Now there are numbers to bolster that argument: According to a new study, “Estimating the Size and Impact of the Ecological Restoration Economy,” environmental regulation is driving a $25-billion-per year “restoration industry” that directly employs more people than coal mining, logging or steel production — but fewer than oil and gas or auto manufacturing.
“People want to know big picture numbers on industries,” said report author Todd BenDor, an associate professor of city and regional planning with an environmental specialty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “We basically find ecological restoration is a $9.5 billion industry employing about 126,000 people directly.”
On top of that, he found, the restoration economy indirectly generates $15 billion and 95,000 jobs, bringing restoration’s total economic output value to nearly $25 billion.
In terms of direct employment, it ranks behind the oil and gas sector (200,000 jobs) and automaking (175,000), but ahead of coal mining (79,000), logging (54,000) or steel production (91,000).
“There are downsides to environmental regulations but there may be upsides as well. And one of the upsides may be a larger and stronger ecological restoration industry, which has a major economic spillover effect,” said BenDor.