Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Are "green firms" really green?

Interesting analysis of firms claims to be "carbon neutral" over at the Wall Street Journal. Firms claim to be environmentally safe in order to stimulate demand. But those claims may be bogus, especially when it comes to the purchase of carbon offsets - supporting emissions reduction that would have taken place anyway.

Click here for the article

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Clearly stated market failure

There's a nice short article over at ENN "A Massive Market Failure".

I love the (attempted) calculation of the external cost associated with a gallon of gasoline, though I can't comment on its accuracy.

Who are the modern day herdsman again?

Happy Holidays everyone.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Taxing smelly animals

Too much cow gas? Tax it!

Here's the story from YahooNews.

An efficient policy that made me laugh ... its win-win!

Thanks Whitney!

Notice the expected opposition from the farmers. "We'll go out of business" (if we have to pay the real costs of production).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Economic and Environmental Impacts of Recycling

Great article at Popular Mechanics.

Notice the "chicken and egg" problem and the importance of local conditions.

Blogging opportunity #3

"Us" vs. "Them" - or - "The player and the game"

We've discussed Garret Hardin's "The Tragedy of the Commons" throughout the semester in just about all of our resource topics. Hardin discussed the herdsmen who were compelled to continue putting additional animals out to graze in the community land. We described this as individually rational as the individual received 100% of the benefits from the action (revenues from a fatter cow) but paid only a fraction of the costs (everyone shares in the lost quality of the common grazing land). Everyone following the same reasoning of course leads to ruin. Self interest, in the case of rival and non-excludable resources, is not compatible with the interests of society.

Who was Hardin really talking about? Was his paper a treatise on pervasive greed years ago or do you think he was talking about someone else? Who are the modern-day herdsmen?

The reason I'm posting about this has to do with something I've been considering for a long time, but really started hitting home during the presidential campaign... When you feel strongly about something, say, a political candidate or an environmental problem, it is easy, useful and convenient to point a finger at a "bad guy" and say "It's his fault. He's just being greedy. We have to stop that guy from doing all this damage!" Us vs. them is so easy. It feels good to have someone to blame for problems.

Examples abound. Titan Cement is bad! The loggers are greedy! The whalers are evil!

Is this productive? More importantly, is this even close to being a useful or correct approach to environmental problems? Are there good players and bad players? Or does the game just have really ineffective rules?

Blogging opportunity #2

The United Nations Division for Sustainable Development defines sustainable development as:

"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

What do you think about this definition?

Biofuel plantations in tropical forests are not worth it

A new study in the journal Conservation Biology claims that conserving tropical forests is more effective than converting them to biofuel production.

"It's a huge contradiction to clear tropical rain forests to grow crops for so-called 'environmentally friendly' fuels," said co-author Faizal Parish of the Global Environment Center, Malaysia. "This is not only an issue in South East Asia — in Latin America forests are being cleared for soy production which is even less efficient at biofuel production compared to oil palm. Reducing deforestation is a much more effective way for countries to reduce climate change while also meeting their obligations to protect biodiversity."

Biofuel production in already deforested and otherwise depleted lands, OK. Cutting trees to plant crops for biofuels, not. Seems pretty intuitive. So why is it happening? Perverse economic incentives.

Read about it here at ENN.