Coase Colored Glasses

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Does anybody care?!

I'm going to write about a pet peeve of mine. Those silly signs that found their way into Logan through the winter advising us as to what sort of burn day it was. You know, Red, Yellow, Green. I've had a hard time believing that people would really change their driving habits according to these signs. In addition, I haven't met anybody who has. But I did find an interesting link in the herald journal about how participation has been good, but probably didn't affect much anyway. It seems to me that the way to make less car pollution is to make cars that pollute less more attractive to the consumer.

Urban Atheists Make Good

Read this link from the PERC website. Crichton is right on with his assesment of modern environmentalism as a manifestation of man's need for religion. Instead of cathedrals, though, we now build beautiful public schools in which to worship the environment...

Strict Regulation = Economic Growth?

There is an article on The Christian Science Monitor website that suggests a very counter intuitive but, if oversimplified, logical suggestion that tougher environmental laws stimulates economic growth in certain industries because “Weak environmental regulations may hurt, not help, industries by blunting their technological edge.”

The article sites that after the 1970 Clean Air Act the smoke stack scrubber industry in the U.S. became the world leader. Then in the ‘80’s when “many power plants were able to avoid scrubbers” the industry slowed down. “When tougher laws went into effect in the '90s, the industry perked up.”

By this reasoning it is suggested that the wind turbine industry is suffering in the U.S. due to lagging regulation. And the lagging continues, as recent legislation, the Kyoto Protocol, will not be signed that was intended to cut greenhouse gases.

I certainly agree that regulation can create an incentive for private industries to improve technologies in the long run, but not just any type of regulation will do that in the short run. Too strict of command-and-control type of regulation applied too quickly will damage the regulated industry too greatly in the short run. The costs of compliance would be too high. Regulation must allow for market principles to work by allowing things like trading of the “right to pollute” to occur among companies so that those best equipped with the potential to create new pollution reducing technology will have a financial incentive to do so; while the companies that aren’t in position to do that can “specialize and trade” as well.

Oil Price Problem is really a Water Issue

Recently, one of the hydrolic engineering professors spoke to a class of mine. He was working with an organization in Israel trying to secure water for the palistinian people. Basically, the organization consisted of the Palestinian Water Authority, the Isreali Water Authority, and some outside engineers and other professionals. Despite working for months, nothing ever came of it because no one was willing to budge or comprimise. (namely the idea was to fix leaking pipes and transfer the water saved to the palestinians.) As I was thinking about it, I came across this article by Fred Singer. Basically he explains that there is no problem with supply of oil from the middle east except that they are normally at war. A peaceful middle east, brings good prices worldwide. Many of the fights in the middle east are started over water, like we say, "Wiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting."
The problem with water in the middle east is that no one is willing to compromise. It's the same type of issue we have with irrigation water. Privitization is one answer, but I believe that with help from outside sources(perhaps the UN or other world organizations) working with the local water authorities could help privide a solution without causing too much commotion. Although difficult, with time I feel like it would be successful.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Cap and Trade Policy

One of the things that I have heard over and over again as a PolySci major is the idea of a global cap and trade policy. This is the idea that pollutors across the world would have a pollution cap and those pollutors who came in under the cap coulde sell their polluting rights to thouse who are above. THe idea behind this is that we are giving people economic incentive to cut pollution, i.e. the opportunity to sell any rights not used.

While the idea sounds hunky dory in theory, I have a hard time swallowing what's being sold. Does anybody really expect that all of the industrialized nations are ever going to sign on to such a plan? I think the failed Kyoto Treaty gives plenty of proof to that. In addition, what is to keep any such nation from pulling out of a treaty when it is no longer in their best interest?

This might sound like sacriledge to the tree huggers, but it might be time to accept that, for the moment at least, it is virtually impossible to make global environmental policy. What we should do, however, is view environmental protection and conservation as a quality of life issue here in the United States and focus on policy that can be effective in getting clean water to drink, clean air to breath, and allows for the conservation of the environment for those of us here.

More on Escalante

We have been discussing the Escalante monument last week, and I found this interesting article about a couple of "enviormentalist" who moved into Escalante and opposed a new dam that was to add 6100 acre feet of water to an existing reservoir. It was estimated to have cost 7.5 million dollars, and would provide water for a dozen farmers and ranchers. The couple were critical of the dam and voiced their opinion. As was once said in class, "...water is for fighting," that was the obvious case here. It is unfortunate that water can bring out the worst in people here in the west. It is a valuable commodity that is even more valuable after we spend millions of dollars to harness it, divert it, and use it.

Wolves in Yellowstone

After that class discussion on the oversized elk herd in yellowstone, I started to wonder why it would be that the NPS would want to discourage variables that would keep the population down. The main thing that I thought of was the idea that more predators in the park might detract from tourism, the real reason there is a park in the first place. I specificallt looked at the reintroduction of wolves into the park. I think that I must have been wrong though, all I found were things articles that prasied the wolves, even for their value to the tourism industry. Here's one link that I found.

The Positive Externalities of Global Warming

Short of Al Gore's testimony, I haven't ran across compelling scientific evidence detailing the effects or reality of global warming. The proof is suspiciously missing from even university level texts (i.e. my environmental geology book). Global warming is being taught the same way creationism was taught in the deep south fifty years ago - gospel truth.

Here is an article that explains (and contains links to) a survey done at Yale detailing the positive effects of global warming. Notice that the representative from Greenpeace refrains from citing anything scientific, instead opting for fear and emotion... But I guess that science has never formed an integral part of state-sponsered religion.

Grazing the West--At Discount Prices

The recent discussion on grazing rights has grabbed my attention. I found this article along with an extensive fact sheet about the costs and effects of grazing the West. According to this sheet, the amount of beef produced that comes from animals grazing on Federal rangelands is less that 3.5%. There is also an estimated annual loss to the Treasury of anywhere from $20 million to $150 million per year due to grazing programs. It seems to me that the present grazing programs provide nothing but a few expensive hamburgers for the Treasury. This article, put together by the National Resource Defense Council, also claims that about 20% of all endangered species are further threatened by the effects of grazing, and that the number one threat to trout streams in the west is overgrazing. Professor Simmons brought up the idea that it isn't just overgrazing that can harm ecosystems, but minimal grazing can as well. Some ecosystems weren't meant to be grazed, and a slight change can bring about major, noticeable consequences as well as permanent damage.

The article also discusses the typical view of using federal rangeland as a "Graze it All" approach. With such obvious reasons for reforming the federal grazing policy, I don't understand why there isn't more being done.

Oil prices up...up...up

Oil prices continue to rise and it is expected that they will continue to do so. Read "Can anyone stop the rise in oil prices." The increase in price comes due to an increase in demand and a new crowd of oil investors speculating on the future supply. Part of the demand stems from the Chinese. China is working on creating a petroleum reserve of over 750 million barrels of oils. No changes are seen in the near future. SUV sales are already decreasing as the price of gas goes up. (If you need a break from studying read these comics about gas price increases).

Economics' Impact on Environmental Policy

A scholarly research article I have found on the web by Robert W. Hahn written in ’99 and entitled “The Impact of Economics on Environmental Policy” is a good read. The author discusses environmental economists’ role in today’s environmental public policy. Hahn asserts that “economists have seen their ideas translated into the rough-and-tumble policy world for over two decades.” Some successes have emerged in areas like the wetlands, lowering lead levels, and “curbing” acid rain. Two things that help explain this are economic incentive based mechanisms, i.e. tradable permits, and economic analytical tools, i.e. cost-benefit analysis.

Still, according to this author, environmental economists’ impact on public policy has been “modest”. Although Hahn does feels that the environmental economists will “play an increasing role in the future”, that does not mean environmental policy that currently costs more than it benefits will become more efficient. “The political economy of environmental policy” restricts greater efficiency. In order for environmental economists to change this he feels that they need to “understand how the political process affects outcome”; that the political process has a dramatic impact on “form” and “content” of policy. He even thinks that he and his colleges should be involved in lobbying. Do less objective theorizing and more judgment based action.

I agree with Hahn in that there needs to be a bridge over “the gulf between the ivory tower and the real world”. Theory is critical, I agree, however it is also not reality and a melding of the two must occur in order for efficiency to begin to take effect. I buy into Hahn’s assessment that more action ought to be taken by environmental economists like lobbying that requires them to make judgments about how to reconcile or even compromise between theory and reality rather than ignoring the impact the process has on policy.

Safe Drinking Water Act

California's Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 is “right-to-know” type legislation that was drafted by David Roe of Environmental Defense. Well, at least, Mr. Roe was the principle drafter of the legislation. There is a great website for the organization that has a page that helps give a good understanding of the proposition and the issues surrounding it.

This proposition was passed overwhelmingly by the California people in ’86 (63% for and 37% against). Although improvements and changes have occurred since its original passage the Act was rather simple originally. Toxic chemicals were being treated by the government as not harmful to the community until it was proven harmful. The Act outlined that the governor would be required to establish a known toxic chemical list that would be banned from being discharged into sources of drinking water. “Clear and reasonable” warnings were required by those who possibly could be the cause of exposures to the chemicals and in order obtain an exemption from the ban or warning the burden of proof lay on the companies to show that “no significant risk” was introduced. Interestingly, no government agency was assigned the implementation. It was merely left to “citizen suits” for enforcement.

The Act was an attempt to apply a market-based strategy to the control of toxic chemicals rather than a traditional command-and-control approach and has been successful in the reduction of many carcinogens previously found in California drinking water. It has been said that at the time it was a revolutionary concept and since other legislation has passed that is similar.

The Arctic is our chemical sink

How much damage does the pollution we create cause? I never though about this question like I do now. I and many others think that the pollution we create, let's say here in Logan, causes problems here in Logan and not in the Arctics. After reading this article I definately think different. The list of imapacts from the pollution we as humans create is endless. I would never think that the pollution that my car releases would have an affect on animals or the environment of the arctics. Everyone should read the article, it really will change how you or even I think our pollution affects the world.

Getting started

I found this article of information on how to begin grazing. I thought that it was interesting. It starts with some information that will aid in setting economic goals for the graziers. It reports some studies that have been done to prove the economic advantages to grazing. For example, grazing animals can manage vegetaion on the banks of rivers resulting in increases fish populations and also prevent fish overpopulation. It concludes by suggesting ways to select the species to graze.

Deseret and BLM

Deseret Ranch is at an elevation ranging from 6,500 ft to 8,000 ft and because of this thier calving season is very short and because of this they rely on the BLM land to run cows for calving. In the ranchlike we discussed in class is a great management area for cattle. and for the rancge land. BLM land is very different. For example, the BLM range land of horses they run free and eat to thier hearts content and sometimes can never be caught. This is the same for cattle. The deseret ranch in Rich County is run by volunteers from the LDS church so it cuts cost down tremendously in that sense. That is just one reason that it is so successful.

Tom Friedman on the current "oil crisis"

Thomas Friedman had a piece in the NYT on Sunday about how President Bush is "squandering" his presidency on Social Security when he could be making history by being stronger on oil policy and environmental issues like emissions. Friedman cites a WIRED mag article that states that right now there are 800 million cars in use, by 2050 there will be 3.25 billion due to India and China's growth (that was an amazing stat i thought, however I would like to know how they came up with that figure). According to Friedman we should be taking steps to solve the energy problem and cut emissions through a host of measures, however one stuck out in my mind. Friedman proposes we set a flat rate for gasoline at $4 (nearly double the national avg. price). According to Friedman this will limit emissions b/c there will be people less willing to drive due to the high price associated with it and will thus force oil suppliers to drop prices due to less demand. What do you guys think about the flat rate?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

choices, we've got choices

While the debate rages on whether we need to invest in alternate fuel sources, here is an interesting overveiw of some possible replacements for fossil fuels. Solar energy, biomass, wind &, geothermal energy, fuel cell cars, hydrogen, nuclear, space-based solar power, etc. This is a really good primer on the basics, with not too much opinion muddying it up.

This article has some good opinion in it, comparing our oil dependence to Brazil's. In 1979, Brazil started pouring $ into ethanol-cars, and currently 50% of new cars sold in Brazil are mix-fuel (petroleum and ethanol) . The most amazing claim is that oil imports made up only 10% of their energy comsumption in 2002, compared to 85% in 1978. They claim it will drop to nearly zero this year.

Brazil suggests we (the US) export our corn for consumption, and import their ethanol, both to save money and reduce our dependence on foreign oil (yeah, but then wouldn't we just become dependent on foreign ethanol?) . The plan isn't likely to go over here, mainly because Bush is promoting hydrogen technology for his Freedomcar. I encourage you to read the author's conclusion (of the Brazil article).

Green Prisons

I was doing some research for a paper on prisons and came across some interesting stuff here. The study is old but I like the idea. Prisons could be used more efficiently to help them be self-sustaining and help solve some environmental issues. Prison population keeps growing and they don't have anywhere to go. Why not use these numbers to our advantage? Locate the prisons at places where farming and agriculture is possible and put inmates to work with scientist and farmers to solve problems such as irrigation and fertilization. Find new and better technologies which produce more for less. The food grown at the prisons could be used there and/or sold. Many inmates would be more than willing to work and get out of their cell. They would be learning a trade to help them find a legal job when released from prison. Basically run the prisons more like envirovnmental laboratories. I know the government already hires the inmates out as cheap labor, why not do something for the benefit of everyone. What do you think of this? Problems/Benefits

Global tempereatures are changing

We've talked a lot about the policies that create restrictions on pollution and are supposedly making the air cleaner, the water clearer and overall the environment better. Are these policies creating more problems than solutions. According to Dr. S. Fred Singer they are. He wrote an article in the Earth Times about the environmental policy getting lost in the politics. It is a short piece that brings up some interesting ideas but what I found most interesting about the article is that Dr. Singer is an expert in many fields of environmental science.

I started digging into some of the issues Dr. Singer has addressed and I found one interview that particularly interested me. Air quality has been a big issue and global warming has not really been talked about in class. There is a lot about global warming under debate, such as are humans causing it? Its been scientifically proven that throughout time earth has warming and cooling cycles, so yes, global warming is natural. Dr. Singer brings up the point that a large amount of recent temperature data is taken in cities where temperatures naturally increase due to the energy used in cities, so unless we're ready to give up energy and live without it city temperatures are going to increase.

No More Scarcity

Good news! Representative Sabo (D-MN) has solved the problem of scarcity. We don't need to worry about environmental policy any longer - funding is unlimited. Sabo presented his plan as a way to fix the budget shortfalls of the social security program, but found the cure for all budgetary woes at the same time.

The treasury department runs what they like to call a 'trust fund' for the social security program. It is filled with over a trillion dollars of special treasury bonds that are payable from the general account at redemption. In other words - IOUs that future taxpayers have to pay for. Sabo wants to raise the interest rate of these bonds to create money. This would maybe be a good idea if there was any money -- not just a representation of future taxes. Maybe if we raised the rate to 50% we could fund the entire federal government! Oh wait, this is just another ploy to distract our attention from substantive reform. Maybe giving control of previously supposed 'public goods' to the market wouldn't be such a bad idea after all...

Monday, March 28, 2005

Drilling in ANWAR protects the Environment

Today I was putting off studing and checking out some blogs when I came across this one by Brad Parker. He starts off by explaining where he comes from and states a very interesting arguement. Basically the world has a certain amount of need for oil. This oil needs to be produced somewhere. One of the benefits of producing it here in the US is the rules and regulations that help keep things clean. Honestly, we have to realize that we are very successful in enforcement of our regulations compared to others, and thus by producing oil in the US, we are keeping things cleaner. This could also lower prices, and perhaps could create restraints on other oil producers to improve their quality.
So, drilling in ANWAR is actually protecting the environment.

Coal Coal Coal

I was looking at coal in utah and found out that there is an estimated 62.3 billion tons of coal on the Kaiparowits plateau, or the Grandstaircase Escalante. 32 billion tons are un-mineable because either the coal is to deep which would be 3,000 ft or greater or it is too thin which would be less than 3.5 ft. That leaves 30 billion tons that are mineable. The UGS feels that an additional 7.5 billion tons inside seams 3.5 to 6 ft thick are not mineable because they are to thin for current long wall operations in Utah.

Land of the Rich

We were talking about people who live in national parks and I came across a site that had some amazing dollar amounts for land inside these parks. There has been 1.6 million acres in the last decade that people have bought inside national parks around the world. For example in Gettysburg you would have to pay $58,000/acre. In another park you had to pay $250,000 for 54 acres. In Keweenaw National Park in Michigan you would have to pay $2.45 million dollars for 11 acres. In my opinion I would not even put a price on land inside national parks and try to keep it as pristine and natural as possible. For those rich that can afford to buy this land I think that the prices are fair and should be as high as they are.

What really happens...

We talk about the water and air quality. Do we know where the reports for this information comes from? Who says that the best way to figure out how much "stuff" is in our water. What else happens in the streams that we don't know about. I was recently speaking to my soil judging coach who used to work in a Uranium mine. He was telling me about all the stuff that was dumped into the river that was never reported. This can hardly be the only incident that wasn't reported in the world.

The article, 'USEPA proposes changes to lead testing, reporting' speaks of "non-reporting" of excess levels of lead. The article is about implimenting new barriers against unreported contaminants in water sytems. The problem with the water sytems is that they are not stationary. Like the animals protected by the Fish and Wildlife servive water is constantly moving and more than the animals whats in it is changing too. Another article at the same site, 'Poll: 80% of Americans desire safe water—and will pay for it' talks about how Americans are willing to pay for the cleaner water that the new barriers would create. A question I give to you is who is going to pay for the rest of the world?

Non-Profit or Profit? Which Organizations Provide Services More Efficiently?

I came across this commentary on the Environmental News Networks website written on the alleged myth that all non-profit organizations are run in an inefficient manner. It was written by Duane Silverstein who works for Seacology, a non-profit organization that works to preserve the enivironmental integrety of the worlds' small islands.
In his commentary Mr. Silverstein argues that an organization like his runs much more efficiently than any for profit company. He used five areas of comparision: budget size, responsiveness to the public, reliability, board meetings, and bang for the buck on expenditures. While he did make a decent argument that non-profit organizations do in fact run rather efficiently with respect to managing a tight budget and being responsive to the public he left out one major aspect of the argument that I believe lies in favor of the private, for profit companies and organizations. And that is the incentives to provide services to others. The incenitives for a organizatin like Seacology to protect island environments are not monetary incentives but have more to do with emotions and morals. People donate and offer to provide work for these kinds of organizations becasue they feel they are doing their part in making the world a better place.
But what about providing automobiles, telephone and internet service, and the latest computer technologies? In these areas for-profit organizations provide their services much more efficiently regardless of their hugh budgets because they have the incentives to do so and non-profit groups do not.
Can you imagine a non-profit group wanting to provide telephone service out of the kindess of their hearts where they only ask for donations instead of sending a monthly bill? It's simply not going to happen.
Where emotional and moral incentives are high non-progit organizations may trumph with regards to efficiency over the more capitalistic for profit companies. But where these incentives are lacking for profit companies will provide their services the most efficiently because they have the incentives to keep others happy in their pursuit of the all mighty dollar.

Not the environment or economics, but...

...what kind of incentives are created by a situation like this?

It's an abstract for a forthcoming paper by Brian Kalt, who claims that there is a fifty square mile area in Idaho in which it is not illegal to commit a felony. Since the paper isn't written yet, I can't argue the author's point; if it's true, would-be criminals have incentive to commit felonies instead of misdemeanors to avoid punishment.

Now that's what I call skewed incentives.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Agriculture or fish. Is it a concern?

Back at the agweekly site, there is an opinion paper that brings up two really good points in the water issue. As was stated in a previous blog and article, there is a long running drought going on in Southern Idaho. The precipitation levels have been down for many years, adding to the problem of increasing temperatures. One big point that was brought up in the article was the problem of fish. Up to now, the main concerns have been with agricultural water issues. However, another issue that has received much attention is that of fish survival. Leaving water in the river and stream systems has been discussed in class, and one reason for that is for ecosystem survival. Water needs to be left in streams so that the organisms depending on a fairly regular flow will be able to survive. It was pointed out in the article that the groups working for fish water flows will also have to deal with the low water levels. If water allocation is studied with purely water rights in mind, then there would be little, if any, water left in the stream. This of course causes conflicts. The big concern then comes in with who to allocate the water to. It seems to be an ethical question. Is it of greater importance to keep fish in the rivers and have farmers lose crop productivity, or lose the fish so farmers can harvest worthwhile crops? This brings up the other item that was discussed. The author mentioned that there are people working to solve the problems that are rising. "Many people have pored their efforts into strategies that will alleviate -- even if they will not resolve -- the problem." This is what the point needs to be. Not always is there a solution to every problem, sometimes there is only part of a solution. It would be logical to admit that half of a solution is better than no solution with the problem getting worse and worse. It appears that sometimes when solutions or options are offered, they are dismissed because the end result gained thereby is not "acceptable" to the other party. Water issues are a big problem, and the only way through them is to act with patience and courtesy and for continual reworking.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

All In A Day's Work At The UN

The U.N. has been in the news of late for their lack of response in Darfur, the oil-for-food corruption, and sexual abuse by peacekeepers. However, what is not covered nearly as much is the U.N.’s current efforts to solve the water problem in the world. According to this piece, (WATER SOCIALISTS ARE ALL WET) the UN is taking measures to cut in half the number of people without sanitary water. Like most things that come from the UN, however this plan is rooted in a central authority approach to water allocation. Rather than adopting market reforms in areas of inefficient allocation, the UN has chosen to take an aggressive stand against “privatization” b/c of the fear that individuals will be charged exorbitant prices for clean and safe water. As the CATO article points out, this is not the case. Under a regulatory regime, allocation will continue to be more costly in terms of opportunity costs (time spent getting water = less time for work/school), and will continue to tether those individuals in need of sanitary water to a life of poverty.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Fuel alternatives

We have talked about how newr vehicles are more fuel efficient and cleaner running than older vehicles. There are a lot of other choices out there in new cars. Electric and hybrid cars are fast becoming a favorable alternative to fuel powered cars. What we often forget to think about are the other alternatives without buying a new car. For example a diesel engine can be easily converted to run on biofuels (for example vegetable oil used by fast food retaurants). Often this is cheaper to run too. Fast food places have to pay to dispose of the oil, if they can give it to someone with a converted car there is no cost to them, they may evern sell it for a lower cost than traditional fuels. This site talks about other reasons to use biofuels. The USDA is currently working on the resources of biofuels and the uses for them.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Industrial water concerns and issues

As always water is a major concern. Most of the time we only look at things on our level, where we are impacted. This means we are concerned when we don't have the water to clean ourselves, our possessions, water our yards, and recreate in. Our concern is rarely on what we need to do to reduce water usage, we leave that to industry and various business owners. There is a web site that looks beyond the individual concerns. There is a company that operates in Puerto Rico that has taken into account the surrounding area and the community of people surrounding them. They recognized that they were having problems with the fresh water supply and not only did they work to create a solution to their problem, but they expanded to cover the local area. This company has shown inventiveness in finding solutions and stretching beyond their boundaries. Another company has also shown a desire to help be part of the solution and not the problem. This company has acknowledged that they are a major user of water resources, both in the production of their products and as consumers use them. They have done much work to reduce their water usage, however, they have not stopped there. They are working to create solutions to consumer water use. They are working on developing products that use less or no water and are encouraging consumers to use less. This is an example of people working to solve problems, sometimes before they exist. They are working on helping us to keep the type of life style that we expect. I also see the potential for expansion into other areas. With products that require little or no water areas of the world who are suffering from water shortages may be able to enjoy some of the amenities that we take for granted here. I applaud those companies who are working to solve their problems beyond the average solution and who are working to expand those solutions into other lives.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

EnviroKidz Organic Gorilla Munch Cereal

This breakfast cereal that I recently discovered in a quest to find food that my daughter can eat (she has several food allergies) features a picture of gorillas drawn on the front along with the a logo stating that "1% of sales donated to wildlife". I started to think if this had any potential to raise money for environmental groups. If my daughter eats 1 box of cereal each week of the year at $3 a box thats $156 for cereal each year. Now if they donate 1% of that to wildlife, "nature" gets $1.56 of that. Does this seem like a marketing scheme and not a fundraiser to anyone else? You can see what groups they are donating to at
The back of the box has a story about Kureba the gorilla and states that by buying and eating thier cereal that your saving the gorillas.

Contradicting information, isn't it great.

Speaking of contradicting information in this oil scarcity crisis….According to the associated press, oil prices dropped because oil inventories are increasing. Crude oil fell over 4%, and although prices are still higher than they were a year ago, They are still $40 less than the price paid in 1980.
This is good news right? Well, not exactly. The same page allows you to link to another article discussing the continual increase in fuel prices around the world. Analysts predict that prices will continue to rise and that there is little we can do about it.
Of course then you have OPEC saying it has lost control of the oil market and there is not much it can do to lower the prices. With this argument comes a statement from Senator Ron Wyden from Wyoming who states “This is their claim, but the fact of the matter is that nobody knows what their capacity is.” Could we have a problem of asymmetrical information in the oil market? I think the answer is yes.
However, this ‘oil scarcity’ isn’t always a bad thing. The rocketing fuel prices have seemed to create an incentive for hybrid cars in the market. Companies like Toyota are finding new ways to create hybrid cars that do not consume as much fuel, and the market is looking rather good for them. This year Toyota plans on releasing 62,000 of its hybrid SUV. If we don’t have gas to drive our cars, I guess we’ll just develop better ones. We’ve got brains, we just need to use them.

Central Utah Project

As we were talking in class about logan and building dams for water storage. I was thinking where does all the water really go and how does it get there. So I thought about the central utah project, and what it was really about. There are eight different collection areas, and a web of pipes and canals to take water from these areas to places miles away that will use this water. Alot of this water has a price tag. If a city like Salt Lake wants water for municipal use they have to exchange some water for irrigation from the area they are buying the water from.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

More history of water rights

Whoever came up with "first in time, first in right" had no idea of the conflicts to follow! The history of water rights is interesting (thanks Beth, for your post!), only now it's Colorado interpreting old laws.

A development company near the town of Ft. Collins wants to divert agricultural water for municipal use in a new residential area of 160 acres. In 1864, a ditch was dug to divert water from the Cache la Poudre River for farmland, and the original users specified that the water was to be used only for irrigation.

Later, the original water owners sold their shares in the ditch and its water to a larger irrigation company, but retained delivery rights - rights to receive the water, even though they did not own it. The contract specified that delivery rights are senior to owners rights.

Seems simple, but now the entity who holds the senior delivery rights is the same entity that wants the water for the residential development- East Ridge. The news story is a bit confusing, as it doesn't really explain who or what East Ridge is. (page 8, item 25 in this document indicates that East Ridge is the name of some property, but the last line of the story quotes a company attorney)

Anyway, the courts, including the state supreme court, all upheld the original contract and denied water to the development. In a bit of twisted logic, East Ridge's attorney says "Particularly with Colorado having all the water issues they have now, we thought it was appropriate that the policy be maximum utilization of water - and it is - and this water won't be used the best way it could be used for this property based on this decision." Sure, it's maximum utilization to the group who's interests he represents.... but what about the agriculture industry? Since when is urban sprawl a more appropriate use of water than growing food?

On the other hand, don't laws and contracts need to be revisited on occasion to make sure they are still useful?

Historic reach in water issues

The area that we live in creates in us an appreciation and a concern for water. We have discussed in class various aspects of water and the different things that drives it. This article discusses some of the history of an area in Idaho. There is a very interesting discussion on the history of the water rights of the area. The article also had a very helpful way of looking at historic water rights. A picture was presented of a reservoir, those with the oldest rights have the “lower” part of the lake, so in times of scarcity when the water levels are low, there is still water for the original water users. The concern always exists over whether there will be enough water to get through the growing season. One very interesting point was the discussion about how the BID company traded its water rights. It received rights for a reservoir that almost always has water. The concern that is foreseeable is how much effect that the ground water pumping and other actions further up in the watershed will have on the water levels. It may be that conflict will occur if the droughts continue and water is continued to be taken so it does not even reach the reservoirs. One possible solution is to come to a conclusion before conflict starts. They might just have to limit water use now so that historic users will have the water they need. Often it is easier for people to have limits set on their actions at the beginning rather than trying to force an action or limitation after they are set in their habits.
Water rights usually are very well defined, and have been for a long time. The problems that usually arise therefore come from loopholes or flaws in the system, or from problems in the areas they feed. In times of scarcity, people want to hold tight to what they have, so it appears that some administrative organization needs to be observing and monitoring the systems. This is occurring in the area mentioned in the article, and there are always concerns, and yet there also always seems to be a way to work through them.

Orange peels and fuel.

I found yesterday’s lecture very interesting, and I would have to agree that the human mind is the ultimate resource and we do not give it enough credit. As I was reading the news, I stumbled across this article on how Florida is planning to utilize its orange peel waste to make hydrogen fueling stations. Now I know we have discusses that currently hydrogen is not the most economically sound option, however as we continue to explore other options in energy, we may be able to find an efficient solution.
Personally, I do not think that resource scarcity should scare us. Rather it provides humans with an incentive to be creative and forces us to ultimately come up with a better solution than we started out with. Right now we seem to be obsessed with oil and the ‘lack thereof’, but is their really a scarcity? So we open ANWAR up to drilling, maybe we have to find other methods of extracting oil. The oil scarcity provides us with new incentives to improve, create and develop and that doesn’t concern me in the least.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Can We Blame Jimmy Carter For This One Too?

Today in class I was struck by the oil price graph. As was indicated by the graph, around 1980 oil prices hit its apex and since have been somewhat stable over the long run. What disturbed me was the general ascension in prices up to today. I know that this increase in prices has nothing to do with “dwindling” reserves, so what is the reason for the steady increase in price? At first I thought of the political factors (war in Iraq, etc.) but oil prices can not be on the rise only b/c of this single factor. I picked up this essay off of the Cato Institutes “Regulation” publication. As I understand it, the problem with the instability in oil prices is due in large measure to OPEC’s manipulation of oil production. My question is why we continue to do business with OPEC if they persist with their price gouging techniques? Why don’t we try and adopt more conservationist policies with regards to oil consumption? If we can’t control the supply side of the problem due to high costs then we should manipulate demand in a way that forces OPEC nations to stop there manipulation of prices and lower the price of oil.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Environmental Economics Essay Scholarship Contest

I thought I'd give everyone a heads-up about an essay contest covering environmental issues. A group called A Better Earth has several essay topics, and a few things they want applicants to consider when writing about them. (They basically give you a bare-bones outline for the paper.)

Write a 600-2500 word essay on one of the topics, submit it by May 15, and you could win $750, $1000, or $2500 in scholarship money.

The group sponsoring the contest, A Better Earth seems to have novel and pragmatic approaches to several environmental issues. If nothing else, their articles page can give us lots of things to post about on the weblog.

West Jordan Power Struggle Update

The situation in the West Jordan Power Struggle has a new comedic update. Construction on the new power plant has been stalled again. Nobody seems to remember that it pretty much guarantees power outages in the near future.

Council member Stuart Richardson, who lives closest to the proposed site out of all the members of the City Council, is the one who gave a quote in favor of dealing with the problem instead of complaining about it. Of all the members of the City Council, he's the most likely to lose money on his property value in the long run. Whether or not I agree with all of his political decisions, I like the fact that he supports fixing the problem, instead of whining about the solution.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Water Problems here in Cache Valley

Due to low Bear Lake water levels last year, a group of farmers in the north end of the valley known as the Utah Small Pumpers Association, were ordered by the State Engineer to stop pumping water out of the Bear River. All but one pumper complied and stopped pumping water. Jerry Simmonds didn't stop pumping. He is a dairy famer and the corn he planted to feed his dairy cattle had not yet matured and needed more water. (No links are available to the two articles. I apologize. I'll summarize.) According to reports in the Herald Journal from March 13th and March 16th, the state obtained a restraining order halting Simmonds from pumping anymore water. As we discussed in class, the rule for water in the state is "first in time, first in right." Heather Shilton, Assistant Attorney General argued that Simmonds rights date to 1918. However, farmers in Box Elder County, down stream from Simmonds on the Bear River, have water rights that date back to 1889. The state argued that Simmonds could not pump water from the Bear River and deprive farmers farther down stream of their water. Simmonds agreed last week to not pump any water from the Bear River if ordered to do so by the State Engineer.
We hear about water rights problems all the time, but rarely here in Cache Valley. All who own water shares need to understand the rights that come with owning this water. A new law passed by the state legislature that is awaiting the governor's signature, would make those who unlawfully divert water punishable by a third degree felony. Before it was only a misdemeanor. As more and more problems arise because of the shortage of water, it seems the state is starting to take a bolder stand to protect water.

Friday, March 18, 2005

New Irrigation Technology Needed in Agriculture?

Recently in class we have been discussing who has water rights, and where most of the water is allocated. I was very surprised that 87% of usable water is consumed by agricultural needs. With such a large portion of a scarce natural resource being used in this department, I think it is necessary to maximize the efficiency of the irrigation systems being used. This is in no way an easy task, but I found this site that explains their attempts to provide "sustainable irrigation."

The company New Horizon Technologies, claims that in order to identify water wasting systems you must begin with an audit of the hardware and management techniques being used at each specific system. The specialists that work for this company claim that they can help irrigators save water and energy, reduce power bills, and optimize crop yields, by minimizing overwatering, leaching, and runoff. They claim that they can inspect the entire irrigation system to identify cost-effective improvements. I think that this is a difficult but worthwhile goal. I think that if these efforts could be incorporated into the entire agricultural field, you would see positive effects and less water would be wasted, while maintaining the same crop yield.

Tyrant Commons King

In South Dakota in 1990 some fossils were found in an Indian reservation, those fossil were later determined to be the most complete skeleton of Tyrannosaurus Rex, read article here.
Researchers bought the right from the owner to dig the bones up and take them away. But wait, it was an Indian reservation which meant it was still federal land, and the Cheyenne Sioux Tribe which was on the reservation did not see their cut also. So lawsuits erupted over who owned and had the right to sale, the fossil was seized and the courts are the ones to decide who get the bones. In the end ownership was granted back to the land owner, after they said they had never agreed to the sale of the fossils for just $5,000. So in the end the land owner got the fossil back, everyone at one point claimed ownership, and the fossil sold at Sotheby’s for $7.6 million dollars.
When the fossil sold its title was "Property of the United States of America in Trust for Maurice Williams of Faith, South Dakota.''

As the article stated there really isn’t any law regarding fossils on public land, only the BLM regulates them, and that is a mess all in itself. The big question here if the federal government owns it and its considered a public good how can anyone enjoy it if it is into he ground? It must be removed in order to be used for education, learning, and just overall public use. But for public use it needs to be transferred to a private institute, transferring public to private causes all sorts of political problems. Could you imagine the public outrage if Disney was going to run Yellowstone.
Fossils are a public good that are removable and excludable, and can be privatized without any payment to the owner (Federal Government) in many cases. (Don’t worry it doesn’t make sense to anyone)

My solution to this is allowing only accredited programs to unearth vertebrate fossils, and allow these accredited universities to sell non scientifically significant fossils to the public. The federal government would have to compensate to some point, I have no clue as to the best course of that action yet, perhaps a percentage of sale and a base extraction fee.

Until true property rights are established on who actually owns the rights to the fossils a solution is doubtful.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

greens seeing blue and mercury

Go the the commonsblog to read about a New York TImes articles and one from the director of the Izaak Walton League on green alarmism. We will talk in class about their analysis of why there is so much alarmism. The articles sound very much like the O'Toole article we read during the first week of the semester. Also read about the new EPA mercury rules. Apparently we will spend $5.5 billion to get about about $150 million. Robert Hahn, the co-author of the mercury study was the point person for getting emissions trading established as part of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments and is considered one of the nation's experts on the topic.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Dams: A pro-dam view from Emery County

I grew up in rural Utah in the small town of Elmo. Elmo is part of spacious Emery County. This area is a desert and water is non existant during the heat of the summer except for the use of irrigation water that flows from the many reservoirs in the region.
When Emery County was settled many of the establishments didn't last due to a lack of water. Being a poor county comprised of coal miners and farmers without much water they couldn't pay for their own dams. A project to build several dams was authorized as a participating project of the Colorado River Storage Project by the Colorado River Storage Project Act of April 11, 1956. The users weren't forced to eat all of the costs of the construction signing a contract to only repay 3 million of the 8 million dollars used to construct the project.
Certainly environmental changes have occurred since the construction of the dam but I believe the economic benefits that have come to the county as a result of these reservoirs far outways any environmental impacts.
For example, since the building of the dams 2 coal powered power plants were built in the region that utilize water year round from these reservoirs. These plants provide electricity to a large part of the western U.S..
Farming has prospered and the area has survived. Without the dams the county would be one large sandbox and the population would be even closer to zero.

Commies on Coke

Little do we hear about the current steel shortages on the late night news, we do however hear about the soaring gas prices. Manufacturers often cannot get steel or must ration it heavily. New companies either must be entered on a waiting list or are turned away. Why is this, well the main reason is China reducing the amount of coke they are selling, coke is a key resource in manufacturing steel. China is also the world's leading producer of coke. China is also on a shopping spree of all scrap steel that is currently available and has caused steel prices to skyrocket. Other methods of making steel are deemed to be environmentally hazardous and much more expensive. Coke is the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to make steel, but if China corners the market on coke it will be very difficult to make steel in the environmentally friendly world today. There have been talks of adding tariffs to stop American companies form selling scrap steel to china, but I worry about any tariff after China took such advantage of the last steel tariff America adopted. If China does succeed in creating a monopoly on steel, than what action can or should be taken. But this does worry me, China’s expanding their navy. The only reason an expanded Chinese navy would have aim for in my mind is against the United States. Is it time for something to be done about steel production, or to try to allow the market to change this attempt on corning the market. I personally am not sure of the best course of action at the moment, when markets collide with international politics and old grudges anything can happen.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Human Protection by the Environment

I came across this great article while seaching the web today. Basically, those areas with "intact coral reefs, mangroves, vegetated dunes and robust coastal forests came off better than those degraded by pollution and insensitive land use." I think the protection that is offered to us by creating a healthy ecosystem around us is often overlooked. Just look anywhere that we have devegitated a hillside, and you will find potential for a mudslide. Obviously the environment won't protect us 100% from potential disasters, but I would welcome the added protection. Sometimes this makes me wonder of our our coastline, especially reading this article. I hope that we can help regenerate our coastline and help protect ourselves for the future.

Asbestos: How harmful is it?

We all know that asbestos is lethal. Anyone who walks into a building that contains the slightest bit of asbestos-based insulation will die horribly. Or will they?

The Royal Society of Chemistry has an article on page four of this newsletter that discusses the issue. It tells us that not all forms of asbestos are created equal. There are two types discussed in the article: amphiboles (or brown and blue) and chrysolites (also known as white). About 95% of asbestos used in the U.S. and 98% of that used worldwide fits into the second category, the chrysolites.

While health hazards from amphiboles are well-documented, and they have been widely banned, chrysolites have not been proven harmful. The effort to have chrysolites banned often stems from manufacturers of alternative materials that are more expensive and have a safety record that is as bad or worse. It's a typical bootleggers and baptists situation.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Water--The "Oil" of the 21st Century?

The ongoing and increasing controversy related to water and water rights creates many opinions of how water should be regulated and allocated. I came across this article that discusses the idea of water being turned into an economic good.

The argument of this article is that by allowing water to become a good, such as land, it would allow water to be re-allocated more and have a price associated with it. Not only is water just an asset to agriculture, water is an valued good to urban areas, especially those like the Salt Lake valley, whose population and demand for water continues to grow. With demand, comes a suitable environment for a successful market. Another argument is that a water market would increase efficiency of water usage in both agriculture and urban development. Most Utahn's use more than their fair share of water per person, and those who do should have to pay the opportunity costs, similiarly to other goods, such as oil. Until a better solution is discussed, I would be in favor of a market where water would become an economic good. There is no doubt that this would increase productivity and conservation of water usage. Even is water consumption stayed the same, extra capital from increased prices could be used to fund the development of more efficient systems for irrigation, storage, and drainage.

Irrigation for Fish Farming

We have been talking about irrgation in class the last couple of days and so I was surfing the net looking for a good irrigation topic. The irrigation we have discussed up to this point has had to do with irrigation for more traditional purposes such as growing plant crops. I came across this site that talks about irrigation in Idaho for trout farming, click on trout. Water is diverted into rivers and streams into man made canals and ponds just like other crop irrigation so that they water can be monitered for temperature and purity. 58 degrees farenheit is the ideal temperature for trout. The trout are raised for conservering their numbers in the wild, sport fishing, and are also sold to grocery stores. This link talks some more about trout farming in Idaho which is number one in the country in trout production. I guess not all irrigation water taken out of the rivers and streams hurts fish. In this case it helps them in conserving and managing their numbers, even if it's not in a natural way.

Commodity prices

How do you respond to the following claims? Read the Bloomberg article as well as the interpretation below. I emailed the article's author and she said the numbers she cites are nominal prices, not real prices. Are nominal prices really indicating scarcity? What are the escapes from scarcity?

Market notices that natural resources are shrinking fast

While some folks in political circles still like to pretend that
natural resources are endless, global financial markets aren't, uh,
buying it. Commodity prices recently hit a 24-year high, driven by
worries that burgeoning global demand is rapidly outstripping supply.
We'll try to spare you most of the numbers (masochists may click the
link below), but suffice it to say: Copper and oil prices are near
record highs. Countries that export loads of raw materials
(Australia, Canada, South Africa, et al) are loving life as their
currencies rise against the dollar. Continuing economic growth in
the U.S. and China means that prices will probably continue to go up,
and "[t]he only thing that will get us to move decisively lower is a
global recession that would reduce demand,'' said Citigroup analyst
Kyle Cooper. Analysts at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. said oil
prices will rise until 2008 and stay high thereafter, based on
worries that global oil production is reaching its peak. Hmm ...
seems like the Birkenstock crowd has been saying that for a while.

straight to the source:, 08 Mar 2005

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Dazed and Confussed

I just got out of my speech 1050 class (trying to fill that CI requirement). Today we had the assignment of giving a persuasive speech. It was definantly interesting. Of the 40 class members around one third talked about the environment in one way or another. The most interesting was a talk about why we should not drill in ANWR. I was amazed because every fact presented was quoted from the Serria club. Listening to the speech you would have thought that drilling would cause the entire collapse of the ecosystem there. One fact that was mentioned was that we could only get enough oil for the equivalence for one days use in the U.S. I have heard conflicting assessments. The guy who gave the speech is not a hippie tree huger either, he is a yokal cowboy, he seems like a really good, normal guy with no agenda. That is the most disturbing part of the evening. So I guess my question is how are we to make policy that is effective and realistic if the only information that is spread around out there is subjective and only used to persuade people to one side of the debate.? Don't we need objective facts to make decisions? Or maybe the facts that I have are wrong because I got them from Jim Hansen and the Cato institute? I am up for enlightenment.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I'm sorry, Dave, I can't let you do that

I don't know how many of you have seen the movie Dave, but towards the end of it the title character promotes legislation to give a job to everyone in America who wants one and is legally allowed to work. The other day, I started considering that as a possible alternative to the welfare system. Instead of giving money to people who aren't working, the idea is to find jobs for them - not necessarily what they want, but some kind of employment.

There are two real questions for everyone: (1) Is this a good idea? (2) If so, how would we go about doing this?

Personally, I'm doubtful on the first point on general principle. We would need to create incentives for employers to create positions. Because of the guarantee of employment, would-be workers might get a job, but they have no incentive to do well, as being fired means they would have another job provided somehow. Similarly, employers have incentive to fire people, because there is no guarantee that employees get to keep their job once they have it, and there is always a better worker on the market somewhere.

On the other hand, I'd rather have someone working because of government support than someone who is paid not to work, as the current welfare system seems to promote. (I'm generalizing here; I've known people who used welfare only as long as necessary to get back on their feet, and I've known people who take advantage of the system just like their parents and grandparents did. The former have my admiration, and the latter have my spite.)

What thoughts do the rest of you have? How would you go about creating such a system without creating skewed incentives?

An old post revisited - The Sierra Club and the Sequoias

Remember this post?

Last night I was looking over some old junk mail the Sierra Club sent me on the same subject. It included prewritten petitions to President Bush and Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth with my name at the bottom. The two are nearly identical, but the Bush one is funnier.

Dear President Bush,

I am outraged by your Administration's proposal to allow commercial logging withing the boundaries of the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Logging in this way is in strict violation of the presidential proclamation which established the Monument.

Don't for a moment believe that when citizens elected you to a second term, they were endorsing this reckless plan. In fact, the proposed management plan is an affront to the vast majority of Americans who strongly support preserving our natural heritage for future generations. Giant Sequoias are among the oldest organisms on the planet. Many took root long before our great, great grandparents were born, and will live to see our great, great grandchildren - if they are not first destroyed by shortsighted policies like your proposal to allow commercial logging. I implore you to change your plan to one focused on protecting this incredible National Monument.


Mark Robertson

Wasn't it nice of them to write out the petition for me? They even put my name at the bottom so I wouldn't have to remember how to spell it!

If you look closely at my comments in the post mentioned above, you'll find my opinion that the Sierra Club's way of presenting this issue is horribly one-sided and deceptive.

They also claimed credit for the creation of the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the defeat of "the 'Wise Use Movement' legislation designed to undermine environmental and safety laws in 29 states," and the creation of the Internet! Thank You, Sierra Club! Your mail made me laugh harder than I have in a long time.

I'll keep the membership card, even if I refuse to send any money.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Creating Market Incentives In Nevada Water Consumption

George Will has a column discussing Nevada water consumption here. In the piece Mr. Will describes the water problem facing the gambling state and how it is using economic incentives to solve the consumption problem. Nevada is apparently giving landowners $1 per square foot of grass removed, which has resulted in an “annual savings of 2.8 billion gallons of water.” Property owners had not been responding as much to 40 cents per square foot removed so the city upped the price.

Nevada could have likely relied on federal handouts especially with Harry Reid holding so much clout in the senate, instead the state did what was intended by the founders of this country it used local means to solve local needs rather than relying on the federal government to solve its problems. By relying on economic incentives Nevada has allowed those who want that lawn of Kentucky Bluegrass to have it if they feel the aesthetic and existence values outweigh the possible $1 per square foot of grass that could be in their pocket.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Elk and Tourism, is it profitable to keep them around?

I love Yellowstone National Park, so naturally after Mr. Kay finished with his lecture I was disturbed. He was very persuasive, and after class I found myself thinking that Yellowstone had some serious issues to work out. I found an article that was expressing concern with some economic factors. It mentions how although tourism of Yellowstone has increased, prices have not, which means they do not have money (of course no one ever does) to continue its resource preservation. It also suggests that the elk are an importance source of revenue for the park because over 93% of tourists are there to see the elk. Would decreasing the amount of elk hurt the park financially? And if it did, would the increase in benefits to the ecosystem be enough of a justification for ridding Yellowstone of the elk population? I tend to think Yellowstone has enough other attractions to make the loss of ‘elk profit’ up just fine. Still, it’s clear to me that Yellowstone is in desperate need of some economists.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Wind Power information

Lisa's thoughtful post about wind power prompted me to email some skeptics of wind power for some citations about potential costs and benefits. Here is a short article on the subject. Here is a response by a wind power advocate and a response by the original author (This is a pre-publication article and contains a few typesetting issues. For a longer treatment, try chapters 2 and 5 here.

There are many, many places on the web providing pro-wind arguments. The pieces I suggest here might give you some tools for evaluating the claims you read.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Want To Save The Environemnt? Move to the City!!

I was glancing over today and came across a post from Tyler Cowen that showed portions of an article that appeared in the Financial Times. It's a colum where readers can write to an economist named Tim Harford. The writer was from London and she was asking if moving to the country and living a more "rural" life style would be the best way she could do her part to help the environment. Tim than went on to blast her and say that moving to the country is the worst thing she could do. If all of London's inhabitants were to do that the entire countryside would be destroyed. He then goes on to say, " Tightly packed, rich cities such as London are easily the most environmentally friendly way to enjoy modern life. Wealthy people squeeze into cozy apartments...Denser cities mean more efficient transport. Only 10 percent of commutes into central London take place in cars."Manhattan, the densest and richest city of all, was recently described in The New Yorker magazine as "a utopian environmentalist community" and it is vastly more energy-efficient, per person, than any of the 50 American states.
My advice is to forget all this self-centred nonsense about moving to the country. Instead, you should put double-glazing in your flat, travel to work by bike and relax in the smug knowledge that you are living in one of the greenest cities on the planet.
I find this argument interesting. It tends to go against your first intentions that city life is the problem when really more people leaving the cities and inhabiting the countryside would only create a bigger problem.

Birds in the Veg-o' matic

I've been doing quite a bit of digging for info and articles on wind power. Most of what I find from a simple google search is about who's researching the feasability where. What I'm interested in is the environmental impact, ie how many birds are getting killed. Truthfully, very few articles (I browsed at least 30) even mentioned birds. Here's one that reports on some bird-mortality research, but it's pretty optimistic.

Another approach to the subject is from the Renewable Energy Access site. This article gives a bit of basic info on wind power, and claims that "the cost of wind power has dropped dramatically - by almost 90 percent - over the past 20 years. Today, wind power can be competitive with fossil-fuel generators if stable, supportive policies are in place." The article then complains that the wind industry is getting yanked around regarding the tax credits it receives, which hinders the continuous development of the technology. The article is then followed by some amusing bickering in the comments section.

This seems like an area where the gov't is hindering the natural market process by getting in everyone's way. I think people want alternative energy sources, and are willing to support it's development, even at a slightly higher short-run cost. Now, more than ever, the American public has it's eyes open to the reality of our dependence on fossil fuels, and our relationship to the countries that supply our oil. Are we the Baptists or the Bootleggers?

Study Questions of Friday's Test

PS 4820 Midterm Study Questions
Spring 2005

You will be asked to write on 1 of the following questions. I will give you two to choose from and you will choose which one to answer. These are “long answer” questions. I expect more than three paragraphs. You should spend half of the class period answering it.

1. Virginia Postrel examines “what sort of rules enliven our world--and what sort stifle it.” How do you apply her ideas to environmental policy?

2. What conditions must exist for the Coase theory to be applicable? When might Pigouvian approaches be more applicable? What are the shortcomings of each?

3. What are the advantages and shortcomings of the common law and the environment? What are the advantages and shortcomings of ‘thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” regulation? How effective is non-intervention or appeals to ethics, norms, and customs?

4. “The principle justification for public policy intervention lies in the frequent and numerous shortcomings of market outcomes.” – Charles Wolf

Do you agree with Wolf? What are the factors that lead to market failure? What are the causes of government failure? When is government intervention justified?

5. On page 4 of Who Owns the Environment, De Alessi claims, “The logical starting point for addressing an environmental problem is to identify the institutions that give rise to it and then explore how they might be modified to yield a preferred outcome.” Do you agree that institutions are the logical starting point? Why or why not?

Short Answer Questions
I will choose three of these for you to answer. Answer them in fewer than three paragraphs. One paragraph might do but two are probably better. They are worth 50% of your grade.

1. Explain the difference between Pigou’s and Coase’s definition of externalities?

2. What are the implications of bootleggers and Baptists for environmental policy?

3. Is a commons at risk simply because “people are no damn good?” That is, what is the real problem with a commons?

4. What sets apart the “new conservationist” from the “old conservationist?”

5. Are property rights static? Explain.

Study Group

I have been asked to attend a study group that is occuring tonight (3/2/05) at 6 PM, although I do not know exactly where (which fishbowl?). I will only be able to stay until 7 PM, but I find that I after an hour these things tend to disintegrate anyway. Will someone please e-mail me before 4 PM today with its whereabouts?

James Nicholas Taylor

Golden eagle what a steal

I was thinking that charging people to enter national parks is a good idea. Like you said in class millcreek canyon before it was a fee area had beer parties and who knows what else happened up there. when it was changed to a fee area by the city problems there decreased dramaticaly. I know that most national parks may not charge enough but it is reasaonable. The golden eagle pass that the national park service puts out is 50$ and if you camp or visit national parks periodically then this would save you alot of money.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Bootleggers and Baptists

Here is the link to Bruce Yandle's original Bootleggers and Baptists article. Here is an article where he applies his model to global warming arguments. BTW, my reading of the global warming literature leaves me agnostic about whether the warming we are seeing is human-caused and even whether it is a bad thing. But, the Kyoto Protocol appears to be a very bad deal as it is more symbolism than substance.

Manifest Destiny Grows Up

During the 1840’s politicians often talked of ‘manifest destiny.’ It represented the American ideals of the time: the extension of the United States all the way to the Pacific Ocean. After the realization of manifest destiny, during the 1928 presidential election, Herbert Hoover modernized the idea by promising, “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” They were right – America is now the most prosperous nation in the world.
It seems now, though, that the American ideology has shifted from an optimistic outlook on the future to a pessimistic one. The new ideology is one of impending crisis: resources are being exhausted, urban sprawl is killing the environment, clean water can’t support the earth’s population… I ran across an article on the PERC website today that represents the kind of ideology that will continue to produce a prosperous and progressive America. It gave a poignant example of how technology can solve resource and environmental problems if we can just shake the chains of static rules, and the command and control mentality. The link is

Portland Takes A Major Step in Deciding Its Future

In “How The West Was Lost”, Daniel Brook argues that the Portland anti-sprawl movement is over or will soon be with the recent passage of Ballot Measure 37 in Portland. Under Measure 37 local governments, such as Portland, must compensate those landowners whose property value was decreased due to zoning restrictions. Even more detrimental to the anti-sprawl movement is that this compensation is retroactive, meaning that “if a property owner feels that any zoning change made during his tenure as owner has devalued his property, he can file a claim for compensation.” Under this system the anti-sprawl movement will almost assuredly collapse b/c it will have to pay for all of its regulations that affected property values.

The writer reports that he doesn’t believe that this measure was fully understood by the public b/c support for the anti-sprawl movement was held by the majority of the public. But Brook contends, it was the effective use of framing the issue as liberal tree-huggers vs. traditional property rights owners that allowed the measure to pass handily. According to Brook this is the end of Oregon being Oregon.

The biggest problem I have with the anti-sprawl movement is that it ignores the economic axiom that individuals are self-interested. By adopting restrictive zoning laws Portland argues that it knows what is best for the community rather than relying on market based transactions and an individual’s profit motive to allocate scarce resources to there most efficient locations. With the passage of Measure 37, Portland and the rest of Oregon have the ability to make Oregon Oregon, rather than letting some planner decide how Oregonians should live.