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Archive for April, 2010

Websites

Institute for Policy Integrity

New York University School of Law

The Institute for Policy Integrity (IPI) is a non-partisan advocacy organization and think-tank dedicated to improving the quality of governmental decision making. IPI advocates for reform before courts, legislatures, and executive agencies. By reaching out and building coalitions with traditional nongovernmental organizations, IPI facilitates their effective participation in the regulatory process. IPI is also dedicated to contributing original scholarly research in the areas of environmental, public health, and safety policy.

Forest Policy – Forest Practice

A “Community of Practice” Web-Log

Forest Policy – Forest Practice is a co-op effort by forest practitioners, academics, and others for discussion and interaction. Our “community of practice” includes people far beyond those who identify themselves as “contributors.” In this forum we aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion is intended to help improve existing policy and practice. We encourage anyone who visits to comment. Primary contributors include US Forest Service staff and university research specialists.

Amber Waves: The Economics of Food, Farming, Natural Resources, and Rural America

Amber Waves is published four times per year (March, June, September, and December) by the USDA’s Economic Research Service. The Economic Research Service (ERS) is the main source of economic information and research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Located in Washington, DC, with approximately 450 employees, the mission of ERS is to inform and enhance public and private decisionmaking on economic and policy issues related to agriculture, food, natural resources, and rural development. To accomplish this mission, highly trained economists and social scientists develop and distribute a broad range of economic and other social science information and analysis. As the flagship magazine for ERS, Amber Waves contains articles by ERS researchers and their collaborators.

USDA State Fact Sheets

State fact sheets including information about: Population, Education, Employment; Farm Characteristics; Farm Financial Indicators; and Top Commodities, Exports, and Counties.

Articles

As Senate Debates Climate Bill, House Members Wonder if They’ll Be Asked to Take It or Leave It (4/20/2010)

The New York Times

In Las Vegas, the house always wins. In Washington, the House isn’t as lucky. A carefully crafted compromise on climate change that narrowly passed in the House last June has been stuck for almost a year in the Senate. Now, with three senators set to unveil their own bill Monday and a floor vote possible this spring or early summer, House lawmakers are wondering whether there will be a significant effort to negotiate major differences between the two proposals or if they will be asked to simply approve the Senate version.

Cities find green job growth slower than expected (4/20/2010)

Climate Wire (subscription required)

Cities across the country are looking to shed their industrial pasts and declare themselves hubs for green jobs, but many are finding that meeting those goals is harder than expected. So far, most renewable energy plants and factories aren’t producing jobs at the rate many had hoped.

Senate Road for ‘Energy Only’ Bill Isn’t as Easy as Some Would Hope (4/12/2010)

The New York Times

Looming just behind the climate change negotiators laboring in Senate conference rooms is “Plan B” — an “energy only” bill that is smaller in scope and enjoys bipartisan support.

Building a Green Economy (4/5/2010)

The New York Times

If you listen to climate scientists — and despite the relentless campaign to discredit their work, you should — it is long past time to do something about emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. If we continue with business as usual, they say, we are facing a rise in global temperatures that will be little short of apocalyptic. And to avoid that apocalypse, we have to wean our economy from the use of fossil fuels, coal above all. But is it possible to make drastic cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions without destroying our economy?

Douglas-fir disease spreading along Oregon and Washington coasts (4/5/2010)

The Oregonian

A fungal disease attacking Douglas-fir trees along the Pacific Northwest coast is intensifying and may be linked to a warmer climate and extensive planting of Douglas-fir on logged tracts, new Oregon State University research suggests. The epidemic of Swiss needle cast stunts growth in both older and younger trees and appears to be unprecedented over at least the past 100 years, OSU researchers Bryan Black, David Shaw, and Jeffrey Stone concluded. Swiss needle cast, which originated in Europe, has spread sharply since 1996. It affects hundreds of thousands of acres in Oregon and Washington, costing tens of millions a year in lost growth. It rarely kills trees but causes discoloration and loss of needles and stunts growth. The disease has now been identified at varying levels of severity in western Oregon on more than 300,000 acres in each of the past four years, peaking at 376,000 acres in 2008, the researchers said in a paper published in the journal “Forest Ecology and Management.”

Biomass subsidies threaten Oregon wood plants’ supplies (3/21/2010)

The Oregonian

At Flakeboard’s Albany and Eugene plants, 188 workers make particleboard from the same sawdust and scrap that could one day be a major part of the nation’s energy supply. Over the coming years, billions of dollars in federal subsidies aim to turn the leftovers of forests, including those in Oregon, into rich sources of renewable power. But they could also put companies such as Flakeboard, the nation’s largest particleboard manufacturer based in South Carolina, out of business if their suppliers opt to sell into more lucrative energy markets.

Reports

CLEAR and the Economy: Innovation, Equity, and Job Creation

Institute for Policy Integrity

This policy brief discusses the Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal (CLEAR) Act in the context of the green economy, with a special focus on its ability to drive innovation, avoid regressive wealth transfers, contain costs, and create new jobs. The primary findings of this report are:

• By setting an economy-wide price on carbon, the CLEAR Act will create equal incentives for greenhouse gas reduction for all economic actors, maximizing incentives to innovate and invest across all sectors, while rewarding the lowest-cost opportunities for the abatement of emissions.
• The auction approach in the CLEAR Act will reduce overall compliance costs because it does not mute price signals by giving away free allowances.
• The CLEAR Act avoids large regional disparities.
• Because the amount of the dividend is the same across income distributions, the auction- and-dividend structure provides the greatest support to low-income families, and avoids regressive wealth transfers.
• A strong economy-wide price signal that drives innovation and investment in energy efficiency and clean energy can help spur job growth in a number of important economic sectors, and help support promising nascent industries.
• Overall costs imposed by the CLEAR Act are modest, and are overwhelmed by the social benefits achieved by greenhouse gas reductions. In addition to short-term job creation and technological innovations, the environmental benefits of the bill are likely to greatly exceed the costs.

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Web Sites

Pew Center on Global Climate Change

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change brings together business leaders, policy makers, scientists, and other experts to bring a new approach to a complex and often controversial issue. Pew’s approach is based on sound science, straight talk, and a belief that people can work together to protect the climate while sustaining economic growth. The website contains information on Global Warming Basics, Science and Impacts, Technology Solutions, and Economics. The site also provides extensive links to publications and reports regarding climate change and policy on state, federal, and international levels.

Climate Institute

In its more than 20 years in existence, the Climate Institute has been a catalyst in moving the world to address climate change in a cooperative manner. It has become the leading international NGO of scientists and policy leaders concerned with climate change and protection of the stratospheric ozone layer, and has organized conferences, symposia, and ministerial briefings in thirty nations. The website contains links to a wide variety of educational resources and publications, and also describes the many programs currently taking place domestically and internationally.

MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research

CEEPR promotes rigorous and objective empirical research at MIT on issues related to energy and environmental policy to support decision-making by government and industry. The results of the research are disseminated through publications, workshops, educational programs and other public outreach activities. Economics research at CEEPR is integrated with engineering and science in collaboration with faculty throughout MIT. The relevance and validity of the research is enhanced through cooperation with government and industry associates in countries around the globe. The website primarily lists publications and current research taking place at MIT aimed at communication of research results to inform and support decision making in industry and government.

Articles

Obama’s Offshore Drilling Pitch Sways Few Fence-Sitters on Climate Bill (4/2/2010)

The New York Times

It’s often said in Washington that if you anger both liberals and conservatives, you must be doing something right. By that measure, President Obama may have done something right with his offshore drilling plan, but he does not appear to have advanced his higher priority — passing a comprehensive climate and energy bill. Obama has not moved many GOP votes, if any. The Republicans who did praise his plan called it too little, too late. And any goodwill he has won from centrist Democrats could be offset by the scorn of environmental groups and liberal lawmakers who say their votes are in jeopardy if the climate plan leads to more coastal drilling.

U.S. Issues Limits on Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Cars (4/1/2010)

The New York Times

The federal government issued final rules establishing the first greenhouse gas emissions standards for automobiles and light trucks on Thursday, ending a 30-year battle between regulators and automakers. The U.S. issued new rules that sets emissions and mileage standards for automobiles and light trucks. The new rules, jointly written by the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, set emissions and mileage standards that will translate to a fleet average of 35.5 miles a gallon by 2016, nearly a 40 percent improvement over today’s fuel economy.

The EPA weighs the hidden costs of carbon (3/30/2010)

Grist

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency will do more than set new fuel efficiency standards for cars. It will put a price on carbon. Within this historic climate change regulation is a powerful new way of thinking about greenhouse gas emissions: as costs that will borne by society. Burning oil in cars imposes a steep price tag, from dirtier air now, to more expensive flood insurance in a decade, to potential climate catastrophe for our grandchildren.

Senate Climate Bill’s Allocation Fight Expected to Go Down to the Wire (3/26/2010)

The New York Times

Senators cobbling together a sweeping energy and climate bill are at the early stages of divvying up valuable emission allocations among regulated firms and well-financed interest groups. Their decisions are big ones, worth hundreds of billions of dollars over the climate program’s roughly 40-year lifespan. Already, lawmakers are fighting over who should get a bigger share of the allowances, as well as the broader philosophical mechanics of pricing greenhouse gases….

Obama administration officials release report on Climate Change Task Force (3/16/2010)

Council on Environmental Quality

Today, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an interim progress report of the Inter agency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. The report outlines the Task Force’s progress to date and recommends key components to include in a national strategy on climate change adaptation.

Reports

The Social Cost of Carbon

Economics for Equity and Environment

In its first attempts to regulate carbon emissions, the U.S. government is undermining its own efforts by relying on deeply flawed economic models that lead to gross miscalculations of the impact of carbon on the climate and on the nation’s economic future. Agencies seeking to incorporate climate change considerations in rules and regulations often rely on a cost-benefit analysis, weighing the cost of curbing emissions against the expected damages from every ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) that goes into the atmosphere — a value known as the “social cost of carbon” (SCC). The higher the SCC, the more stringent the regulatory standards: If it’s $5, say, only regulations that cost less than $5 to implement would be deemed worthwhile; if it’s $500, the demands imposed on polluters could be 100 times more costly. While no definite SCC has been set so far, an interagency working group has endorsed a “central” estimate of $21 per ton of CO2 in 2010, or roughly 20 cents per gallon of gasoline — far too small a price incentive to prompt substantive mitigation measures. If widely adopted, this low estimate of the SCC could result in ineffectual regulations that would barely reduce U.S. emissions, if at all.

An Analysis of the Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal (CLEAR) Act and Comparison to Waxman-Markey

Eric Williams

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University

The CLEAR Act, introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell and Susan Collins, is an upstream CO2 cap-and-trade program with an allowance price collar and a 100% auction. The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University analyzed the CLEAR Act and compared the results to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) analysis of the Waxman-Markey bill, specifically the 5% discount rate scenario.

CLEAR Economics: State-Level Impacts of the Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal Act on Family Incomes and Jobs

Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts

Abstract: Congress is expected to take up the Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal (CLEAR) Act in the coming months. In preparation for that debate, James K. Boyce and Matthew Riddle have updated earlier anlysis that examines the household-level impacts of this cap-and-dividend plan, and how they differ between states. In this paper, the authors not only consider the specific parameters of the CLEAR Act, but also add an assessment of the state-by-state job creation from the bill.

Boyce & Riddle find that interstate differences in the bill’s impact on household incomes are small: much smaller than differences across the income spectrum, and vastly smaller than the differences in other federal programs, such as defense spending. As a result, the CLEAR Act delivers positive net benefits to the majority of households in every state. Where there are interstate differences, Boyce & Riddle suggest ways in which the CLEAR Act could be modified to eliminate them altogether.

Prescribed Fire As a Means of Reducing Forest Carbon Emissions in the Western United States

Christine Wiedinmyer, Matthew D. Hurteau
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Abstract: Carbon sequestration by forested ecosystems offers a potential climate change mitigation benefit. However, wildfire has the potential to reverse this benefit. In the western United States, climate change and land management practices have led to increases in wildfire intensity and size. One potential means of reducing carbon emissions from wildfire is the use of prescribed burning, which consumes less biomass and therefore releases less carbon to the atmosphere. This study uses a regional fire emissions model to estimate the potential reduction in fire emissions when prescribed burning is applied in dry, temperate forested systems of the western U.S. Daily carbon dioxide (CO2) fire emissions for 2001−2008 were calculated for the western U.S. for two cases: a default wildfire case and one in which prescribed burning was applied. Wide-scale prescribed fire application can reduce CO2 fire emissions for the western U.S. by 18−25% in the western U.S., and by as much as 60% in specific forest systems. Although this work does not address important considerations such as the feasibility of implementing wide-scale prescribed fire management or the cumulative emissions from repeated prescribed burning, it does provide constraints on potential carbon emission reductions when prescribed burning is used.

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