Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thoughts on the course?

Happy Thanksgiving to those in the US.

Please feel free to provide your thoughts on the topics that we covered this semester.

Which aspects of the course did you find the most (or least) useful? Were there topics that we didn't cover that you would have liked to cover?  Anything that we could have spent more (or less) time on?  What will you take away from the course?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Crushing illegal ivory to send a message to poachers

I heard about this on NPR a couple of weeks ago.

Here is a link to the story at the WSJ.

Although we never directly studied trade in endangered species or associated products, there are a lot of topics that are relevant to our course here, including supply and demand, command-and-control vs. incentives and valuation. What do you think? Will destroying the ivory work as intended?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What works in fisheries management

Here is a great article by J. Sutinen illustrating the historical failure of command-and-control approaches to fisheries management.

You don't have to take an economist's word for it.  Read more here and here and here and here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Global forest cover app

From the University of Maryland department of geographical sciences, this is very cool.

You can view the change in forest cover all over the world from 2000-2012, and you can zoom in to particular countries and regions.  Be sure to check out the "zoom to area" feature in the bottom right corner.

Here is an accompanying article at BBC.

Thanks to DT for sending me the links.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" is a method of extracting natural gas deposits in shale rock using high pressure water.  Fracking involves drilling, sometimes to depths of over 10,000 feet (that's almost 2 miles down) and injecting millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals at very high pressures.  Horizontal drilling often occurs from the main vertical shaft. The pressurized water serves to break-up (fracture) the shale rock, releasing trapped gas deposits. The chemical additives serve many purposes, including thickening the liquid and dissolving minerals. The sand serves to keep the fissures open once cracks have been created by water pressure. Some of the water/sand/chemical mix stays in the ground after the gas has been extracted. Some has to be disposed of.

Fracking isn't new. The technology was first used in the late 1940s. But, the advent of horizontal drilling techniques in the 1980s combined with higher pressure water injection in the 1990s allowed access to previously unreachable gas deposits and started the current boom

The downsides of fracking are mostly related to water pollution at the drill site and disposal sites. The upsides pertain to a reduction in air pollution and costs, because natural gas is cheaper and burns much cleaner than coal.

It also appears that in the future, natural gas production may be cleaner than we thought and new technologies can reduce the associated water pollution.

Here is a short article at Grist providing a nice introduction to fracking and the sources of controversy. 

More here at The Economist

Here is a short article at USA Today looking at the future of the fracking boom

Here is an article at The Economist describing China's shale gas reserves.