Minnesota loons could benefit from an $18.7 billion legal settlement over the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a Department of Natural Resources official said Wednesday.
Minnesota could receive up to $25 million over the next 15 years from the settlement between oil company BP and the federal government, Carrol Henderson, the department's nongame wildlife supervisor, told MPR News.
Scientists have conducted a large amount of research documenting the effects of the April 2010 oil spill on wildlife, and the settlement might not have been reached without that research, Henderson said.
"Loons and pelicans were actually in the gulf in April when the oil spill first occurred," he said. "My recollection is that there was just shy of 200 loons that were found dead in the oil."
Henderson said that number may only be a fraction of the loons that were affected by the oil spill. Many that died were never recovered.
Minnesota and Wisconsin likely will be the only non-coastal states to receive settlement money from the spill primarily because of the loon concentration. Minnesota is home to 12,000 loons.
Many loons were contaminated in the oil spill but survived. But those birds have passed health problems on through their eggs. There is some evidence that white pelicans also were affected by the oil spill but the evidence is not as clear.
Sharks are scary to many people. New technologies, like drones, allow beach authorities to notify swimmers when sharks are nearby. So when people are told that sharks are near shore, it changes behavior--even though the likelihood of a shark attack has not changed. The only thing that has changed is the ability to see the sharks. Are swimmers now better off?
This is pretty cool. I have no idea if it's accurate but still cool.
I don't doubt that wolves have had an impact on Yellowstone. But my inner economist has to ask, are we now better off? How do we know that this new steady state (if in fact it is steasy) is 'better' than the previous state without the wolves?
Oh, and if reintroducing wolves is this great, what would happen if we reintroduced dinosaurs?
I've been a fan of Mike Rowe since his early days on the Discovery Channel's 'Dirty Jobs.' I don't always agree with his political views, but he's entertaining. He has a new show on CNN called 'Somebody's Gotta Do it,' where he highlights what seem to many like odd jobs. Apparently in a recent show, he spotlighted efforts to save the Whooping Crane. A viewer took exception. In his response, Mr. Rowe sounds a bit like an environmental economist...at least he's asking economic-like questions:
"You did a disservice to Operation Migration and the whooping crane project on "Somebody's Gotta Do It." You came across as bored and disdainful. You say you work for the people who watch you and not the people who pay you -- OK. You're on probation."
Fair enough. I've been on probation my whole career, and I'll be grateful to remain there as long as you can tolerate me. But for what it's worth, you're mistaken. I was neither bored nor disdainful of anything I saw at the whooping crane facility. In fact, I was genuinely impressed with Dr. French and his team, and glad to give their program some national exposure. Now it's true - I didn't swoon in their presence, or behave as though I agreed with every single thing I heard. Dr. French was very clear about why he does what he does - he believes the whooping crane has as much right to exist as we do. I doubt that everyone shares that view. Should they?
H.R. 5069 would allow the Department of the Interior (DOI) to raise the price charged for Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps (referred to as federal duck stamps). Federal duck stamps are annual permits sold by the federal government to hunt migratory waterfowl. The stamps also allow entry to National Wildlife Refuges that charge entrance fees. Sales proceeds are used to acquire wetlands for inclusion in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 5069 would reduce the deficit by $5 million over the 2015-2024 period. Collections from the sale of duck stamps are recorded in the budget as revenues, deposited in the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF), and later spent. Because the bill would affect direct spending and revenues, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. In addition, we estimate that implementing the bill would have no significant effect on discretionary spending.
H.R. 5069 contains no intergovernmental mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
By increasing the annual fee for duck stamps, H.R. 5069 would impose a private-sector mandate, as defined in UMRA, on individuals required to obtain the stamp as a federal permit to hunt migratory waterfowl. Based on information from gaming officials at DOI, CBO estimates that the incremental cost of complying with the mandate would fall well below the annual threshold for private sector mandates ($152 million in 2014, adjusted annually for inflation).
If the federal government does manage to raise revenue it is only because almost all of the revenue will be used to buy wetland habitat, effectively scaling the no-new-taxes-no-matter-the-need constraint that we find ourselves in.
This part of the cost estimate got me to thinking [pdf]:
H.R. 5069 would increase the price of federal duck stamps from $15 to $25 for an annual permit. Based on information provided by DOI, CBO estimates that federal revenues would increase by $119 million over the 2015-2024 period. That estimate includes a reduction in the number of stamps sold compared with the number that would be sold at a price of $15, reflecting CBO’s assessment of the effects of prior stamp price increases.
I'm not sure about the "CBO's assessment of the effects of prior stamp price increases" since the two most recent duck stamp price increases, $10 to $12.50 in 1989-90 and $12.50 to $15 in 1991-92, have been followed by increases in sales (the 1987-88 increase from $7.50 to $10 led a 7.3% decrease in sales, an elasticity of -0.22; you can get the data here).
It would be interesting to know how price sensitive the CBO thinks waterfowl hunters are. In a sport that requires thousands of dollars of equipment, I wonder how much a $10 increase would have on the participation decision. The FWS says that 1,517,647 duck stamps were sold in 2011-12 (pdf). If revenues increase by $13 million annual, my back of the envelope calculation suggests that they think they'll sell 1.42 million stamps.*
Most (I say most because I don't read them all, I don't even read a few, but all that I've read have done this) of the CBO's "cost analyses" are actually benefit-cost analyses where market prices are assumed constant. Under this assumption the benefits of a government program is the government revenue and the cost is the government expenditures. This reason I find this one interesting is that the policy is a price increase so that the one thing that is missing is the lost consumer surplus, which I estimate is about $400,000.*
The Senate bill (S. 1865) would raise the price to $30 after five years of $25 and revenues are estimated to increase by $8 million. I'll leave these calculations as an exercise (i.e., I can't figure out why sales do up, unless we are adding a population trend).
*Here is my logic (invoking ceteris paribus at the outset): Let's say that 1.5 million duck stamps are sold. At a price of $15 that is revenue of $22.5 million (which is the correct order of magnitude). Given a downward sloping linear demand revenue will rise by area a and fall by area e. The CBO estimates that the revenue increase (a - e) will equal $13 million suggesting, logically, inelastic demand (the picture is not to scale!). Based on this it looks like 1.42 million duck stamps are expected to be sold (i.e., 1.42 = [25.5+13]/25). These numbers suggest an elasticity of -0.08 which is more inelastic than the 1987-88 experience.
The only cost that is not included in this calculation is the lost consumer surplus from area b. Area b is equal to $400,000. However, all is not lost because the waterfowl hunters that remain in the market will likely take more visits to wildlife refuges with more habitat, increasing consumer surplus [what am I missing?].
This is outrageous, probably part of some Reagan-era Department of Interior program:
As part of an effort to provide equal opportunities across habitats and enrich the lives of wildlife throughout the nation, officials from the EPA unveiled a new biodiversity program Friday that will bus in species from different ecosystems. “We are firmly committed to creating a diverse biosphere by fostering relationships between flora and fauna with unique experiences and perspectives,” agency spokesman Adam Wilson said of the federally funded program, which launched this week by shuttling two dozen species of plants and animals from the Everglades to the northern Great Plains. “Before these exchanges, many fir trees in the Colorado Rockies, for example, might go their entire lives without ever meeting a clam. But soon, they’ll be able to live together in harmony and gain a new understanding of their different backgrounds and biomes.” ...
And no, I wasn't aware that this is from The Onion.
"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."
Don't believe what they're saying
And allow me a quick moment to gush: ... The env-econ.net blog was more or less a lifeline in that period of my life, as it was one of the few ways I stayed plugged into the env. econ scene. -- Anonymous
... 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