Jason Barton

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UK Forcing Oil Companies to Internalize their Externalities

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It looks like the UK will force energy companies wishing to drill for oil off its coasts to be responsible for potential indirect costs of their operations. Such a strategy, which economists would call internalizing their external costs, is what I and many others consider the most efficient way to preserve both economic and environmental health.

I think this is great news.

  • JANUARY 6, 2011, 5:33 A.M. ET

UPDATE: UK Lawmakers Question Deep Water Drilling Safety

   By James Herron
   Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

LONDON (Dow Jones)–U.K. lawmakers Thursday raised serious doubts about whether the oil industry is prepared to tackle an oil spill similar to the Deepwater Horizon blowout should it occur in the North Sea, but they stopped short of recommending a moratorium on drilling similar to that imposed in the U.S.

Instead, the U.K. Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee called on the government and regulators to compel companies to improve their spill response plans, install extra failsafe equipment on rigs, and increase financial provisions for spill costs.

Major changes to drilling regulations could have a significant impact on the U.K. because its main deep water area, west of the Shetland Islands, is thought to be home to the bulk of the country’s undeveloped oil and gas resources. For this reason, “a moratorium on deep water drilling off the west coast of Shetland would undermine the U.K.’s energy security and isn’t necessary,” said Tim Yeo, the Conservative member of Parliament who is chair of the committee.

Read the entire article here.

Real People Show the Need to Internalize the Externalities

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If the devastation of the Gulf oil spill is too abstract, as it is for many of us, this story places faces and immediacy on the tragedy. The women discussed here have already lost their husbands and are now in danger of further losing their ability to make ends meet, as soon as the end of this month, this of all months. Yet executives and policy makers bicker over who’s responsible.

If BP and the other companies that operated the well were not fully prepared to pay the costs, then they should not have ventured after the benefits.

To put it unemotionally, the pain these women are experiencing is an externality. The job of government is not to distort the market, letting these firms profit at the expense of third parties, but to ensure that these companies are free to pursue their profits while ensuring that they must pay the costs, internal and external, direct and indirect, associated with their business.

Ah, it’s so simple, no?

  • DECEMBER 16, 2010, 12:08 P.M. ET

Widows Push Congress to Act on Gulf-Spill Measure

By DIONNE SEARCEY

Two widows of men killed in the Gulf of Mexico explosion that led to the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history say they fear Congress is losing interest in passing a measure soon that would allow them to seek damages in court for the tragedy.

Under current law, families of anyone killed at sea—rather than on land—are banned from receiving damages for loss of care and comfort. Congress is considering a measure that would change the law for families of workers who died in the BP PLC explosion.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

December 16th, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Fracking in Colorado

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Ugh, this is such a tough issue.

On one hand, there are substantial benefits from the oil and gas brought out by this process, as well as the jobs and revenues that come with them. On the other, we need the long term vision that will protect human and environmental health and the discipline to ensure both of them.

Particularly in places like Weld County, which is Colorado’s biggest agricultural producer and home to many proposed and existing fracking sites, we see the tangible positives and negatives of fracking, and are hearing from citizens who fall on both the pro- and anti-fracking sides of the debate. In agricultural communities the health of soil and water is important not just for the immediate implications to human health, but also for the long term implications for the health and safety of the food we grow, and the livelihoods of the people who depend on selling that food.

I’ve said on this site before that it is the job of government to internalize the externalities, to create a regulatory framework that ensures industry activities do not have negative impacts on the communities where they operate. This framework must include proactive measures motivating companies to guard against problems, as well as reactive measures that force organizations to pay those external costs of clean up and damages if there are  problems.

The important issue raised in the article below is that companies have worked to avoid making the payments even when they are found to be at fault, causing local citizens to question the statewide framework and seek to implement policies on local levels.

The upsides are that Colorado citizens are learning the details of these issues, making our voices heard from different perspectives, and forcing government and corporations to listen and take action. Keep at it, y’all.

By Bruce Finley
The Denver Post

Denver metro cities digging in before oil and gas drills do

COMMERCE CITY — Even in this bastion of industry that hosts a refinery, residents are imploring their elected leaders to protect them from oil and gas drilling planned within city limits.

“This is where we live, where we made our investments of our lives. It’s not about money,” Kristi Douglas said Thursday during a working-group forum, the latest of dozens of city and county meetings in Front Range communities.

[…]

Colorado’s State Land Board hit the brakes on a controversial metro-Denver drilling project after learning that ConocoPhillips is embroiled in a lawsuit for failing to pay the state $152 million for cleanup of leaky underground gas tanks.

[…]

“The state has the experience and the infrastructure to effectively and responsibly regulate oil and gas development,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman said. “A healthy industry is important to our state’s economy, and a mosaic of regulatory approaches across cities and counties is not conducive to clear and predictable rules that mark efficient and effective government.”

[…]

But the board delayed a decision after it learned another state agency is suing Conoco in a dispute over past cleanups of contamination at 354 sites of leaking underground gas tanks.
[…]
“We need to get the state General Assembly involved. We need to get some things, like setbacks, addressed,” Benson said. “Yes, we welcome industry here. But you’ve got to protect the health and safety of your people.”
Read the complete article here.

BP Oil Spill Demonstrates Need for (Limited) Government Intervention

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Is it possible for the gov’t to establish who–whether BP, Halliburton, Transocean, Anadarko, or others– is responsible for what portion of the damages in an efficient manner?

As has been written many times before on this site, this is the job of government: internalize the costs of these external damages so that the firms and other parties responsible are paying the bills.

The report said the explosion that triggered the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history resulted from management failures by BP and its contractors as well as “failures of government to provide effective regulatory oversight of offshore drilling.” It said the root causes of the disaster were “systemic” and “might well recur” without significant changes to industry practices and government policies.”

The regulation described here is usually highly inefficient, inhibiting firms from the innovation that makes them both safe and profitable. When firms are held responsible for the costs of their actions, rather than strangled by regulation, they can perform the risk analysis necessary to see whether or not the technology and infrastructure they have available will make a potential drilling location, yes, both safe and profitable.

Already, the report has its detractors. Rex Tillerson, chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp., told reporters Thursday he did “not agree that this is an industrywide problem,” adding that the report’s conclusions shouldn’t be extended to the entire sector. Exxon was one of a number of oil companies that claimed last summer that the Gulf of Mexico blowout was a one-time event caused by unusual and risky decisions by BP.

Holding responsible those specific firms that were involved with the tragedy* also means avoiding placing blame on those firms that are more careful with their choices of where and how to drill, mine, etc.

Under this kind of scenario, the costs associated with the 2010 Gulf spill would be, for the most part, passed along to the customers of these firms, but this is a much more efficient means of paying them than having them paid by taxpayers who use the products and services provided by BP from the Deepwater Horizon rig.

This brings us back to the original question: To what extent it is possible that government establish responsibility?

The goal is to ensure that those benefitting from the the consequences, both intended and unintended, of the drilling, are also held responsible for the direct as well as indirect costs. Taxpayers benefit in different proportions that the government is not able to establish.

The companies, once faced with the fines and other clean up costs, will pass those costs along to their users, meaning We The People (private consumers, not taxpayers) are able to decide how much these benefits are really worth.

  • JANUARY 7, 2011

BP Gets Lift From Oil-Spill Report

By GUY CHAZAN

The U.S. presidential commission’s report on last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill reduces the likelihood that BP PLC will be found guilty of gross negligence, legal experts and industry analysts said Thursday, potentially lowering the ultimate cost of the disaster to the U.K.-based oil giant.

A 48-page chapter from the report, released Thursday, shone a harsh spotlight on BP’s actions in the run-up to the blast at its gulf well, but also piled criticism on two of the company’s contractors, Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton Corp.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 11th, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Regulating gas drilling & fracturing

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Internalize the externalities. That’s the job of government in this situation. If there are external or indirect costs from drilling for natural gas, particularly with technologies such as hydraulic fracturing that involve greater risk, the companies performing the drilling, and people like us who then buy the finished product by lighting our homes, pay those costs.

For example, if the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing leak into drinking water and make people sick, the economic costs such as hospital bills and lost work are paid by the company who was doing the drilling involved with the leak. Of course this doesn’t solve all the problems caused when people get sick from bad water, but it motivates the companies to prevent such accidents, as opposed to setting up government funds to fix them, which motivates neither prevention nor the guilty parties taking responsibility for their actions. Then, as these costs are passed along to we the consumers, we’re motivated to pay more attention to the companies that provide our electricity, further enforcing the cycle.

Yes, it may seem shallow or even vulgar to think about issues of human health only in monetary terms, but it presents a set of very efficient tools for solving so many of the problems that go much deeper than money.

PA senator says US should regulate gas drilling

August 20, 2010, 8:13AM ET

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM

SCRANTON, Pa.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Thursday that Pennsylvania’s emerging natural gas industry has the potential to create jobs and wealth, but also carries environmental risks that must be addressed.

The Pennsylvania Democrat told a forum in Scranton that the “gas rush” taking place in the vast Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania “can create a great economic boost” in a state where nearly 600,000 people are unemployed. But he added: “We must not fail to protect our people, our land, our water and our future.”

Read the entire article here.

The Profitability and Economic Advantage of Renewable Energy

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“[Then Gov.] Bush and his fellow Texans didn’t create the [renewable energy] industry because they were worried about global warming. They did it because there was money to be made.
There still is. And if Congress doesn’t hurry, most of it is going to be made in China.”

With the August recess just a few days away, and politicians focused on the most important mid-term elections in at least a decade, I have little faith that anything substantive will happen with energy legislation before the new year. And with Republican prospects as strong as they are and a lack of Republican support for rewriting the way our government influences our energy usage, the chances don’t look much better in 2011.

I suggest not a quantitative change in government intervention, unless it’s a decrease, but a qualitative shift. In other words, this is not a call for increased government intervention or market distortions, but a change in the way the government intervenes. Today’s regulations hamper the ability of people in the free market to find the most efficient solutions to our energy challenges. Not good.

The best bet would be for the government to set the standards, as with Renewable Electricity Standards (RES), bring pricing in line with the externalities associated with different forms of fuel, so that issues such as healthcare costs incurred as people get sick from breathing air that’s been polluted by coal, and then let firms work within this transparent framework to deliver reliable power at the best possible price. These RES would offer much better prospect for people in later generations to enjoy more of the options we have presently, without forcing us to make unrealistic sacrifices now.

Without these measures, we face a number of serious problems, including an economy plagued by dependence on foreign energy, air that continues to be dirtied by coal and petroleum, and more jobs going to places like China as those visionaries who know that renewable fuels are going to bring big returns on investment flock to the countries that encourage, and benefit from, this necessary and lucrative innovation.

Senate Inaction Cedes U.S. Energy Race to China

By Eric Pooley – Jul 29, 2010 7:00 PM MT

Right now the U.S. Senate is conducting a master class on the perils of legislation by rearview mirror. On July 27, when Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled the “Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act,” the two most powerful clean energy provisions were missing: a cap on carbon emissions from the electric power sector and a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), which would require utilities to generate at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021.
For years, business leaders from General Electric Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt to venture capitalist John Doerr have warned that if America failed to pass a comprehensive climate-and-energy bill, the country risked losing the clean energy race to China — sacrificing the jobs of the future in a timid, ill-fated effort to preserve the jobs of the past. Now those warnings are coming true.
[…]

In a meeting with business leaders and environmental advocates early last year, Obama economic adviser Larry Summers described a “scissors” approach to economic recovery, according to several people who were present but not authorized to discuss it publicly.
The first blade of the scissors, Summers explained, was the stimulus package and its tens of billions for clean energy deployment. The second blade would be a mandatory, declining cap on carbon, which would remove the investment uncertainty that has hobbled the energy market, and draw billions of private dollars off the sidelines.
[…]
Instead of funding U.S. projects, banks and venture capitalists increasingly are putting their energy money into China, where the market is large and secure, thanks to government mandates. In the second quarter, for example, China attracted more clean-tech asset financing than Europe and the U.S. combined, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
[…]
On the same day that Reid pulled the plug on the carbon cap, China Daily announced that the People’s Republic would begin an experiment in carbon trading — a policy mechanism invented in America, used by Republican George H.W. Bush to fight acid rain, and vilified by today’s GOP as “cap and tax.”
[…]
Colorado voters approved one in 2004, and the state has increased the standard twice: The current target is 30 percent by 2020, double the one left out of the Senate bill. Colorado now generates almost 6 percent of its electricity from wind, and its commitment to clean energy has helped develop a solar industry as well: from 100 companies in 2007 to more than 400 today, according to the governor’s office. When Vestas Wind Systems, the Danish turbine maker, chose to build its North American manufacturing plants in Colorado (a $1 billion investment that was good for 2,500 new jobs), it called the RES a major factor in the decision.
[…]
Another early adopter is Texas. Its RES, signed into law by Governor George W. Bush in 1999, has helped the state become a major producer of U.S. wind power, adding almost 10 gigawatts (up from 0.2 in 1999) and thousands of new jobs in the decade since the law was enacted. Although Texas has reduced its carbon emissions as a result of this push into wind energy, Bush and his fellow Texans didn’t create the industry because they were worried about global warming. They did it because there was money to be made.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

July 30th, 2010 at 6:56 pm

UNICA Continues Pressure on U.S. to Drop Ethanol Tariff

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To listen to UNICA, the powerful voice of Brazil’s sugarcane and ethanol industry, you’d think the U.S. tariff on imported ethanol would be gone by the end of the week. I don’t see that happening, and definitely don’t think an all-at-once elimination would be good for Brazil.

Ethanol accounts for half of their transportation fuel by volume (slightly less on an energy content basis), and if the U.S. tariff were eliminated, Brazilian producers would likely sell a huge portion of their ethanol to U.S. buyers, forcing Brazilian drivers to pay higher prices, or, more likely, revert to far more gasoline. This could jeopardize Brazil’s energy independence and would impact their balance of trade, though probably only slightly.

Additionally, just as UNICA and the studies they cite may sound certain that this tariff of US$0.54 per gallon is terrible for American drivers, its elimination would not hurt corn farmers, and so is soon to be history, U.S. corn farmers and our ethanol industry, led by Growth Energy, the U.S. counterpart to UNICA, are equally sure that government support is necessary and here to stay.

Let me be clear that I am not a fan of corn ethanol. I have become much more encouraged about cellulosic and other technologies on the near horizon, but still believe that corn is produced irresponsibly and at great harm to ecological, human, and even bovine health. I don’t blame farmers for this, as they are working within a system that rewards growing corn without taking into account the negative externalities.

All this said, the best scenario would likely be reducing the tariff on U.S. importation of Brazilian ethanol to meet the “advanced biofuels” mandates laid out in George Bush’s Renewable Fuels Standards, as allowed by the recent EPA findings in the RFS2 decision in February. This would gradually increase Brazilian ethanol’s presence in the U.S., while also encouraging the much needed move to second and third generation biofuels technologies, reducing our dependence on imported oil and increasing our energy independence and security.

Any of this, of course, must be done in concert with vastly increased efforts towards energy efficiency, driving less, more efficient vehicles, etc.

Here are a few of the pieces from UNICA…

Scholars call for phase-out of U.S. ethanol tariff at Wilson Center seminar
07/26/2010

(left to right) Joel Velasco, Alexandros Petersen, Paulo Sotero,
Robbin Johnson and C. Ford Runge

An open and globalized biofuels market is essential to promote greater efficiency and competitiveness, and phasing out the US$0,54 per gallon tariff imposed by the United States on imported ethanol would be a key step in the right direction. The recommendation came from two University of Minnesota scholars during the “Biofuels: Food, Fuel, and the Future?” panel, organized by the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C, on Friday, July 23.

Read the entire article here.

And a second piece, citing the study from the University of Iowa:

Universidade americana vê ganhos para consumidores com fim de tarifa sobre etanol importado
26/07/2010

Em meio a um debate aquecido e ganhando cada vez mais visibilidade nos Estados Unidos, um estudo divulgado na terça-feira (20/07) por um renomado economista agrícola do meio-oeste americano está desafiando conclusões catastróficas, geralmente disseminadas por grupos de lobby do etanol de milho, sobre o que poderia acontecer se a atual tarifa de US$0,54 por galão (3,78 litros) imposta ao etanol importado expirar no final deste ano como planejado. O estudo, realizado por Bruce Babcock, chefe do Centro de Agricultura e Desenvolvimento Rural (CARD em inglês) da Universidade do Estado de Iowa, apresenta um cenário bem diferente.

Read the entire article here.

And the University of Iowa study to which they are referring:

CARD Study Shows U.S. Ethanol Production and Corn Demand Will Grow With or Without Subsidy and Tariff

Contacts:
Bruce A. Babcock ; babcock@iastate.edu
Sandy Clarke; sclarke@iastate.edu

July 20, 2010

America’s growing interest in renewable fuels has spurred a robust discussion about the pros and cons of continuing or changing current U.S. federal government ethanol policies, specifically, (1) mandates to increase the use of renewable fuels like ethanol from approximately 13 billion gallons today to 36 billion gallons by 2022, (2) a 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit for “blenders” who add ethanol to gasoline, and (3) a 54-cent-per-gallon tariff, which increases the price of foreign imports.

Read the entire article here.

Energy Realities: The oil spill is my fault

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Well, this definitely isn’t getting any less interesting. Unfortunately, the energy situation in the U.S. is also not getting any clearer or easier to solve, even with pundits on all sides hurling dissatisfaction and vitriol at BP, Obama, Jimmy Carter, each other, seagulls, volunteers, parish presidents, and anyone else who happens to enter their field of vision.

This will not be easy. We will be using petroleum, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power for decades to come, and accidents like this will happen. Yes, there is much we can do to lessen our use and the related risks, and more we can do to mitigate the impact in the event they occur, but there is nothing, not a thing, to which anyone can point that will eliminate this risk, not even in the next 15 years. Maybe more.

We demand these resources. I demand them. And as long as we refuse to stop, we’re putting government or industry into the position of a parent, asking them to put out of reach the fix we know is there and that we very much want, even though we know it’s not good for us. Then we become petulant children when we get sick, and demand… What?

Some sort of methadone? There is no methadone, and every day we participate in and perpetuate a system, a habit, that has risks.

Once we face this reality, we can push past the questions for how we can end offshore oil drilling next week, and can put into proper, long term context the technologies for safer drilling, alternative fuels, vehicle fleets, and others that we’re now somehow hoping will materialize later this afternoon, after Keith Olbermann and Glen Beck, President Obama and Sarah Palin, Tony Hayward and Billy Nungesser have traded a few more punches.

When the topics of this oil spill or our energy use comes up in conversations with friends or colleagues, there’s often someone who insists technology is out there to clean up the spill or end our addiction to oil, but the powers that be either haven’t watched that particular show on the Discovery Channel, or those powers have some vested interest in letting these problems persist and keeping out competing solutions. Maybe I’m naive, but I just don’t see it.

I think part of the reason we insist on believing in these fairy tales, why we wait for our leaders–be they industry, government, or otherwise–to hand down our salvation is because it relieves us of any personal responsibility.

At the same time that I haven’t commuted to work or school since I was 17, riding my bike, walking, or taking the bus instead, I still put about 10,000 miles per year on my car and fly about that many miles as well.

The oil spill is my fault. I accept this reality and will continue to work towards greater independence from imported, nonrenewable sources of energy, focusing on all the healthy externalities derived from saving money on fuel and electricity, exercise and stress relief instead of frustration and smog in traffic, and all those silly pleasures so rarely discussed in the context of our current debacle.

The article below is one of dozens I’ve read in the last few weeks that criticizes Obama for his lack of a definitive response to the spill. Mr. Taranto, as usual, makes several excellent points. But like many on different sides of the debate, he foolishly uses the spill to decry a certain political ideology, as if any ideology has offered a concrete solution beyond the bland reality laid out in this post: It will take time; it will require sacrifice; it will require substantial investments from industry and government and citizenry to wean ourselves off fossil fuels and protect ourselves against the risks of dependence on nonrenewable, foreign sources for our energy.

Yes, we should formulate a comprehensive energy strategy, the one that has been promised by Republican and Democratic presidents for decades, that will work towards energy independence and bolster our economic and political security. And we should realize that this will require some sacrifices, sacrifices that will be better for us in the long run. And we will need to accept the reality that it will not eliminate the problems or drastically change our lives, our world, or our energy matrix, next week or even next year.

Maybe this is the leadership that government and industry have been providing. It’s not exciting. It doesn’t offer a quick solution. It’s just the reality. The oil spill is our fault.

JUNE 21, 2010

Keith Olbermann’s Wisdom

Obama, BP and the crisis of American liberalism.

By JAMES TARANTO

“What has defined us as a nation since our founding is the capacity to shape our destiny–our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how we’re going to get there. We know we’ll get there.”–President Barack Obama, June 15, 2010

Or, as Harry Truman might have put it: There is as yet no consensus on where the buck stops. And so I’ve established a national commission to understand the buck’s velocity and the degree of kinetic friction between the buck and the surface across which it is traveling. Even if we don’t know precisely where the buck is going to stop, we know it’ll get there.

On the Democratic left, Obama’s oil-spill speech last week has escalated what the mainstream media would call a civil war if it were being waged on the Republican right instead.

Read the entire article here.

External Costs to be Paid by Consumers and Producers rather than Governments or Taxpayers

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Interesting. The people in Maine have gone some way towards internalizing externalities–the costs associated with a good that are paid by neither producers nor consumers, but by involuntary third parties. The world’s largest modular carpet manufacturer, Interface, and their CEO and founder, Ray Anderson, have taken similar steps, but on their own, rather than mandated by government, to reclaim their carpets, recycling the materials and reusing them within their own factories. As an intelligent business man and also someone who cares about the environment, Anderson saw this as a win-win situation, gathering materials at low cost when going to deliver new products to buyers, and converting what would otherwise be waste into new inputs.

This process, what they’ve here called Extended Producer Responsibility (ERP), has been called ‘cradle to cradle’ thinking, and is, hopefully, gaining favor. It mimics ecological systems in which there is no such thing as waste, only materials and energy constantly cycling through a closed system.  William McDonough & Michael Braungart wrote a book that has been a sort of seminal text on the subject. They argue, as do many economists, that our present industrial system is doomed for failure in the way we think of inputs and outputs, with little regard for where those inputs are coming from, and where they go when we’re finished with them.

For instance, landfills are an expensive, unhealthy use for land. Taxpayers bear the costs. Now, at least in Maine, producers will bear more of those costs, presumably passing them on to the consumers, forcing all of us to rethink supply chains and how we treat waste. The plan has much potential.

A trick is to make this a market-driven process, rather that one hindered by excessive government bureaucracy. Then again, policies that ensure costs are paid by consumers and producers, rather than by taxpayers (who may not even be using the products) and governments, this seems to me to be sound conservative politics.

Governments oblige manufacturers to take back used goods for disposal

Mar 31st 2010 | NEW YORK | From The Economist print edition

FOR seasoned shoppers, “buyer’s remorse” is a familiar feeling. “Seller’s remorse” may also become common soon, as ever more governments order manufacturers to assume the cost of disposing of their products after consumers are done with them. Until recently, most laws on “extended producer responsibility” (EPR) or “product stewardship” applied only to specific types of goods, such as car tyres or electronics. But in late March Maine, following the lead of several Canadian provinces, became the first American state to enact a blanket EPR law, which could in principle cover any product.

[…]

Governments also hope that EPR laws will encourage firms to rethink the way they make products, designing them for longevity and recyclability rather than for the landfill.

[…]

This worries businesses, few of which are eager to pick up the bill for waste disposal. Some business associations, such as the California Chamber of Commerce, have denounced EPR bills as “job killers”. They point out that the increased costs are ultimately borne by consumers. But that does not worry supporters of EPR, who argue that the price of a product should reflect its full “life-cycle” costs, including disposal, rather than simply leaving taxpayers to make up the difference. Moreover, unless manufacturers are forced to bear the costs, they will have no incentive to make their wares easy to dispose of.

[…]

Not all companies are mourning, however. Some manufacturers and retailers have voluntarily rolled out collection programmes in states that do not require them. Hewlett-Packard, a technology firm, claims to design its products with ease of recycling in mind—cradle-to-cradle, as the jargon has it. Staples, which sells office supplies, and Home Depot, a home-improvement retailer, both offer national take-back programmes in their stores for such items as computer monitors, compact fluorescent light bulbs and batteries. Such programmes may enhance customer loyalty, particularly among environmentally conscious consumers.

Read the entire article here.

Why farms may be the new forests

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Yet another Economist article that falls right in line with my PhD dissertation. One of us might be on to something.

Healthy ecosystems, such as forests, on or bordering agricultural land helps water and nutrient cycling, reducing the need for irrigation and chemical fertilizers. The enhanced biodiversity also acts as natural resistance to pests. The trick is paying farmers to keep forests on their land, compensating them for the loss of revenues from the crops that would have been planted on that land. These forests perform ecosystem services that greatly benefit society as a whole, economically and in terms of human and ecological health. Paying farmers helps to internalize those positive externalities.

Dec 30th 2009
From The Economist print edition

In the war against climate change, peasants are in the front line

 Into battle in the eco-war

FOR people who see stopping deforestation as the quickest climate-change win, Copenhagen seemed a success. Although there is still work to be done on the initiative known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), the deal struck in Copenhagen made it into a real thing, not just an idea. The notion of reducing net deforestation to zero was not explicitly mentioned, but it looks much more credible than it did two years ago.

As well as giving heart to the protectors of trees, this outcome is encouraging for people whose focus is not on forests but on fields. Climate and agriculture matter to each other in several ways. On the downside, farming is a cause of deforestation, and also emits greenhouse gases in its own right—perhaps 14% of the global total. On the upside, agriculture can also dispose of heat-trapping gases, by increasing the carbon content of soils.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

December 31st, 2009 at 12:06 pm