In our small corner of the world, we continue to discuss climate change and the role each of us can play in reducing our emissions. Recently, the debate around climate change and the need for international cooperation in reducing carbon dioxide emissions took center stage when 195 countries agreed to address this issue together.
Overnight, a global market materialized that will be in need of products and services to help nations meet their commitments. If Washington plans carefully, it stands to be a major contributor to this market.
For more than 50 years, Cardinal Glass has earned a reputation as a leading provider of energy-efficient window and door glass products for homes. With more than 40 percent of energy used in homes, any improvement to their energy efficiency has profound impacts on electricity and natural gas consumption.
Why is it important that the recent agreement is global? Because markets such as Germany may have energy-efficient glass in 80 percent of homes, but China has only 11 percent.
This presents a huge opportunity for energy efficiency in nations that have out-of-control carbon emissions.
But the manufacturing of low- or no-carbon products can be energy intensive. Whether it’s energy-efficient glass or solar panels, the goal of any policy should be to encourage the manufacture of these products in the lowest possible carbon environment.
Washington state is perfect for this. According to the most recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, carbon emissions from Washington’s industrial companies are now below our 1990 levels.
When operating at capacity, Cardinal’s latest plant in Winlock will have one of the lowest emissions per ton of glass shipped of any conventional float glass plant in the world. The Cardinal plant is not alone in this regard. Nucor Steel’s plant in Seattle is widely considered to be one of the most energy efficient steel plants in the world. Washington has shown that it is possible to create high-wage jobs while protecting the environment.
If Washington is going to maintain and grow its reputation as a clean-manufacturing leader, we need to be careful about adopting a new policy, whether through regulation or initiative, designed to increase the cost of energy.
California provides a sober lesson. Since enacting its carbon “cap and trade” system, California’s manufacturing job growth rate has averaged 2 percent, one-third of the 6 percent national average. If Washington adopts a version of this system, we will only drive away manufacturing jobs from our low-carbon economy and into high-carbon regions.
Rather than going to other states to recruit climate policy ideas or creating a top-down regulatory scheme, Washington leaders should acknowledge that businesses in our state are leading the way.
Attracting more companies to our low-carbon state and away from high-carbon regions is the best way to reduce global carbon emissions and bring more opportunity for Washington workers.
Stephen Smith is plant manager of Cardinal FG, based in Winlock. Cardinal Glass Industries is a nationwide manufacturer of sealed insulating glass units and employs 400 in Washington.