looking at increased environmental regulations as a positive, forward-thinking movement that’s crucial to humanity’s survival in the wake of advanced climate change. Companies of all sizes should adopt a similar outlook regarding environmental regulations and sustainability.

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Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 31, 2020 1:53 pm GMT

From a philosophical standpoint, regulation would have to be the main tool to protect the environment. It's nice to think energy companies and other corporations would be good stewards of the environment for the right reasons (or even just for the PR, which if the end result was the same then great), but where profits can be bolstered if the environment can take a marginal hit which is within the bounds of the law you have to assume a business will do so. And when all those marginal hits are taken in aggregate-- well it wouldn't be a pretty picture!

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