Friday, March 31, 2006

End users paying environmental costs?? up front .

End users paying for end of life costs up front on products.. it seems inefficient in some ways but here is an example of it working .

Companies getting involved and not having government force their hand? How could this be?????

Non-profits taking a path to deal with waste.
Creating an organization to provide disposal service.
( )-about recycler

Then industry paying for and using the service with out any direct government intervention??

Weird….? Improbable.????

We just can’t get along without government guidance can we??

No its common sense.. if environmentalists want companies to reduce out put they can work out a deal . Demanding legislation is not always an efficient way to go about affecting change its like the person down river paying the polluter for each unit of pollution reduced. It gets to an optimal level..with no outside intervention….

Large companies like black and Decker etc.
( )
can afford to participate and are proud to do so they feel it will influence customer choice.
Small company’s who can’t swing it don’t pay in but the non-profit will still take their batteries because the bigger companies have footed the bill so there is a balance.

If government had stepped in and forced all producers into a command and control situation there would be small companies put out of market , government agencys to support to maintain and all the associated costs with government waste..

The current situation has come about with minimal government legislation and this is optimal I think… take a look

Links to related data : link to policy link to battery recycler… about recycler EPA action

Traditional American Indian Economic Policy

The title of this blog is of an essay I recently read by Ronald L. Trosper; while we aren't covering sustainability this semester, I still thought this might serve as a contrast and/or comparison to the value judgements that we are currently emphasizing.

The essay sets forth the assumption of the basic pan-Indian 'traditional' Indian viewpoint of respect. Trosper outlines four basic components of the definition of respect as being community and the economic aspect of reciprocity in exchange (human-to-human and human-to-nonhuman), which "provides a way to derive ethical statements about what policies should be selected, with a focus on today"; connectedness, which "furnishes a way to generate descriptions or models of the world in order to describe the consequences of policies"; seventh generation, which creates the time dimension and has direct implications for time valuation; and humility, which is "a statement about humanity's ability to understand the connections".

Trosper gives the following list of implications that this definition of respect has for development activities (and it should be noted that it is not implied that this is appropriate for non-Indian and non-reservation communities):

1. High grading is not allowed.
2. Consumption has an upper bound.
3. Ecosystem health should be maintained.
4. Nuclear and other hazardous waste should be avoided.
5. Although modern market niches such as gambling and reduced-tax sales can be used, savings from profits should be very high.
6. A community's population levels should remain within the carrying capacity of a community's resources.

It seems to me that understanding the ideology of this essay depends on the definitions of two terms: development and property rights. According to Trosper, 'development' in the modern sense of the word is not something that tribal communities aspire to, mainly because there is an emphasis on future consumption that requires much less consumption (but not necessarily production) today. If one equates development with increased levels of consumption of goods, then non-development would be preferable to the societies that emphasize future consumption. Conversely, these high savings rates and ability to supply the demands of the seventh generation would be seen more favorably by sustained-development proponents.

Property rights for these communities also holds a different meaning. Shunning private property, to them, does not mean rejecting the notion of property rights. Instead, the institution of usufruct tenure for individuals, combined with the institutions of generosity and tribal or band territorial division, is the preferred method of landholding. With usufruct tenure for individuals, use of the bounty of the land is granted, but the community maintains the right to cut off usage if the land and natural resources are being abused. The land in whole is passed on to the next generation. This is similar to the 'grazing' scenario in Yandle's book, but the difference here is that by consensus, the community may limit an abuser's right to use the land - and this may give rise to common law. While Trosper gives the example of the Navajo tribe as one that has suffered from a tragedy of the commons, he attributes this to the fact that the tribe has a world outlook of "ever increasing, never decreasing", or a rejection of scarcity, whereas most other tribes accept the idea of scarcity and thus have an incentive to marshal resources conservatively.

While reading this essay, I continued to wonder about the implications for a more dynamic society, one that incorporated and benefitted from technological advances. Toward the end, Trosper acknowledges that his future essays would consider how the four components of respect figure into technological change for reservation economies.

If anyone would like copies of this essay, I would be happy to oblige.

Optimal allocation of cigarette smoke is 0?

I happen to disagree with the latest lawmaking happening in our states capitol building. I find it hard to believe that despite all of the education of our state legislators, not one of them had enough conviction to sway the rest of the vote in opposition of the latest smoking ban.

This latest law would suggest that the optimal allocation of second hand smoke is zero based on the understanding that the law prohibits smoking in all but a handful of locations. Coase would suggest otherwise, and I happen to agree with the model at hand. Governments role in the understanding of lawmaking has no right to completely abolish a smokers right to smoke. Make it more costly, tax it more, subsidize those who don't smoke, but DO NOT MAKE IT ILLEGAL!!

I happen to be a cigar smoker, not the everyday nic-fit cigarette smoker, so my rights to smoke at a cigar bar have been preserved, but it would seem that the rights of the smokers have been violated by governments attempt to control what they percieve as a bad.

It just seems frustrating to me that in all of the hooplah about this measure, not one politician was effective in portraying that this is not the role government.

Water toxicity along the Mississippi

The Clean Water Act requires all water sanitation departments to meet minimum standards of water toxicity. This entails that all sanitation stations must make sure that a certain amount of chemicals and waste products are removed from water be it to be safe for swimming or drinking. The water sanitations systems, however, are not required to cleanse drinking water of harmful pesticides.
As water flows down the Mississippi river it accumulates more and more chemicals used in farming. None of these chemicals are tested for or required by law to come out of the water supply. The delta of the Mississippi, in New Orleans is highly toxic. It is filled with all the waste products of farming and none of the water is cleaned before it comes out of faucets in peoples homes.
As a result of this over site in legislation, water sanitation is at its lowest when it enters the Gulf of Mexico. While it is still considered drinkable, the water is full of chemicals that would otherwise be considered unsafe for human consumption. The city of New Orleans has one of the highest rates of intestinal cancers in the country.
This effects the economy of the area in that it effects the people of the area. Health insurance rates are considerably higher in this area due to the increased risk of cancers and worker productivity is cut down by illness. It is little wonder that businesses and people have been leaving this city since the late 1990's.

Global Warming and Energy Efficiency

Recently a report was released ranking world utility corporations based upon their ability to control, oversight, manage, disclose, and account for global warming and greenhouse emissions. San Diego based utility company Sempra was ranked second to last in the report, and BP was ranked as the first. Sempra believes the rankings from the commission were subjective.

The commission believed that because Sempra did not have an executive board to manage or address the environmental and economic issues of global warning, they did not attain the goal of being environmentally conscientious. Sempra responded with examples of their most recent improvements to the environment such as: the purchase of renewable energy sources that would assist in bringing more power to California and other homes; building state of the art natural gas fired plants; and building a liquified natural gas receiving terminal. Sempra believes these examples resemble those used to rank other such companies regarding global warming and greenhouse effects. The commission may be taking too narrow of a view of the costs some companies are taking to be environmentally friendly. Rather, by taking a more global view of the changes and improvements that are being accomplished and the effects on the earth, more companies may be seen in a different light.

The economic cost of maintaining and developing new energy resources is becoming increasingly larger. Most experts believe that the global warming and greenhouse effects will continue to worsen over time. Thus causing an economic disaster due to companies attempting to control and improve the environmental problems that may never get better. Additionally, most states are requiring the utility companies to use renewable energy sources to a certain percentage (as the article states, California has a 20% requirement by 2010). Companies are running out of time to find the renewable energy sources. It takes a number of years to locate an energy source, run tests, and determine that the sources would be cost efficient and effective. Do we have enough time, or because of the environmental damage already done, will it matter?

San Joaquin Valley Battles Air Pollution

For several years now it has been known that California has struggled constantly to try and meet the air quality standards set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. It is estimated that currently the air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley area, which encompasses San Joaquin, Merced, Fresno, Kings, Madera, Stanislaus, Tulare, and part of Kern county, is costing residents $1,000 each in health care annually. When you combine this cost along with the price of providing subsidies to the owners and operators of heavy-duty motor vehicles, locomotives, marine vessels, and stationary agricultural pumps, the costs of what it’s going to take to clean up the air pollution becomes a little more apparent. This, the monetary amount, is no little amount. If one were then to add the affects of the daily health problems the community deals with from this air pollution the number would be even higher.
Subsidies to heavy-duty machine operators in the community are being provided by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD). They provide the community with the opportunity to make a contract with them stating that if they are willing to upgrade their equipment so that they pollute less, with the new or upgraded equipment, that they will receive a subsidy for their part in helping clean up the air. Many concerns from that of the expected population growth to the fact that individuals or businesses that were looking to upgrade anyhow may get a break from the government presents some very serious issues. One then might ask, are the subsidies the most effective way to meet the lower level of air pollution in the area? What’s going to happen to health care costs as the population grows? Is there another way to better address the pollution problem in the area? Are the standards set forth for the area even reasonable? At what price are the citizens willing to pay in order to breath cleaner air?
The answers to these questions will not come easily. As can be expected, all other things held constant, if the population increases, one can be assured that the amount of air pollution will rise, therefore increasing the costs of health related issues with dirty air. This author would not suggest that economically subsides would be the best route to reach the desired level of pollution. What might be a bit more effective would be a tax on the fuel that these vehicles use. However, with the understanding that political pressure often overpowers what might be right for the area economically, it is a little easier to see why the government may have chosen this route. As to whether or not the standards are reasonable is still an ongoing debate. Without further investigation on the topic it’s hard to say. What this author knows for sure is that the San Joaquin Valley faces some serious problems with air pollution and it will be interesting to see if the policies they are currently using to battle pollution will continue to be used in the future.

The "Fix": Alternative Energy Resources

In his State of the Union address, President Bush expressed the United States’ dependency on oil as an “addiction,” a brave assessment that the administration and advocates for alternative energy sources hope will stimulate change. An enduring need for oil has put the United States in risky relations with oil-rich countries such as Iran, Venezuela, and Iraq and the threat of embargo has become an influential weapon of choice. Economic sanctions are refuted by these nations by threatening to cut off oil exports to selected importers. Ukrainians have already seen these effects, after facing mid-winter natural gas supply shortages imposed by Russians wanting a four-fold increase in price.
There are other reasons for alternative fuels as well. Poorer countries, such as Nepal and the Democratic Republic of Congo could experience dramatic decreases in GDP if the price of oil continues to increase. Ethiopia, a country overcome by AIDS would see almost all of $134 million aid erased by a $10 increase for a barrel of oil.
It’s no surprise to anyone that petrol-based fuels account for pollution. Tremendous environmental impacts have power plants, vehicles, and tanker spills, among others, to blame. Global warming has been widely speculated upon, and most people can agree that temperatures are getting warmer as population and consumption increase. Carbon dioxide, a prominent greenhouse gas released when burning fuels, is an inefficient and unclean bio-hazard whose harm can be reduced with the development of cleaner fuels such as ethanol or E-85.
Along with conducting business with these countries comes the worry that Americans who consume gas bought from countries in the Middle East are putting money into the hands of dangerous regimes and terrorist groups. Wealth gained from transaction of oil is attributed to only a few, and often, at the hands of citizens with little voice for the use of their countries natural resources. Dictators and regime-leaders rake in the reward for exporting oil, while the countrymen and women suffer from drought, famine, and disease without aid.
Of course, another of the leading reasons for finding alternate fuel sources is the diminishing supply of our non-renewable resources. Explosive economic and population growth in countries such as China, India, and Brazil is accounting for unprecedented competition for oil and natural gas. In 2005, Americans paid 17 percent more for energy than in the previous year, accounting for 40 percent of the rise in the consumer price index. The International Energy Agency is calling for $17 trillion in investment. But even if investment is made and more reserves are found, diminishing supply is inevitable. Competition for the last of the world’s reserves will greatly increase hostility and perhaps stall trade between countries with most to lose-and gain.
With so much dependency on the Middle East and other oil-rich hotspots, the United States and much of the rest of the world is coming face to face with economic and natural disaster. And because the United States relies so heavily on energy on a day to day basis, it is time for us to take the lead on alternative energy resources. The U.S. has the opportunity to take the lead on a global problem whose solutions could drastically change the livelihood of many, reduce greenhouse gases and the threat of global warming, and prevent a world war economic disaster on the premise of diminishing oil reserves.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Rational choice

The separation of economic efficiency and liberty is both perplexing and multifarious. Can values be accurately measured in economic terms? Are the measurements meaningful to the environment? One theory might have an answer. Rational choice theory is defined as, “a way of looking at deliberations between a number of potential courses of action, in which ‘rationality’ of one form or another is used either to decide which course of action would be the best to take, or to predict which course of action actually will be taken. Such a perspective finds itself in models for both human and behavior of non-human but nonetheless potentially rational entities, such as corporations or nation-states.”

What is considered to be rational?

The technical meaning in economics is about preferences: preferences are defined to be rational if they are complete and transitive. That is, that the decision-maker is able to compare all of the alternatives, and that these comparisons are consistent.

• If uncertainty is involved, then the independence axiom is often assumed in addition to rational preferences.
• If decision-making over time is involved, time consistency is generally assumed as well.
• Rationality can also mean that the decision-maker always chooses the most preferred option, as in the Utility Maximization problem.

Rational choice theory may help economists to better understand how an individual thinks regarding tastes and preferences. However, as we all know, not all are considered to be rational thinkers. Among the many policies, perhaps the amalgamation of liberty and economic efficiency may be the “solution matrimony” to a sustainable environmental policy.

Wind Power

Last year the U.S. led the world in wind production. While it did so with tax credits for wind generation, it did not require the use of the Kyoto Treaty. The rest of the world that signed the treaty has been upset at us for not signing it, yet here we are advancing non-"greenhouse gas" emitting generators faster than the rest of the world. This doesn't mean we are going to meet the Kyoto provisions (even most nations who signed on won't meet them), but it does show that all we need is a subsidy for cleaner generators to be produced more.

The U.S. has subsidized wind production for a while now, and is giving tax credits for wind generation for the next three years. The subsidies come beause wind produces virtually no air pollution, unlike the more common coal power plants. The subsidies give wind power an extra boost in sales. Already wind was becoming more comparable to coal in terms of price per kWh. Also, wind has been boosted by natural market forces, such as drought in Colorado, allowing power companies to rent or lease land for wind generation from farmers at cheaper prices. Other market forces exist as well. Most important of these are local communities' willingness to pay more for wind generation to avoid the pollution of coal.

That doesn't mean wind is beating coal in competition though. Given the vast abundance of coal in the U.S., keeping transportation costs for coal down, power companies are working to make coal much more efficient, at least according to the article. This will mean a reduction in emmissions of all kinds from the most polluting source.

Apparently, treaties and regulations aren't needed to reduce pollution. People naturally want to reduce pollution as their incomes rise. They are willing to pay more for clean air. The market, in this case made up of local communities, can thus result in lower pollution. While the Kyoto Treaty is much more market friendly than any CAC (command and control) alternative, time will tell if it was ever needed, or if it might even hinder clean electric development due to it's ability to hinder economic grow.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

alternative fuel ideas

“Operationally, ‘bio-diesel’ performs very similar to low sulfur diesel in terms of power, torque, and fuel economy without major modification of engines or infrastructure.”

While ethanol requires different engines, as well as hydrogen, soy diesel can be used with existing engines and fuel injection equipment, but with considerably less pollution emissions. It’s easily biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics. “Unlike other gases that emit methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon monoxide, which tend to be classified as greenhouse gases and can be hazardous to your health”. (That part hasn’t been entirely proven yet)
Like mentioned above biodiesel can be used with existing car/truck parts. Also it can be easily be distributed using current infrastructure. So while it would be easy to change over, biodiesel tends to be more expensive. However it can be easily made at home too. It’s a fuel that be made simply and easily with little expense to consumers. This differential may diminish due to economies of scale, the rising cost of petroleum, and government subsidization favoring the use of biodiesel.
I think that if the government wanted to find a more efficient and easy way to try to limit the environmental impact of gasoline, that this would be a simplify way for right now. It may not be something that will work forever, but for right now it may be something that can be a potential idea. I like that not much would have to be changed in order to make it fully implemented. Plus the ingredients are something that have excess “inventory”, so we wouldn’t totally be off the basis for requiring more production. I’m not entirely sure how you would find the efficient amount of emissions and how the efficient amount of biodiesel should be found.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

2005 Temperatures Reach All-Time High

Apparently, 2005 has registered as one of the hottest worldwide temperature averages to date (it is tied with 1998's numbers). Furthurmore, since humans began using modern temperature measuring devices (approx. 1880), the Northern Hemisphere has never been this hot. What makes this information even more vital is the fact that 1998's numbers were pushed due to uncommonly strong El Nino conditions, a phenomenon resulting in the warming of Pacific waters. 2005 did not experience a significant El Nino. 19 of the hottest 20 years on record have occurred since 1980. From this data alone, it would be extremely irrational to write off global warming as false or even as a low threat. This is something our Economic Framework for a National Energy Policy must embrace. The most disturbing news I recieved from this article is summed up in the following quote:
Dr. Marcia Baker writes, "Because most global warming emissions remain in the atmosphere for decades or centuries, the energy choices we make today greatly influence the climate our children and grandchildren inherit. We have the technology to increase energy efficiency, significantly reduce these emissions from our energy and land use, and secure a high quality of life for future generations. We must act now to avoid dangerous consequences."
According to this excerpt, we don't have alot of time to lose; as every year of lackadaisical prevention effort passes, along comes tens to hundreds of years of living with this pollution.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

NAS & Climate Change

After our Spring Break we will spend some time on the topic of global warming. One of the things I will tell you about is a NAS report published in 2001. One member of the NAS panel writing the report,Richard Lindzen, writes:
Last week the National Academy of Sciences released a report on climate change, prepared in response to a request from the White House, that was depicted in the press as an implicit endorsement of the Kyoto Protocol. CNN's Michelle Mitchell was typical of the coverage when she declared that the report represented "a unanimous decision that global warming is real, is getting worse, and is due to man. There is no wiggle room."

As one of 11 scientists who prepared the report, I can state that this is simply untrue. For starters, the NAS never asks that all participants agree to all elements of a report, but rather that the report represent the span of views. This the full report did, making clear that there is no consensus, unanimous or otherwise, about long-term climate trends and what causes them.

As usual, far too much public attention was paid to the hastily prepared summary rather than to the body of the report. The summary began with a zinger--that greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise, etc., before following with the necessary qualifications. For example, the full text noted that 20 years was too short a period for estimating long-term trends, but the summary forgot to mention this.

Our primary conclusion was that despite some knowledge and agreement, the science is by no means settled. We are quite confident (1) that global mean temperature is about 0.5 degrees Celsius higher than it was a century ago; (2) that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have risen over the past two centuries; and (3) that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas whose increase is likely to warm the earth (one of many, the most important being water vapor and clouds).

But--and I cannot stress this enough--we are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to carbon dioxide or to forecast what the climate will be in the future. That is to say, contrary to media impressions, agreement with the three basic statements tells us almost nothing relevant to policy discussions.
You should probably be interested in the entire piece.


"In 'Economism or Planetism,' John B. Cobb (Herman Daly's coauthor in For the Common Good, Beacon Press, 1989) suggests that it is time to reassess our current 'non-ideology ideology' of consumerism. Cobb argues that we ought to address both consumption and production as part of a broader whole that interrelates the human economy with the larger natural economy functioning in the biosphere. One aim is to encourage values in addition to, and sometimes in conflict with, consumerism--especially those associated with human community and a sense of belonging to the larger world. Cobb does not deny the efficiency of the market, but champions its role (where appropriate) as a means toward achievement of socially/politically/biologically determined ends. But neither does Cobb believe that markets, and market mechanisms, are a panacea for all our problems. Whether you see his prescriptive remedies to be common sense or nonsense, Cobb's ideas are worth reading and discussing every bit as much now as when first presented in 1991."
We are not discussing the normative framework of sustainability until next semester, but if you would like a bit of a preview you might be interested in Cobb's paper.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Reducing Mercury Emissions

Reducing Mercury Emissions
Mercury for some time has been a dangerous pollutant that has been environmentally hurting the human population through the uncontrollable contamination of lakes and other bodies of fresh water that hold fish. The most porlific source of mercury polliton in the United States is smoke from coal-fired power plants which accounts for about 40% that eventually enter the food chain. The problem lies in finding an efficient level at which the power plants can produce at without further harming the general population The current Clear skies bill sets emission targets for mercury of 34 tons by 2010 and 15 tons by 2018 with and earyly credit program and safety valve which allows generators to exceed those limits if the cost goes above a certain level. There are two problems with this, one is that pareto dis-improvements exist where the polluting firms can polute above target limits thus increasing there profits and produciton while further hindering the general population. Secondly, with an early incentives program polluting firms can reach the optimal tonnage, recieve credit, and then still be allowed to pllute. What can we do to achieve an efficient ammount of pollution? Under the carper bill and the administration bill cap and trade programs would be enacted. Under the cap and trade programs a pollution max tonnage is set, and under these ramifications firms abiding by the rules are giving the ability to trade allowances to either pollute more or recieve some extra allowance. This is favorable because like in the Coase propostion it offers cost savings that can give profits to firms, lower electiricty prices to consumers and help achieve environmental quality at teh same cost . The problem i find with implementing either the Carper bill or the Administration bill is the role of government observing and keeping track of the amount of pollution that the firms are acutally producing. How will we know whether or not a firm is producing at the efficient amount. As we have seen with the SO2 allowance trading program, emission reductions for mercury would surley decline almost everywhere, but the decline may be greater at one locatoin than at another, leaving some plants to pollute more where there are fewer reducitons. A plan that could be implemented would be a pollution tax where the cost of pollution would be equal for all polluters and with a set quanity of pollution any firm exceeding the quanity would be fined.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What is Environmentalism?

Tim Haab:
"As an environmental economist I've been accused of being an environmentalist (by economists) and anti-environmental (by environmentalists)."
He asks "what does environmentalism mean?" I too want to know. Please offer definitions of environmentalism.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Global warming in 2005

Global warming is becoming a bigger issue, as temperatures for 2005 reached an all time high. Out of the last 25 years, 19 of the hottest 20 years have occured which is showing a constant rise in temperatures and global warming. This record heat in 2005 is due to the longtem warming by the rise of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. The major factors to this rise in heat trapping gases is burning fossil fuels and clearing forests. Some other indications that we are experiencing warming of the atmosphere and oceans, and the increased melting of ice and snow. In a recent report on "U.S. emissions found that 2004 marked the highest annual total of heat-trapping gases released since record keeping began in 1990. The amount of snow cover has been declining over the past three decades. From the last half centry the ocean water temperatures have been warmed by 0.067 degrees Farenheit. Also over the past few decades the oceans have absorbed 14.5 Btu (British thermal units) , the continents 0.9 Btu and the atmosphere 0.7 Btu. The melting of snow and ice plus the warming of the oceans over the past couple decades has resulted in the rise of the sea level. The global warming effect is due to a variety of factors which includes humand-produced heat-trapping emissions and natural causes. We have the technological advances to increase energy efficiency, reduce the emissions from our energy and land use, and secure quality of life for future generations. If we dont cure this problem now it will continue to haunt us and those in future generations.

Global Warming

Tim Haab:
"Why won't the public accept climate regulation?

Allow me to start with the premise that climate change is real and at least partially caused by people. If that is the case, why then won't the public accept climate change regulation. That's an easy one...because it benefits everyone but makes me worse off. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are a classic public goods problem. The costs accrue to me but the benefits accrue to everyone."