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Rachel Samuels
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As one of the humans that do venture into the oceans, they are a constant source of wonder and beauty for me. For those that have never been 60 ft under, however, their diversity and complex ecosystems are often forgotten. The agriculture of the sea is fishing, and, unlike with pesticide controls and land use laws, there is really no good way to regulate the over-exploitation of the oceans. The massacre of the corals and the decimation of so many different fish populations is horrendous, and I am glad that CNN wrote an article and displayed it regarding the atrocities committed against aquatic life, but moral suasion alone is highly unlikely to help with anything beyond awareness. There need to be global laws regarding fishing mechanisms, as the oceans are the greatest example of a tragedy of the commons. The carbonic acid increase in the oceans can be traced to CO2 emissions, and any headway on global warming should help in that regard, but the death of so many fish populations and the corals must be addressed directly. Bottom trawling does not have a high yield when compared with seine nets (though the alternative the article provided, long-line fishing, has an even lower yield). Evolving technology will not help in terms of overfishing certain species, but it will help with decreasing by-catch, endangered or not. In terms of detrimental fishing practices, there needs to be a global moratorium on bottom trawling, and other possiblities offered. Perhaps there also need to be subsidies of direct fish products and taxes against commercial fishing; regardless, we are going to ruin our oceans without having even explored their potential further if we continue as we are. I must add, however, that I found it odd how precise the article claimed to be in terms of its species estimation (1 million in the ocean) when in fact so little is known about the ocean (it's probably more). Also, the article claimed a third of all CO2 was absorbed by the ocean, but the article it linked to clearly stated a fourth. I completely agree with what the article was saying, but some of its figures and statistics seemed vague guesstimates at best and self-contradictory at worst.
I am always glad to see government agencies working for the good of small communities instead of simply citing them as a statistic. Tejada's work in the field, as he said, certainly seems to be giving him a vantage point that will benefit the effectiveness of the EPA and its resources. Many of the anti-environmentalists I have talked to seem to think that environmentalists prize plants above humankind because they are unable to swing detriments to the environment back around to harming human health, particularly because it is mainly the lower socioeconomic groups that experience the strain. The use of the word justice to describe the problem with uncontrolled negative externalities ties in politics and morals very well to environmental goals. I can't help but wonder, however, how effective focusing on individual small communities, one at a time, will be. From experience, people who have been in the field and love seeing and meeting the people they are helping, prefer to be on the ground and being active. As Tejada said, there are environmental justice communities all over the United States; that lends itself to a very large number of communities. Tejada will need to focus on sending small teams nationwide to places like Galena Park, or else go to those places to gather data on the major problems involved with environmental injustice and start legislature to try to prevent the major difficulties. Tejada's attitude is very refreshing, however, and I am sure he will be an asset to the EPA.
As has been evident in many of the articles we have read, such as the Stability Wedges article in particular, there seems to be a modicum of consensus that we already have the technology necessary to significantly curtail our reliance on fossil fuels. As such, the idea that New York might be able to sustain itself on Hydro, Wind, and Solar doesn't seem to be quite as out of the ball park as others are doubting. I am actually underwhelmed by what the article is suggesting, because that's all it is doing: suggesting. The problem with sustainable development is always initial capital, and our politicians are relatively well known for being unwilling to spend a lot of money on a benefit that will come after the next election. Also, there is no magic wand for "4,000 onshore wind turbines, 12,700 offshore turbines, 828 photovoltaic plants, 5 million rooftop solar systems, and 2,600 one-megawatt tidal turbines". Seventeen years to build all of that does not seem enough. Again, it hinges on people thinking long term, which is not a pivot I would put my belief on. I am glad the social benefit is still being analyzed, and it seems that more policy makers are putting more weight on the human health aspect, particularly its market value. I do not wish to seem callous, but analyzing things in terms of monetary gain seems to be the way to get attention, particularly because its source and cause is quantifiable. On a lighter note, if we did have one state to lead the way in terms of making an investment in renewable resources, it would pave the way for others. It used to be that the United States would take that first step, but we seem to have fallen to social loafing and therefore stagnation. Hopefully, in terms of clean energy production, we can renew our motivation, our principles, and our role as a global leader.
I feel as though the problems discussed in this article are yet another noxious by-product of bipartisanship. It is always unsettling how many viable options for pollution reduction are kicked to the curb as a result of party ego, and cap-and-trade appears to have similarly fallen by the wayside, despite how it is a better method of exacting the cost of pollution than a tax is because it is capable of determining and utilizing individual abatement costs. If politicians didn't let their party bias think for them, I feel as though we would arrive at the decision made in 1990 for SO2. If anything, the blow to pride should come from how successful the 2003 EU Emission Trading System appears to be. The idea that our politicians are limiting viable options because they are incapable of seeing past the color on their election polls is inconceivable. Particularly with the lesson we are still learning in terms of budgeting with the tax sequestration, it is seeming more and more that we need to seriously reassess the values of our political system. With global warming, no one wants to be the one to take the 2-3% GDP fall in the present, and are instead going to wait until GDP falls by 10% on its own due to decreased production curve and availability of resources. Particularly in the case outline by this article, it is clear that decisions are being made according to inept party lines, especially considering the pancake flip-flop between the 80s and now. Renouncing something based on terminology and not the actual components of the action signify a juvenile mindset that is legitimately frightening in the people supposedly running our country. I would take the fall if I could, because it would be worth it, but I'm unfortunately not an elected official. What's it going to take to force the facts and the need for action into the political mindset? What's it going to take for unified decision-making? I don't know, and we obviously haven't found it yet. The idea of a global cap-and-trade system seems particularly promising, however, as it would be incumbent on the US to follow it, despite our inner division. I'd say international decision making would have more headway (which is somewhat ironic, all things considered). Hopefully we will be able to shed the irrelevant party biases before more irrevocable damage is done.
Toggle Commented Mar 11, 2013 on Another Political Football at Jolly Green General
While there may be some concern about filling the deficit in coal production due to the removal of three large plants, AEP's decision is most likely due mostly to decreased demand for coal in light of the substitute of natural gas, not due to environmental pressure. As can be seen in this article, http://www.energyandcapital.com/articles/war-coal/2149 , coal use in the US has been on the decline since 2010 at the latest. If you think about the progression of fossil fuel use as a cycle, we have already crested the peak of our coal use, and are starting to decline. As can be seen in the other article "The environmental equivalent of giving 110%" from Environmental Economics, it appears that China is still on the lefthand side of a circular cycle, still increasing their use. I must express satisfaction that AEP is not purely investing in natural gas plants to replace the abandoned coal plants, and instead working in solar and wind energy as well. This means that investing in renewable energy is being recognized as profitable by, granted, the companies with the greatest economies and scale and the R&D to invest in new technologies. Hopefully this will lead to continuing similar shifts across the board as other companies follow the leader. I would also be interested in exploring how much of the environmental practices being installed on the still-existing plants are due to eventual profit, fear of regulation/continued lawsuit, or press coverage/public relations. Regardless, this move is consistent with the US's decreased dependence on coal to mirror the increased efficiency of renewables and natural gas wells.
I think one of the interesting things that we have not covered regarding a gas tax is just how widespread its effects would be on the current economy. We are usually analyzing it in the face of a single consumer, and often state our own preferences as an individual. However, especially in the United States, almost every single industry uses oil in some way, whether for production or only for transportation. It is one of the reasons why America consumes so much. Therefore, while a per capita analysis of oil consumption might seem like the easiest way to understand where the oil is being consumed and who would be paying the tax, it is limiting in that it assumes that 17.3 metric tons of carbon are being produced on an individual rate, when the statistics for the matter are most probably bimodal. I do not believe we can so easily dismiss the idea that raising a tax on gas will harm the economy. Yes, it is correcting for a market failure, and yes, were we to say, "Just wait until the economy is better," we would never stop waiting, and I do believe that a tax on oil would correct a budget deficit and a carbon excess, but I still believe that the issue of the immediate effect on the economy should be analyzed and assessed in order to reduce short term damage. The idea that the United States is ranked only above Mexico rankles. I understand that this is not taking into account state legislature, and there does not appear to be literature combining the two, but this is still unacceptable from our position as a world power, especially considering our reluctance regarding the Kyoto Treaty and other initiatives we have only tested the waters of. We constantly talk of the greatness of the American country, but it is when you start relying on your reputation of greatness in order to appear great that you cease being so. We need to stop focusing on the marvels of the past and start looking towards what we can do to be a global leader again, this time advancing towards a more sustainable state. As it is, we have rather obviously become a follower, and a slow one at that.
While I understand the point of Friedman's article to be a proposal that would alleviate the current strain in both our monetary and environmental situation, I believe it is also a criticism of the myopia that exists in government regulations. I have often felt that the hesitation in implementing mitigating policies is due to, as Kahn said in the first paragraph, the preference for delaying decisions and responsibility into the future. Even the major deadline for the "fiscal cliff" was delayed by two months in recent discussion. As Hank said in an echo of both Kahn and Friedman, there is no "overnight cure" for either issue, and I believe that an immediate cure is precisely what politicians are waiting for: some sort of easy fix, because they do not want to hold the responsibility of the perceived failure of an action not having an immediate result. A tax would not be an easy fix, and there is the fear that it would initially hurt more than it would help, and the short terms of politicians mean that they would be held responsible for the initial dip in productivity and the lack of corresponding decrease in carbon emissions. Both of these issues are steadily inching towards catastrophe, and long term planning is needed for the both of them. This tax, despite initial harm, would be a good step towards correcting these situations away from their respective cliffs. I feel as though, as Emily outlined, it is precisely the initial harm that it is so hard for people to overlook. As always, there is never quite a clear cut answer, and I am not agreeing that a single carbon emissions tax would be the end-all, be-all, but I feel as though such a thing might be useful in the long term. I might be too quick to place the blame of the lack of such a tax on the shoulders of near-sightedness, and the law of unintended consequences seems to reign supreme, particularly in the environmental and economic worlds, but even a smaller tax in the same vein would level out the negative externalities.
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Jan 13, 2013