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Matthew Thomas Howell
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I am surprised by the inefficiency of the current fishing methods. The fact that 90% of the catch gets returned to the ocean is ridiculous. I wonder how fisherman can continue to sustain themselves using such an inefficient method. The article also made me connect to today's lecture about option values. The ocean is largely unexplored and unknown to humans, yet we are scraping it clean of all life. While changes in air composition is linked with many damages and consequent effects, changes in ocean temperature, acidity, and composition could have a multitude of unknown effects upon our environment.
Before this article, I was not really aware of Environmental Justice or its full scope. It is very encouraging to see that those working in the Environmental Justice field actually go beyond advocating for environmental reforms, but also toward addressing other problems faced by minority and low income neighborhoods. These types of programs really account for the externalities present in the areas and work to inform those living in these areas of the dangers but also to help fix the problems. As Holley mentioned, communication plays a distinct role in environmental justice. Tejada is a first hand example of how face to face communication and diplomatic, cordial relations can accomplish much more than litigation. His success in Houston leads me to believe that he will perform well in this new EPA position. His open communication approach may not always lead to beneficial legislation, but will nonetheless serve to inform and educate lawmakers on the dangers present in these lower income or minority areas.
This article proves that the technology exists, even at the large scale level, to switch to completely renewable energy sources. I think that if a state such as New York implemented these programs, then many other states would follow suit considering they wouldn't require near as much energy as New York does. The long term benefits the article cites are encouraging to get these policies into place, but I wonder at what costs. The article does not mention the cost of the 16,700 wind turbines, million solar systems, and 2,600 one-megawatt tidal turbines that are needed to fuel New York. Also I wonder if the article takes into account the growing demand for energy in NY or rather if they base their estimates off of current energy consumption. Either way, steps toward the large scale utilization of non-coal energy sources is needed, and New York could feasibly lead the way.
I agree with Holley's post above. Many people seem ignorant about the facts of climate change, and have little interest to actually learn the truth. I was unaware of much of the climate change evidence when I began this class but now understand that actions need to be taken. The fact that political parties stand in the way of successful policies being implemented is ridiculous. Despite your party affiliation, the negative externalities associated with climate change are going to affect you and your family. The cap and trade system, while not being a perfect remedy, is nonetheless helpful and a positive step for the USA to take considering its massive CO2 emission levels.
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2013 on Another Political Football at Jolly Green General
This article was mentioned in class recently. The article discusses the closing of 3 coal-burning power plants by a large electric utility company, American Electric Power. Many aging coal-burning plants are beginning to be shut down, 142 since 2010 in the USA, and are being replaced in part by less polluting sources of energy such as wind, solar, and natural gas. For this specific project, 2 new plants in Indiana and Michigan are already planned to be built and generate energy through solar and wind power. Companies need to begin making these types of actions that retire old polluting plants in exchange for cleaner energy sources. The technology is available, although most companies shy away from it due to the higher costs associated with such 'green' sources. For this reason, a tax or even less efficient cap-trade system would incentivize the companies to switch toward the cleaner energy options. Other actions taken by American Electric Power to decrease its pollution levels include a $5 billion project to install pollution control technologies and an agreement to cut sulfur dioxide emissions from 828,000 tons to 174,000 tons by 2015. To me the most astounding part of the article is the last sentence that references the averted health complications. Displaying these numbers helps to make readers qualify the actual damages done by such pollutants, rather than envision the pollution as an abstract danger.
I agree with Alex in that finally changes are being made here in America and that people are understanding the capability of reducing emissions. Although the rest of the US may not be able to model itself exactly after the Northeast's example, the United States should recognize that the 'models' and 'theories' of reducing emissions actually do work in practice. Ideally this success of the RGGI would incite the rest of the US to reduce emissions and energy consumption. Then if nation-wide successes began to be seen, it could serve as a catalyst for other nations to follow suit and actually implement programs to reduce emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. I also agree with the point made by Wen. This article only highlights the 'good' of the RGGI, but what are the downfalls? Much can be learned from the failure of a program. The issue of scaling, brought up in many recent class articles, also came to mind when reading this article. Could the policies of the Northeast be implemented throughout the entire continental US easily?
Toggle Commented Feb 12, 2013 on Hurray for Market Forces!!!! at Jolly Green General
This article is a response to a previous article featured by that was initially a NY Times article ( The first article addresses the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and its current success. It then goes on to explain the possibility that the cap on the emissions would actually be raised, which is counterintuitive and detrimental. This second article is a joking response to the first article that claimed a higher emissions cap would be put into place. This article cites specific sources that actually claim the cap will be reduced in coming years. The lower cap is needed to continue making progress toward lower emissions and a cleaner environment.
The article discusses a number of positive effects that the RGGI has created. The first one that stood out to me was the fact that emissions actually dropped 23% in the first 3 years that this policy was implemented. This is a significant reduction, and possibly portrays that the policy does actually work to get producers to think about and invest into 'green' clean energy processes for the future. The second fact that caught my attention was the $952 million in revenue that the auction and selling of permits created for the clean energy programs. Finally, the article mentions that these permits are tradable which relates directly to the recent class discussions of attaining the lowest marginal abatement curve. Trading allows the market to move toward a more efficient operating point. These benefits are consistent with only one of the 4 proposed policies however. As the other comments suggest, raising the cap seems counterintuitive. The policy has worked remarkably well and appears ahead of schedule, so why should the cap move upward? The original policy proposal was to lower the cap over time, and I still believe the cap should be lowered. Although cleaner natural gas is being used, emissions are still harmful even if not from the dirtiest of sources.
I agree with Nick's comment above. Students often do think of a 'tax' as having the standard effect of creating a dead weight loss in the economy. Zetalnd's distinction of how the Pigouvian tax actually differs from the standard fiscal tax is a relatively simple idea, yet had never occurred to me. I believe that his way of classifying the initial market as inefficient and the subsequent market with the Pigouvian tax as efficient is a concept that more people need to be exposed to. Students, politicians, and constituents could all benefit from grasping this concept. With an understanding that the tax would actually benefit society and reduce a DWL, politicians and informed constituents could change current policies that would reduce pollution, as well as generate tax revenue. This outcome would help both the pollution and national debt problems, two issues that have come up often in response to their seemingly unlimited growth in recent times.
Toggle Commented Jan 25, 2013 on My Bad..... at Jolly Green General
It is interesting how nations and companies acknowledge the pollution they generate but then fail to realize and take responsibility for their actions. While international emissions talks and pledges are great in theory, they continue to utterly fail with respect to environmental cleanup. Just as cases brought in US courts and international courts have failed, I believe it will be some time before the courts begin making rulings concerning pollution and its effects. While scientific research has made it is nearly impossible for one to argue that certain pollutants do not have adverse effects on the environment, companies and nations will continue to deny that they are the sole cause or link to such damages. For example, a person filing for damages caused by pollution induced asthma would need to seek damage payments from all surrounding companies that emit the related pollutants. If the claimant did not file against all companies, the defense would likely be able to address the lack of causality since they are only 1 of many polluting companies within the area. The article does talk of eventual success in court coming from blaming companies or nations for not informing persons of the possible damages from their actions. While this brings to mind the link to tobacco, I believe the two are different. Cigarettes can be directly linked, according to most scientists, to lung cancer and other health problems. However, damages to the environment by harmful emissions are brought about by the collective pollution of many companies and nations, rather than the one brand of cigarettes a consumer smokes. The futuristic research of attributing pollution with actual causality seems to be promising, but I have doubts of how well it would hold up in a court of law. Although the correct manner of which to address these environmental problems is difficult to determine, companies and nations should begin to reduce emissions and pollution, and in doing so could avoid the need for litigation whatsoever if the damages are not present.
This article fits in with Thursday's class discussion perfectly. Friedman highlights the negative externalities associated with using carbon. He supports the Congressional Research Service's plan of a $20 per ton carbon tax, which would help curb the increasing levels of carbon in the atmosphere as well as generate tax revenue to decrease the debt. His views seem to be paralleled by many economists who also believe an increased tax on gasoline is needed. Politicians constantly shrink away from levying such a tax, since the public is vehemently against doing so. He cites that the carbon level has raised 120 ppm in 200 years and that the 'tipping point' is around 450 ppm in the atmosphere. This would mean there are at least about 50 years left before such levels are reached, leaving sufficient time to try and reverse the process before this point is reached. However once the 'tipping point' is reached, I wonder exactly how rapidly the "out of control acceleration" would be, and what a time frame for such acceleration would look like?
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