American Businesses Should Spend Some of Their Cash Reserves to Create ‘Green’ Jobs, Suggests EPA’s Lisa Jackson

By Penny Starr | February 9, 2011 | 5:00 AM EST

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson holds up the boxing gloves she was given at a conference of labor unions and environmental activists in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. The gloves mark her fight with lawmakers who oppose EPA regulations. ( Starr)

( - Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson suggested on Tuesday that American businesses with a “record amount of cash holdings,” estimated at $1.93 trillion, could invest some of those holdings to create jobs that advance pollution control.

Jackson, speaking at the BlueGreen Alliance national conference in Washington, D.C., cited a Dec. 10 Wall Street Journal article about a U.S. Treasury report, which estimated that there is $1.93 trillion in cash and other liquid assets of non-financial U.S. companies sitting dormant, not being invested.

“Even a portion of the $1.93 trillion invested in developing and installing new pollution control technology would result in good jobs right here for American workers,” Jackson said to the gathering of labor unions and environmental activists.

Jackson said that standards and regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are good for job creation and the economy.

“The fact is that updating environmental standards, which we do to protect American families from things like mercury and acid gases and other toxic pollutants that cause asthma and lung disease, especially in children, create a good economic climate for investment and good jobs for American workers,” Jackson said. 

The Wall Street Journal article also stated the reasons for businesses sitting on large cash holdings and that those holdings are not beneficial to businesses.

“The cash buildup shows the deep caution many companies feel about investing in expansion while the economic recovery remains painfully slow and high unemployment and battered household finances continue to limit consumers' ability to spend,” the article states.

“The buildup has a big downside for companies, which get little return on their money because interest rates are low, but it reflects the relatively few opportunities they see to deploy their cash more creatively.”

In a commentary on Jan. 12 on RealClearPolitics, Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that uncertainty is the “enemy of investment and hiring.”

“The degree of change and uncertainty is unprecedented -- is it any wonder that many companies and other employers are sitting on their hands waiting to see how things work out? To know what their tax and regulatory obligations will be? To understand how new policies will impact their operations?” Donohue said.

“Uncertainty is the enemy of investment and hiring,” he said. “Through smart, commonsense policies, lawmakers can help increase certainty, especially when it comes to health care, tax, and climate change policies.”

Jackson said that despite “polarized debates” about the effects EPA regulations and standards have on business and the U.S. economy “environmental protection and economic growth can and do go hand in hand.”

She said the EPA’s “fundamental responsibility is protecting the health of the American people,” and warned against “special interests” that don’t understand the importance of that mission.

“It is important, as special interests try to gut our safeguards like the Clean Air Act that EPA has worked for and under for decades,” Jackson said. “And while special interests try to find loopholes so big polluters can skirt other common sense health protections.

“It is important to recognize these possibilities at a time when American companies have a record amount of cash holdings and liquid assets,” Jackson said.

According to The Wall Street Journal, among those companies with the top cash and liquid assets are Microsoft Corp., with $43.25 billion in cash and short-term investments; Cisco Systems Inc. with $38.9 billion; and Google Inc. with $33.4 billion.