The legislation, which now heads to the Democratic governor's desk, would require steep reductions in a variety of climate-changing gases known as short-lived climate pollutants, including methane, HFC gases used in aerosols and air conditionnts and soot, known as black carbon. While these pollutants live in the atmosphere for relatively short periods, they have an outsized impact on climate change, according to legislative researchers.
"With this bill we prove again that California doesn't shy away from tackling major climate change legislation. We lead," said Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, who wrote the bill and brokered the compromise with the dairy industry.
The compromise package, tied to $50 million in methane emissions funding, would set a requirement that dairies and livestock producers reduce methane emissions from manure to 40 percent below their 2013 levels by 2030. It allows for the regulation of cow flatulence — another source of methane emissions — if experts determine that technology exists to reduce it.
California would also be pushed to significantly increase composting in order to reduce organic waste, which emits greenhouse gases when it breaks down in landfills. SB1383 sets a goal of reducing the flow of food products to landfills by 50 percent within four years.
Do all industries react like this when their risky product is recognized as such?
It may seem obvious that taxing sugary drinks causes people to drink less of them. But that’s actually controversial.
Now a new study out of Berkeley, Calif., adds to the evidence that our intuition is right.
Researchers followed residents of several low-income communities in Berkeley, San Francisco and Oakland around the time that Berkeley voters passed the country’s first big soda tax in 2014. The study found that, in the four months after the tax took effect last year, self-reported consumption of sugary drinks fell by 21 percent in the Berkeley neighborhoods, but rose by 4 percent in the other two cities.
The study, published in The American Journal of Public Health on Tuesday, also found that the Berkeley residents reported drinking more water, a sign that they were replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with something healthier.
The research was conducted using in-person surveys of neighborhood residents, a method with some problems because people are not always accurate in describing their diets. But the study is the first to assess soda drinking since the tax went into effect. And its results are consistent with research from Mexico, which passed a nationwide soda tax in 2014. In that country, sugary drink sales fell by about 17 percent among the poorest households by the end of a year.
Other research will most likely clarify the precise size of the effect. But the study seems to confirm that a soda tax will encourage low-income consumers to choose different beverages. ...
The soft drink industry criticized the study for its survey methodology, and noted that even the recorded drop in consumption was unlikely to have a big impact on public health. ...
The researchers said they can’t be sure that the reduced consumption of sugary drinks was a result solely of the tax, which amounted to less than a 1-cent-per-ounce price increase at the cash register. People also became more aware of the health issue during the debate around the tax’s passage and the city’s efforts to discourage sugary drink consumption around the same time.
William Dermody [vice president for policy] from the American Beverage Association says this: "The authors of this street survey acknowledge that it had a number of flaws, and there is no indication that the tax had or will have a measurable impact on public health.” The article says this: "Within each neighborhood, we administered intercept surveys near the highest foot-traffic intersection." So OK sue me, it is a convenience sample. But if the same methods were used at the study and comparison sites then the comparison is valid. But, of course, the guy from the American Beverage Association just wants normal people to think the authors are stupid with a broad criticism that doesn't hold up. Sound familiar?
In 1987, the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty to address atmospheric ozone depletion, established timelines for the phasing out of Chloroflourocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrochloroflourocarbons (HCFCs). Production and use of CFC's, the more damaging of the XCFC's was banned almost immediately-by 1996, immediate in regulatory terms--and hairdressers everywhere has to find alternatives to their Aquanet. HCFCs, with less greenhouse gas potential, have faced a slower phase out, with most uses phased to zero by 2020 and all uses by 2030.
Of importance to me, and really that's all that's important here, the primary refrigerant in most household air conditioning units installed before 2005 (as mine was, the significance of which will become apparent imminently) is Freon, also knows as R-22, or Chlordiflouromethane, an HCFC.
Well, upon returning from my field research trip yesterday, I arrived home to local warming--that is, my air conditioner had crapped out while I was gone. As the tech put it, we have a small leak in one of the copper lines--environmental shame on us--and a dirty coil, which caused the supply lines to freeze. The long-term solution is a new AC unit (or a lot of sweat), but the short-term solution is a cleaning and recharging of our current unit with somewhere between 0-4 pounds of R-22.
Knowing a rough history of Freon, this news from the tech caused my inner-economist to come to attention. Future bans on R-22 (supply decrease) are going to cause current supplies to decrease (rationing) and cause current price increases. So I ask, tepidly, "How much is R-22 these days?"
The tech, sensing my insider knowledge, says, well, unfortunately, prices have doubled in the past year and they're expected to keep going up until we can't use R-22 anymore in 2020. He said prices are about $100 a pound now.
Stefanie Kopchick, North America marketing manager for refrigerants, The Chemours Co., said the annual allowances have decreased faster than the market demand for R-22, which has depleted inventory across the supply chain.
“Chemours is not excluded from this reality,” she said. “As a result, in 2016, we’re starting to feel the snugness in supply; our wholesale partners have been cut back significantly as the inventory Chemours built in advance of the final phasedown period continues to be depleted.”
With meteorologists predicting normal to warmer-than-normal temperatures this summer, industry leaders only expect demand for the refrigerant to increase. Further adding to the increasing demand is a drop in reclamation and an increase in interest values affecting financing decisions, said Gordon McKinney, vice president and COO of Icor Intl.
“The amount of R-22 being recovered and reclaimed is not expected to contribute much more than 8 million pounds this year,” he said. “Interest rates are on the rise, and that will make repairing a better option than replaceing for many air conditioning and refrigeration equipment owners. With service demands for R-22 in the U.S. still estimated to be in the tens of millions of pounds per year, many R-22 users will need to transition to an ozone-safe alternative, like ICOR’s NU-22B®, to service legacy R-22 systems.”
McKinney mentioned the price of R-22 increased in the fourth quarter of 2015 by an average of 15 percent, is expected to increase through the year, and could reach record levels by the end of 2016. For HVACR contractors and distributors, this could spell trouble.
The learning curve for policy makers is steep (ignore market forces at your own risk):
Automakers are unlikely to hit the 54.5 mile per gallon average fuel efficiency level that President Obama trumpeted for years, federal officials said Monday.
Blaming it on higher-than-expected sales of large vehicles like SUVs, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) said automakers will probably miss the mark that the Obama administration touted in its historic 2012 regulation regarding vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions.
The forecast was part of a 1,000 page draft technical report from the two agencies, the first step in evaluating whether to strengthen the efficiency rules for the 2022 to 2025 model-year period.
The report itself does not constitute a decision to tighten the rules or even a proposal to do so, but the finalized version of it is likely to weigh heavily on the evaluation.
Speaking with reporters about the projections, Obama administration officials stressed that despite the high profile of the 54.5 figure, it was never a standard in and of itself.
“54.5 isn’t a standard, never was a standard and isn’t a standard now. 54.5 is what we predicted, in 2012, the fleet-wide average could get to, based on assumptions that were live back then about the mix of the fleet,” a senior administration official said.
“That depended a lot on a variety of factors, including gasoline prices,” the official said. “We’re recognizing the fact that gasoline prices are lower now.”
I haven't read the 1000 page draft technical report so I wonder how it dealt with the uncertainty about gas prices? It is very difficult to foresee the technological shock of fracking but, still, a 54.5 miles per gallon goal is dependent on the market for gasoline and any such target should have a very wide confidence interval. Needless to say, it would be much more straightforward to increase miles per gallon with a higher gas tax.
Since it was discovered in 1985, the Antarctic ozone hole has been a potent symbol of humankind’s ability to cause unintended environmental harm. But now comes a glimmer of good news: The void in the ozone layer is shrinking. “It’s a big surprise,” says Susan Solomon, an atmospheric chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “I didn’t think it would be this early.”
Although the hole will not close completely until midcentury at the earliest, the healing is reassuring to scientists who pushed for the Montreal Protocol. The 1987 international agreement phased out the industrial production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs): chlorine-containing chemicals that help trigger the destruction of stratospheric ozone, which screens out cancer-causing ultraviolet light. “You want to be sure that the actions we’ve taken have had the intended effect,” says Solomon, who led the study published online by Science this week.
And here's the money quote:
“The fact that we’ve made a global choice to do something different and the planet has responded to our choice can’t help but be uplifting,” she says.
“Economists remain influential. I wonder if that isn’t partly because there is a critical mass of Republican economists who battle the Democratic economists and thus tether the discipline to the American mainstream.”
But the extent to which conservative ideology is represented within the profession is much larger than a simple tally of the number of conservatives versus liberals indicates. ...
The article is mainly about macroeconomics but with a few minor edits it works just fine here. Here is some more at the Fiscal Times with my edits in [brackets] (except for the [who] in paragraph 4):
The great majority of economists, Democrats and Republicans alike, believe in the ability of markets to perform the “magic” of coordinating the desires and productive activity of millions and millions of people without the need for a central authority to guide them, and to provide the correct incentives for innovative, robust economic growth. Thus, in order to make the case that there is a role for government, one must first provide a strong case that there is a significant market failure that results in a departure from the assumptions needed for markets to work their magic, and then explain how government policy can improve upon the outcome.
That is done all the time within the profession. Although economists believe in markets in general, they are continuously identifying instances of market failure and then designing government policy responses that can make these markets work better. In fact, the standard model used in [microeconomics] incorporates a particular market failure that plagues a broad swath of markets – [negative externalities] – into the basic theoretical framework. This model, along with supporting empirical evidence, provides a basis for the use of [pollution taxes or permit markets] to improve the performance of the [economy].
But even though economist have made a strong case for government intervention and regulation in many cases, and for the use of [pollution taxes and permit markets] to [correct negative externalities], the public debate tends to fall back on simple Economics 101, keep the government out of the way discourse.
This has been attributed to “economics writers [who] present Econ 101 stuff about supply, demand, and how great markets are as gospel, ignoring the many ways in which economists have learned to qualify those conclusions in the face of market imperfections.” But I think it goes beyond economics writers who shape public opinion with standard Economics 101 arguments they remember from their principles of economics classes.
There is a substantial and influential block of mostly conservative economists who always stand ready to defend the idea that markets work best when they are left alone. They will acknowledge that market imperfections exist, but they argue that given enough time market forces will fix the problem. If government tries to help through regulation or more direct measures, it will undermine these forces and make things worse.
Even when there is broad based agreement that government action can improve the performance of the economy, as there is with [pollution taxes and permit markets], conservative economists argue that the [EPA] should [deregulate polluting business firms]. When it comes to [pollution taxes or permit markets], which [have] a solid theoretical and empirical foundation, they argue that government incompetence will cause more harm than good. Better to do nothing at all unless it’s tax cuts for the wealthy – somehow the government will get that right.
The result is that Republican policymakers in Congress, or economics writers with a conservative outlook, can appeal to academic arguments to support their ideological, small government, tax-cutting, deregulation agenda. This leaves the public thoroughly confused even when there is substantial agreement within the economics profession, and gives political cover to Republicans in Congress who stand in the way of government taking an active in overcoming market failures [snip].
The conservative viewpoint is accorded significant weight despite the fact that it is often a minority viewpoint. There is strong evidence that the minimum wage has much smaller effects on employment than the simple competitive model implies, social insurance deters work far less than the models predict, taxes on the wealthy do not harm economic growth, monopoly power is distorting markets, wages do not always rise with productivity, [the benefits of environmental regulation are greater than the costs], etc., but it’s hard to overcome the cover conservative voices provide as they are echoed loudly in the right wing media.
Republican economists may help to “tether the discipline to the American mainstream” due to their ability to shape what the public believes, but it ought to be the other way around. What is needed is for public opinion to be tethered to the mainstream of economics.
I pulled my copy of Free to Choose off the shelf and read the section on the environment in the "Who Protects the Consumer?" chapter (pp. 203-208). Rather than a description of Coasian free market environmentalism, it is a description of mainstream Pigouvian environmental economics. For example, on page 207:
Most economists agree that a far better way to control pollution than the present method of specific regulation and supervision is to introduce market discipline by imposing effluent charges.
Mainstream economists tend to be in favor of imposing market discipline with pollution taxes or permit markets relative to the "idea that markets work best when they are left alone."
Here is my solution to any aquatic invasive specie problem. Have the government start a covert marketing campaign designed to convince the public that the invasive specie is in fact a delicacy. They can even rename the specie to make it sound appetizing (think Toothfish to Chilean Sea Bass). But here's the catch... once the public is convinced of the delectable nature of the new exotic seafood, fail to regulate the fishery. As demand increases, prices will rise and the tragedy of the commons will eradicate the invaders.
Lionfish with their distinctive venomous spines are an invasive species that has thrived in U.S. coastal waters because they have no natural predators -- until now.
Whole Foods stores in Florida are selling the "white, buttery meat" of the fish, which the grocery chain says is suitable for ceviche or a "simple pan sauté."
The U.S. government, eager to stop the lionfish from preying on native fish and shellfish, gives the meal five stars.
"If we can't beat them, why not eat them?" says the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration in a PSA video. "Why wait? Get them on your plate."
The lionfish are native to the Pacific and Indian oceans, but can also be found in the Atlantic and Caribbean, where it is considered an invasive species, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The government blames the aquarium trade for introducing the fish to the U.S. in the 1980s, and encourages Americans to catch and eat them.
Here's the PSA:
If the government really wanted to speed the process they could subsidize the catch of Lionfish (er, Caribbean Butterfish) for food, thus speeding the tragedy of the commons (and lowering the price to consumers). A problem might arise if consumers develop a taste for Lionfish and start demanding the government regulate the stock. But that's a ways down the road.
And Andy Puzder, CEO of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, told Business Insider that 'government driving up the cost of labor (is) driving down the number of jobs,' promising 'automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants.'
A remaining question: How sensitive is the amount demanded to higher prices?
In the first study of its kind, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researcher Alan Meier, working with Yuche Chen of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, have estimated the fuel consumption penalty of this popular and fast-growing vehicle add-on. They found that in 2015, roof racks nationwide were responsible for 0.8 percent of light-duty vehicle fuel consumption, or 100 million gallons of gasoline.
Their study was published recently in the journal Energy Policy in a paper titled "Fuel consumption impacts of auto roof racks." In addition to projecting the fuel consumption penalty into 2040, at which time usage of roof racks is estimated to increase by about 200 percent in the United States, they also calculated how effective various policy and technology measures would be at mitigating the penalty.
"A national perspective is still needed to justify policy actions," the authors write. "For comparison, the additional fuel consumption caused by roof racks is about six times larger than anticipated fuel savings from fuel cell vehicles and 40 percent of anticipated fuel savings from battery electric vehicles in 2040."
"These results suggest that some fuel-saving policies should focus on reducing the number of vehicles driving with empty racks," the researchers write.
So next they analyzed the impact of possible policy, technology, and behavior changes. For example, manufacturers have found that it is possible to make roof racks with greatly improved aerodynamics. A policy to require energy labeling of roof racks could spur greater changes, the researchers note.
Even greater energy savings would come from removing roof racks when not in use. Meier notes that they could be designed so as to be easier to remove. The researchers estimated that a government policy to minimize unloaded roof racks (admittedly extreme) in combination with more energy-efficient designs would result in cumulative savings of the equivalent of 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline over the next 26 years.
Or we could just increase the gas tax and let the market take over.
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Don't believe what they're saying
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