Greener Pastures Ahead

What does this New Year hold in store for the environmental field and you as an environmental professional? Whether you work in house at a company, are employed by a governmental entity, or are a hired gun working for an environmental consulting firm, you need to stay on top of the business developments in our industry in order to survive and prosper. Keeping up with industry trends can help you put together a successful career strategy in this ever changing environmental job market.

According to economic research firm Management Information Service Inc. (MISI) (www.misi-net.com), nationwide sales from the environmental industry topped $300 billion in 2003, with 4.97 million environmental jobs. A regional study shows that sales in 2003 from the environmental industry in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan range from $5 billion to $12.9 billion. There were 92,000 to 217,000 environmental-related employees in these states.

Two recent MISI studies state that the environmental industry has been relatively recession proof and that during recent periods of weak overall economic job growth, the environmental industry continued to grow at 1 to 2 percent annually in the four Midwestern states profiled. In addition, MISI forecasts that the environmental industry will continue to grow, with yearly expenditures increasing to $357 billion in 2010.

"Contrary to popular myth, jobs are created, not lost, by environmental protection," noted Paula DiPerna, a public policy analyst and founder of the Jobs and the Environment Initiative. "And this MISI study shows that more investment in areas such as water quality and energy efficiency could help offset some job losses and create new jobs of all kinds for people from all walks life."

MISI reports that "environmental jobs are also less vulnerable to outsourcing at this time because both direct and indirect environmental jobs involve work that is related to local environmental conditions, such as clean water, air quality, local environmental clean-up, testing, monitoring, equipment installation, retrofitting, and re-design."

As in the past, new environmental laws will continue to drive growth in the environmental industry. According to a recent report from the McIlvaine Company (www.mcilvainecompany.com), which is a market research firm, U.S. power plants have avoided major air pollution expenditures due to a "grandfathering" clause in the 1970 Clean Air Act. Now that protection is being eliminated and the result will be the creation of a huge sudden market. At press time, the proposed U.S. Interstate Clean Air Rule (CAIR) was scheduled to take effect in early 2005, and by 2010 will have generated the largest air pollution investment of any rule in the history of the world. This law is expected to boost air pollution yearly expenditures by 2013 to $45 billion up from $11 billion presently.

Capital investments will be significant. The McIvaine Company estimates that the CAIR rule will result in $15 billion in expenditures for sulfur dioxide (SO2) scrubbers and an additional $5 billion for nitrogen oxides (NOx) control catalyst systems. Despite the large capital outlays, the biggest costs are in operations and maintenance. Thus, businesses supplying materials, service, and repair parts will benefit substantially.

Other research conducted by the McInvaine Company indicates that some of the biggest growth in the environmental industry will be in outsourcing the operation of municipal water and wastewater treatment systems and industrial treatment systems. Presently, the cost of operating systems is $172 billion. This will climb to $242 billion in 2010. Suppliers are selling repair parts worth $30 billion, and outsourcing and other services valued at $6.9 billion. But the outsourcing segment will grow at more than 10 percent per year over the next six years. Membrane filtration, which can be used to desalinate seawater and make wastewater reusable, is currently one of the hottest areas in the water treatment industry. According to a McIlvaine Company report, annual global expenditures in membrane filtration totaled $7 billion in 2004 and will be up to $37 billion by 2015.

Another quickly expanding area is the market for ultrapure air systems. The McIlvaine Company recently issued a report that states Honeywell has determined that many purchasers of new homes would be willing to pay $1,000 or more per home for clean air systems. Industry is going to increase its ultrapure air requirements at double-digit rates. Semiconductor, flat panel display, and other electronic manufacturers need air 500,000 times cleaner than the air in the typical home. Homeland security could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues for firms providing building protection air systems. Hospitals need to make massive investments in air filtration systems to reduce infection rates and to have some means for patient protection in case of a bioterrorism event.

Some foreign markets look even more promising than the U.S. market. "The Chinese and Asian markets are booming in the area of environmental protection," says David Shaw, sales director, Asia Pacific at USFilter Dewatering Systems. "Some of the most recent areas of concern include water scarcity, sewage treatment, air pollution, waste treatment, and noise emission. Renewable energy is also increasingly of interest."

This editorial originally appeared in the January/February 2005 issue Environmental Protection, Vol. 16, No. 1.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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