Friday, June 16, 2006

Perpetual Pollution for Perpetual Clean-Up

George Ochenski explores the dialectic of "economic opportunity" in Montana:

Paul Polzin, director of the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research and perpetual cheerleader for Montana’s resource extraction economy, was in Billings last week to hail the oil, gas and mining industries at a meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. In the meantime, Gov. Schweitzer was also in Billings hosting his Restoration Economy Forum, which highlighted the positive economic impact of cleaning up the environmental messes Polzin’s extraction industries leave behind....

[T]he governor pointed to the Clark Fork River cleanup, lauding the “investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in Montana’s economy, the creation of good-paying construction jobs, and the clean-up of past environmental damages.”
Given that creating new jobs is one of the most noble endeavors to which homo oeconomicus can aspire, it's easy to see that polluters ought to be praised, rather than condemned: they're merely planting the seeds of opportunity for future generations.

And if that's true of polluters, how much more true is it of firms that do a lackluster job of cleaning up environmental messes? After all, why spend five years and $100 million to create jobs and revitalize communities, when you can spend ten years and $500 million?

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