The headline says "mountaintop removal for coal hurts water quality and harms fish." Well, we knew that. Luckily, the article actually gives an idea of the magnitude:
In West Virginia’s Appalachian mountains, fish are vanishing. The number of species has fallen, the populations of those that remain are down, and some individual fish look a little skinny.
A new government study traces the decline in abundance to mountaintop removal, the controversial coal mining practice of clear cutting trees from mountains before blowing off their tops with explosives. ...
[Nathaniel] Hitt and [Doug] Chambers found that the number of species was cut in half and the abundance of fish fell by a third. The silverjaw minnow, fosyface shiner, silver shiner, bluntnose minnow, spotted bass and largemouth bass, along with at least two other species detected before their study, were no longer there. ...
“The people opposed to the coal industry are trying to pile on with more studies,” said Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association. “It sounds like this is one of those studies that sets out to show there’s harm done. It sounds like perhaps more of the same.”
Raney said he has not seen the USGS study and cannot strongly criticize its methods or conclusions, but people “don’t just wake up in the morning and decide they are going to do mountaintop mining,” he said. “It takes three to four years to get a permit. Every aspect of the operation is analyzed.” ...
The coal the process produces provides power to hundreds of thousands of homes, industry advocates say, and creates about 14,000 jobs that pay middle-income salaries in regions where work is hard to find.
“The average mining wage is more than $66,000 per year . . . 57 percent higher than the average for industrial jobs,” according to the National Mining Association. “Mountaintop mining accounts for approximately 45 percent of the entire state’s coal production in West Virginia.”
Raney’s association disputed claims that mining destroys streams and mountains, saying state permits and government regulations require the land to be restored after use.
This is a situation where the lack of valuation for water quality and fish makes consideration of what is best for society very difficult. Armed with market transactions (and their permits that insure pristine environmental quality after reclamation) the coal industry presents the costs of regulations in dollar terms while the scientists present the benefits in species and stock status terms. That isn't a fair fight.
This is an example of why environmentalists and efficiency advocates should think that environmental valuation is needed. Getting ahead of that curve, industry argues that environmental valuation is junk science. When environmental regulation costs are monetized and the benefits are not, the costs will usually win. Since sometimes the benefits of regulation will exceed the costs there will be too little regulation and economic efficiency will be lower than it could be.
Full disclosure: I've boarded with Doug Chambers, older brother of graduate school office mate Paul, after my car broke down in WVa.
In the absence of legislation for a US national climate policy, regulatory responsibility has fallen to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In March 2012, the EPA announced a proposed carbon pollution standard for new power plants. Then in September 2013, the EPA withdrew the proposal upon issuing a revision as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. This article analyzes the stringency of the proposed emission standards for new electricity generating units relative to the emission rates of existing, recently constructed, and proposed units in the United States. No coal-fired units would come close to the emission targets unless there are future innovations in carbon capture and storage. While natural gas units designed to meet peak demand are effectively exempt, very few of them would comply on an annual basis. For the baseload natural gas units—that is, combined-cycle gas turbine units—we find that between 90 and 95 percent of the units that began operating in 2006 or later would already meet the proposed targets. Finally, we discuss differences among states regarding the characteristics of recently constructed and planned units as they relate to the proposed standards.
Climate scientists, and natural scientists more generally, believe that climate change is a major, perhaps the most important, problem facing humankind this century, and that it is increasingly linked to extreme weather events. However, the impression one gets from much of the economic literature, particularly simulations from integrated assessment models used in policy analysis, is that the potential impacts of climate change are not large enough to warrant aggressive mitigation efforts in the near term. Although these models represent an important step in the needed interdisciplinary analysis of climate change by elucidating the links between climate and economy, we argue that they grossly underestimate potential impacts and associated damages because they (and the related policy analyses) fail to adequately capture extreme conditions, catastrophic events, and tipping points that trigger irreversible changes in the climate system, as well as impacts on the natural environment that cannot be monetized. Because the most severe impacts are expected in the later years of this century and beyond, discounting is crucial, and we argue that the appropriate rate is well below market rates. Moreover, we show that in the uniquely long period relevant to climate policy, the irreversibility of climate changes and impacts is more serious than the irreversibility of proposed mitigation measures. We conclude that an aggressive mitigation policy is warranted, one that holds further increases in global mean temperature to the scientific consensus on what is required to avoid the worst impacts, and that such a policy can be achieved at a cost that is well below potential damages.
Kenneth J. Arrow, Maureen L. Cropper, Christian Gollier, Ben Groom, Geoffrey M. Heal, Richard G. Newell, William D. Nordhaus, Robert S. Pindyck, William A. Pizer, Paul R. Portney, Thomas Sterner, Richard S. J. Tol, and Martin L. Weitzman:
Should governments use a discount rate that declines over time when evaluating the future benefits and costs of public projects? The argument for using a declining discount rate (DDR) is simple: if the discount rates that will be applied in the future are uncertain but positively correlated, and if the analyst can assign probabilities to these discount rates, then the result will be a declining schedule of certainty-equivalent discount rates. There is a growing empirical literature that estimates models of long-term interest rates and uses them to forecast the DDR schedule. However, this literature has been criticized because it lacks a connection to the theory of project evaluation. In benefit-cost analysis, the net benefits of a project in year t (in consumption units) are discounted to the present at the rate at which society would trade consumption in year t for consumption in the present. With simplifying assumptions, this leads to the Ramsey discounting formula, which results in a declining certainty-equivalent discount rate if the rate of growth in consumption is uncertain and if shocks to consumption are correlated over time. We conclude that the arguments in favor of a DDR are compelling and thus merit serious consideration by regulatory agencies in the United States.
Australia was also the first country to invent the grain stripper. Which isn't nearly as fun as the name seems to imply.
The Senate voted 39 to 32 on Thursday to repeal the so-called carbon tax after Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s conservative government secured the support of a number of independent senators.
Only 71 senators? I'll bet out 100 senators could kick their 71 senators' collective butts!
The House of Representatives had voted earlier in the week to repeal the unpopular measure, which has been a highly contentious issue in Australian politics for seven years.
The tax was devised to penalize hundreds of Australia’s biggest producers of carbon emissions, setting a price of 23 Australian dollars, or $21.50, per metric ton of carbon dioxide when it was put into effect in 2012 under then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard of the Labor Party, which is now in the opposition. The price rose to 25 Australian dollars this month.
'Penalize' seems a bit of a harsh term, especially for a country once used as a penal colony. Let's try this instead: "The tax was devised to properly price carbon emissions for those companies that choose to use the environment as the equivalent of pooping in their neighbors yard."
Mr. Abbott, of the conservative Liberal Party, who took office in September, made repealing the tax a central pledge of his election campaign, arguing that ending it would reduce electricity prices and enhance economic growth. But he struggled twice to get the measure through the Senate before the vote Thursday.
If at first you don't succeed...
The government now plans to introduce a range of measures that it says will encourage business to reduce pollution, rather than penalizing polluters.
Every time you go poopy in your own toilet instead of my yard, you get a lollipop.
After the vote Thursday, Mr. Abbott characterized the tax as a “useless, destructive tax, which damaged jobs, which hurt families’ cost of living and which didn’t actually help the environment.” He called it a “9 percent impost on power prices, a $9 billion handbrake on our economy,” and said the repeal would save the average household 550 dollars a year.
And what would it cost them?
Australia is among the world’s biggest producers of carbon emissions on a per capita basis. The government is committed to reducing emissions to 5 percent below levels recorded in 2000 by 2020.
And I am committed to stop drinking.
Politicians from Labor and the smaller Greens party said the repeal would undermine Australia’s efforts to address climate change. The Labor leader, Bill Shorten, described Mr. Abbott as an “environmental vandal.”
Mr. Abbot is "a member of a Germanic people that ravaged Gaul, Spain, and North Africa in the 4th–5th centuries and sacked Rome in AD 455?"
“Today, Tony Abbott has made Australia the first country in the world to reverse action on climate change,” Mr. Shorten said. Christine Milne, a senator from Tasmania and leader of the Greens party, said, “History will judge Tony Abbott harshly for his denial of global warming and his undermining of Australia’s effort to address it.”
John Connor, chief executive of the Climate Institute, a Sydney-based advocacy group, said that some governments had pulled back from carbon reduction targets, including Japan after the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in 2011, but that “no one else in the world has repealed a working, functioning carbon pricing mechanism.”
But in Australia's defense, very few places in the world have actually implemented a working, functioning carbon pricing mechanism, so there really haven;t been that many opportunities for countries to repeal them.
“We are taking a monumentally reckless backward leap even as other countries are stepping up to climate action,” Mr. Connor said in an interview. He said that Australia is the highest per capita emitter of carbon in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the group of developed countries, and that it ranks in the top 20 globally, emitting around 25 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person every year. “Australia’s economy is much more carbon-intensive than the U.S. economy,”...
U-S-A! U-S-A! (sorry, watched too much soccer last month).
...Mr. Connor said. Mr. Abbott has said that the repeal will lead to lower energy costs for consumers.
Mr. Abbott (2 b's, 2 t's) understands supply and demand.
But Mr. Connor said that while Australian electricity prices have indeed risen, that was due in part to power companies investing in infrastructure. “The government effectively used the carbon tax as the scapegoat for higher energy costs,” he said.
But energy costs should be higher if carbon is priced at its marginal external cost.
THAT"S THE FREAKING POINT!
But representatives of major industries, including agriculture and mining, said that the costs passed along to other businesses because of the emissions penalty were high.
and again...THAT"S THE FREAKING POINT!
While the agriculture sector was exempt from directly paying the tax, its costs “hit Australian farmers every time they paid for essential electricity, fertilizer, chemicals and fuel supplies,” Brent Finlay, president of the National Farmers’ Federation, said in a statement.
Brendan Pearson, head of the Minerals Council of Australia, said in a statement that the removal of “the world’s biggest carbon tax is an important step towards regaining the competitive edge that Australia lost over the last decade.” The council estimated that the tax cost the mining industry 1.2 billion dollars per year.
And saved the rest of society 1.2 billion dollars per year.
A representative of independent grocers also applauded the repeal, saying that the cost of electricity and refrigerant gases had skyrocketed since the carbon tax was introduced. “A small, corner store operator will save about 17,000 Australian dollars a year,” said Jos de Bruin of Master Grocers Australia, which represents about 2,400 independent supermarkets.
I know it's uncomfortable, but if carbon is properly priced, electricity, food, fertilizer, chemicals, fuel supplies, cars, trucks, motorcycles, go karts, pens, pencils, paper,...should all be more expensive.
How do you get your work published? I recently offered readers of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (JPAM) a top 10 list of things to do and not do if you want your work published in peer-reviewed journals. It was based on my experience as a senior scholar and the editor-in-chief of JPAM for the past decade. This advice is directly relevant for scholars in business and the social sciences, but some of the advice is less germane for scholars in the fine arts and humanities. This is a condensed version of a more detailed article that is available online.
Think globally. ... It is important to understand global and national trends to place your work in that context and motivate your research.
Create a good research team. ... writing strong papers often exceeds the capacity of one person. ... Create a team of researchers whose skills complement your own.
Select a strong research design. Research design trumps statistics, econometrics and stellar writing. It is not possible to resuscitate a weak or flawed research design. ... you should select and frame research questions so that you can construct a strong research design.
Use good data and measures. Data are widely available, but they vary in quality. There is more easily accessed, high-quality data available now than ever before. You can choose to use these data or collect your own. ...
If your paper has flaws, do not ignore them. There is a world of difference between making a long list of all of the heinous problems with your work for referees and pretending that problems do not exist at all! Do not list the problems and do nothing about them, or conversely, ignore the existence of problems. Neither approach works well. ...
Get to the point and write clearly and compellingly. Get to the point right away. Tell us your research question, the contribution to knowledge, and why we should care in the abstract and then repeat it again in the first paragraph. ...
There are different cultural norms based and styles of education across the globe. For a U.S.-based journal, modesty about your contribution is self-defeating. ...
Constructive feedback is your friend, especially before you submit your manuscript to a journal. Whenever your work is close to being ready for journal submission, start presenting that paper. It does not matter if it is at your university, at a conference, or another venue. When someone makes a good suggestion after your presentation, write it down. When you go back to your office, make the recommended changes.
Be strategic. Look at the journal to which you are submitting your paper. Find articles that are related to yours. If there are none, this should give you pause. If you find related papers, cite them in your submission. ... Some of these authors are likely to be your referees. Failing to acknowledge their contributions, particularly in the same journal to which you are submitting, just makes your referees unhappy.
Get it off your desk. ... One hundred percent of the papers on your desk and in your files or on your floor will not be published. ...
I agree with all of these but have one thing to say about "be strategic." I'm not so sure this is so much about being strategic as it is about appropriate journal selection. If you can't find a paper to cite from your target journal then there is a good chance your target journal is not an appropriate outlet for your work.
Scholar Metrics provide an easy way for authors to quickly gauge the visibility and influence of recent articles in scholarly publications. Today, we are releasing the 2014 version of Scholar Metrics. This release is based on citations from all articles that were indexed in Google Scholar as of mid-June 2013 and covers articles published in 2009–2013.
Scholar Metrics include journal articles from websites that follow our inclusion guidelines, selected conference articles in Computer Science & Electrical Engineering and preprints from arXiv, SSRN, NBER, and RePEc. As in previous releases, publications with fewer than 100 articles in the covered period, or publications that received no citations are not included.
If you combine the two (my attempt to do this in the search box led to only the intersection being listed) the top journals are:
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management
Environmental and Resource Economics
Resource and Energy Economics
Annual Review of Resource Economics
Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics
Environment and Development Economics
Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics
Marine Resource Economics
Agricultural and Resource Economics Review
That list looks about right (except for #1 which has a large number of self-cites since it is the only one that publishes mostly heterodox papers ... is that an overstatement?) but there are omissions. Here is the list for agricultural economics (AJAE would rank 3rd on the overall list: h-5=40) and land economics (Land Economics would rank 5th: h-5=27). The Review of Environmental Economics and Policy doesn't show up anywhere. Are there any other journals I'm missing?
The Federal Highway Trust Fund will live on for another 6 months or so:
In April, Mr. Obama sent Congress a proposed transportation program that would spend $302 billion over four years, financed both by traditional gasoline taxes and the elimination of some corporate tax breaks. Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, and Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, also proposed an increase in the gas tax to make up for more efficient cars and trucks that have sapped tax revenues as infrastructure needs have soared.
But Republican leaders have adamantly opposed anything that looks like a tax increase. Few Democrats have embraced Mr. Obama’s plan in an election year either.
The path to averting a funding crisis now appears clear, Senate Democratic and Republican aides say. With legislative days running short, Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, the majority leader, is likely to ignore the bipartisan highway funding bill that emerged last week from the Senate Finance Committee and put the House’s version to a vote, likely just before the long August recess. That would obviate the need for House-Senate negotiations to iron out the differences between the bills.
The House’s overwhelming passage — 181 Republicans joined 186 Democrats to vote yes — was another in a series of defeats for conservative groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, both of which had said they would score lawmakers negatively for voting for it. The most ardent conservatives have said the highway fund should go broke and responsibility for highways and bridges should return to state and local governments.
The latest proposal [for the Federal Highway Trust Fund ], which passed the Republican-controlled House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, works like this: If you change corporate pension funding rules to let companies set aside less money today to pay for future benefits, they will report higher taxable profits. And if they have higher taxable profits, they will pay more in taxes over the 10-year budget window that Congress uses to write laws. Those added taxes can be diverted to the Federal Highway Trust Fund
Unfortunately, this gimmick will also result in corporations paying less in taxes in later years, when they have to make up for the pension payments they’re missing now. But if it happens more than 10 years in the future, it doesn’t count in Congress’s method for calculating budget balance. “Fiscal responsibility,” as popularly defined in Washington, ignores anything that happens after 2024.
A higher gas tax and tolls also happen to be fiscally responsible.
2. Remember when states were in charge of environmental policy? I don't either since it was before 1970, but I've read and taught that it didn't work so well. States competed for firms by having low environmental standards. So, how would this work if states were in charge of their portion of interstate highways? My guess is that it wouldn't work out well as some states competed to attract firms with better roads and others competed with by having crappy roads (the motivation for this is something I don't really understand).
"This blog aims to look at more of the microeconomic ideas that can be used toward environmental ends. Bringing to bear a large quantity of external sources and articles, this blog presents a clear vision of what economic environmentalism can be."
... the Environmental Economics blog ... is now the default homepage on my browser (but then again, I guess I am a wonk -- a word I learned on the E.E. blog). That is a very nice service to the profession. -- Anonymous
"... I try and read the blog everyday and have pointed it out to other faculty who have their students read it for class. It is truly one of the best things in the blogosphere." -- Anonymous