Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Solving the nation's problems, one by one.... We'll see what happens on this one!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
New techniques for extracting natural gas have increased estimated world reserves by a MINIMUM of 50%, and some claim that over 600 years' worth of US consumption could be out there. This is nice for many reasons, including freeing the EU from dependence on Russia, who in the past have frozen out parts of Europe by cutting off supplies of natural gas during the winter, but also because natural gas emits less carbon dioxide than most fossil fuels. The combustion of natural gas emits almost 30 percent less carbon dioxide than oil, and just under 45 percent less carbon dioxide than coal. Also, the US has considerable shale reserves, as shown on the map about halfway down this page. It's tough to predict where our future energy will come from, but this seems a pretty promising candidate!
It raises lots of interesting questions, including who decides how to value different resources (oil vs. beautiful lands) and how they make that decision. Since few people travel to rural Utah to see some of these spectacular areas (though the Park Service conspicuously chooses to have people in a number of these shots) does that mean they are less valuable and don't merit government protection? That's exactly what Bush administration officials thought. They've since been overruled by Obama administration officials- at least for the next few years! More to come, obviously....
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I wonder how BG&E feels about this, with all their recent investments in nuclear....
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Friedman's point is that we simply have to wean ourselves of our dependence on foreign oil. It's not a new point but it bears repeating.
Another article of note in the same paper is an article about electronic devices and energy consumption. We had some discussion in class about "phantom loads"- devices that turn off but continue to use up a little energy so as to respond quickly when we activate them. Unsurprisingly, the average American home has more electronic gadgets than ever, and most of them drain energy basically all the time. An idea suggested in the article is to attach such devices to "smart" power strips, which turn off when they're not in use. I'm not sure where to find these strips, but I think I'll try to use more regular power strips to turn everything on and off at once rather than doing one at a time. Needless waste makes economists in particular cringe!
Friday, September 18, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Hope you're having a great break!
Monday, May 11, 2009
Since the start of the industrial age, global temperatures are estimated to have risen 0.7°C (Black, 2009). According to this new study, if humanities total CO2 emissions exceed one trillion tons of carbon in the atmosphere, the 2°C limit is very likely to be breached. As with all mathematical models, their study has a range of temperatures that could result from a one trillion ton total, but 2°C is the most likely outcome. To this end, it is the belief of this study that reductions in CO2 need to be achieved as soon as possible, and that waiting will only increase the likelihood of exceeding the temperature threshold. Also U.S targets of 80% reductions by 2050, which would represent a 60% global reduction, are admirable, but unlikely to occur at the rate intended. For this reason, they believe new policies need to be formulated, which reduce our emissions more drastically, and sooner than initially intended.
Personally, I have been a believer in global warming for some time, so I support the findings presented in this article. The 2°C threshold has been supported by the IPCC, and many other scientific studies, which has made me a firm believer. Despite the negative impacts this will have on certain aspects of the global economy, the alternative of a broken planet has never been an acceptable outcome to me. Ideally, I would hope that this was just another scare tactic to try and get the masses on board. However, wanting something to not be true doesn’t change the facts. It is time that we took drastic measures to avoid destroying our planet, and if eliminating our CO2 use can prevent that from occurring, I am for it 100%.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
--If you aren't sure about the opinion of this Berkeley guy teaching your class, maybe you'll take it from George W. Bush, who may not be much of a libertarian but who is certainly a big oil man and in no way a liberal or an environmentalist. In 2005 he said, "I recognize the surface of the earth is warmer and that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem."
--From a powerpoint by an IPCC author: "[Here we see] changes in glaciers, indicating a global average temperature change in the 20th century consistent with the thermometers. And the corals. And the tree rings. And the boreholes. And the ice cores." Their conclusion: "Warming is unequivocal, and most of the warming of the past 50 years is very likely (90%) due to increases in greenhouse gases."
--Working Group I, the physical scientists, wrote a report that took three years from 2004-2007. The work includes contributions from 152 authors, 450 contributors, 600 expert reviewers, and compiles over 30,000 review comments. What's more, this group of people built on the accomplishments of the 2001 IPCC Working Group I's report, but 75% of the authors of the new project weren't involved with the old project. This report is the consensus of thousands of physical scientists.
I'm not a scientist, but I am no longer thinking about "What if it's true" but I'm thinking about "How much will things change" and "What do we need to take into account to adapt most effectively."
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Glacial melting is evidence that global warming is real and that people need to make everyday changes in order to preserve the future of the planet. There are many simple things that people can do to help prevent further global warming. These things include eliminating drafts in your home which can lead to more energy use, reduce wasted electricity by eliminating phantom loads, use more energy efficient light bulbs, and turn down your water heater. All these steps play a part in reducing the amount of individual greenhouse gases we are each responsible for. The steps are easy to do and good for the environment.
It is certainly an “interesting” time to be an Economics major. Many of our country’s major financial institutions are crumbling, U.S. cars are selling at a much lower rate than what they have in the past, and greedy individuals on both “wall street” and “main streets” throughout the nation are making poor decisions and taking inappropriate risks that are, in part, contributing to national, state, and local budget deficits. While on the one hand it does not surprise me that the recession is “squeezing” recycling programs (it is “squeezing” our entire economy), on the other I am surprised that as a collective unit, the people of America are not actively uniting to help remedy the situation. When faced with adversity, over the years, United States citizens have time-and-time-again come together to improve our great country and help us “rebound.” Most “recently” (though it was almost eight years ago), directly after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, people (some of whom were not active in their communities prior) volunteered their time, energy, and resources toward helping their fellow neighbors “re-build” New York’s destructed areas, console those that had lost loved ones from the attacks, and restore our entire country’s faith in our thinking that we live in a safe and secure nation.
Though recycling programs are very different than restoring tranquility within our borders, I would have thought the same principle would have applied – people coming together for our common good. While this article portrayed recycling initiatives as becoming less “active” because of the recession, I believe that this “in-action” is only temporary. Despite the fact that the recession is “squeezing” some of the recycling programs throughout the country at this point in time, the citizens of our nation have shown concern about our environment – especially over the last few years. As a growing trend in our “collective mindsets,” more and more Americans are trying to “live green” – and recycling is a part of that. Currently, there is great demand for more energy-efficient cars, organic foods, and initiatives by some who believe we need to “guard against” global warming, to name a few examples. Some states are thinking about banning plastic bags in grocery stores, too – to be more “environmentally friendly.” Therefore, I am confident that the “squeeze” on recycling programs will soon pass and people will again look to recycle materials that they can – even if it is costly in these turbulent economic times.
[I neglected to post this after Brian presented in class. Sorry it's late!--James]
Monday, May 4, 2009
In my opinion, I think it will be a good idea as long as the buildings stay affordable. If low income families can afford that kind of roof I think everybody will try to adopt it, but the challenge will be how to bring down the cost of the construction materials? I think if more people adopt the new idea the demand for the green roofs will go up and they’ll drive the costs down (unless the required material is a depletable resource in which case the cost will keep going up over time and it will be a bad idea).
--Mohammed El Bekkouri
Saturday, May 2, 2009
“You can look at waste and see what the economy is doing," said Tom Houck, manager at the Defiance County Landfill in northwest Ohio. The amount of waste in his county’s landfill has decreased by 30% in the past year.
“Several landfills operated by Waste Management Inc.,” which runs about 270 active landfills in 47 states, “have gone from operating six days a week to five or have reduced hours of operation,” said spokeswoman Lisa Kardell. Waste Management's fourth-quarter profit slid 29 percent due to declines in its recycling business and one-time charges. But in its earnings report, the Houston-based company also mentioned drops in the collection of industrial waste.
Due to the decrease in fill for the landfills, caused by the recession, the companies that own them have been losing money and as a result have had to lay off workers, cut back hours, and are on the verge of maybe having to close sites.
Even though the reduction in waste is good for the environment, I do not think that it is a good thing for the economy since it is leading to employees being laid off and other employees having hours cut back. Much of the decrease in waste is in recyclable materials. This also hurts the economy since companies now have to pay more for the recycled materials or find other ways to produce products that were previously made by recycled materials.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The Environmental Protection Agency wants to put the canal on the national priorities list of its superfund program, however, the state of New York isn’t in complete agreement on this. There’s a fear that being placed on the superfund list will deter new development. Currently there are two housing projects scheduled for the area, providing 1,200 housing units and costing about $500 million. Housing developers are already threatening to pull out because they claim “to market residential units at a superfund site is virtually impossible.” There is some truth in that statement because it has been shown that property values decline after being deemed a superfund site. Although, it has also been shown that property values go back up after clean up and sometimes to even higher levels. Residents also have mixed feelings on the project, they of course do not want the value of their homes declining, but they would also like to clean up the health hazard in their backyard.
I think the state should allow the EPA to place the Gowanus Canal on the superfund list because even though property values would drop, they would go back up again. Also, the canal is considered a health hazard and the health of the residents that live there is more important than housing development. All in all I think it is a good idea, and hopefully the EPA wins their battle against the state.
Monday, April 27, 2009
I think these “fake trees” are a great idea as long as they are economical. I am not positive just how cost effective the scrubbing towers would be if they cost $150 per ton of CO2 removed, but if the price comes down then I would be all for it. We all have borne witness to the effects of global warming and need to do whatever we can to try and at least slow down the damage that is being done. And as of right now these scrubbing towers seem like a step in the right direction.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Thanks to Brian Salsbury for noting this article!
The new proposal is to make disposal more expensive, and someone's going to pay for that. If firms pay it, costs will be passed along to consumers. As Rep. Waxman and others note, though, there are upsides as well: there will be an added incentive for firms to research and develop new technologies for cleaning the atmosphere, which should lead to new jobs. Finally, of course, mitigating climate change should save money in the long run. The question is, who has to pay for the change that we'll all benefit from? No one wants to get stuck with the check!
Monday, April 20, 2009
Taxpayers are questioning the governor’s judgment, as most scientists agree that using above ground storage systems and marshes would be significantly less expensive than the proposed $9 billion plan. This plan would also halt some projects to protect the everglades which are already in progress. Scientists have warned that stopping these projects could cause further, irreversible damage to the environment. A good question many raise is: Where is this money coming from? In a faltering economy, how does the State of Florida expect to afford this plan? As taxpayers are already reeling, I can imagine few supporting such an expensive plan. Another troubling factoid is US Sugar is politically connected to the Governor’s office, leading many to believe that the Governor has a higher interest here, and it’s not protecting the everglades. Although ambitious, this is not the time for a project such as this… with the faltering economy and potential scandal looming. If I could give a word of advice to Gov. Charlie Crist, it would be to drop this plan, continue existing restoration projects, and try to save face with the people of Florida.
It sounds like, in a rush to reduce our carbon footprint, no one thought about the environmental factors in renewable energy. The most talked about in regards to renewable energy was the high cost and the clean air it would give. It seems stupid to try to save the environment from pollution by disrupting habitats and taking over large areas of land to do so. It would be like working to build something that no one will get to use. I think that renewable energy is the next biggest thing, but we have to be smart about it and weigh all the costs and benefits when deciding what kind of renewable source to use and where to build the plants.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
I believe this is a very good idea, as coral reefs are a very important part of the ecosystem and should be preserved or saved. Since over 90 percent of the reefs are destroyed the cost almost seems like it would be too much, but we have technology to minimize cost and maximizing results. The rising temperature of the sea is a big impact but there is hardly anything that can be done to change that. What biologists need to come up with a form of coral that can survive in warm water and does not have that many predators.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
The first report of nuts contaminated by salmonella was in 1994. It is a food borne bacteria with over 2500 strains. Most adults can handle the bacteria with sickness last a few days but with the young and old death is possible. There are several bills going through congress now trying to prevent salmonella from becoming more of a problem in the future by mandatory inspections.
This problem is ongoing and can be prevented by furthering inspection. The FDA obviously is not taking it upon themselves to make these products safe so I believe it is time for congress to step in and enforce existing laws or possibly create a new one. The bill should require more mandatory inspections. The law now states that the inspectors have free reign to decide what inspections need to be made and when. This obviously is not working so far so at this point government intervention is necessary. I am usually against a lot of government intervention but at some points it becomes necessary to protect the public’s safety.
The Vu1 technology will be employed into recessed lighting bulbs by the end of this year with the advantages of being; mercury free, fully dimmable, and having a lifespan of roughly 6,000 hours. The one drawback to consumers may be its cost, ranging from 18 to 22 dollars. Vu1 bulb technology shares the same science as cathode ray tubes in older televisions. Electrons are sprayed over an area inside the light bulb creating light. Therefore, it requires no filament, plasma, coils, or mercury vapor. Although this bulb will only be for recessed lighting by the end of this year, the market for recessed lighting is huge. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that there are over 500 million recessed lights in residential areas and more than 20 million bulbs are sold every year.
Personally, I feel as though this is a promising new technology but I am not sure it is the answer to energy efficiency just yet. One reason why I feel this way is because of the cost of the bulb. A major problem that has happened with C.F.L. technology stems from its initial cost. C.F.L.’s used to be relatively expensive to the consumer so there was a pressure to lower the cost. This lowering of the cost however came at the expense of the bulb. C.F.L. bulbs have a much lower quality than they did when they first came out. If this Vu1 technology is expensive, then there is a chance for this problem to repeat. Another issue that may arise can again be linked to what has been seen with C.F.L. bulbs. C.F.L.’s are by definition, more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. For this reason, there has been an unintended trend with consumers. Since people think they are saving money using these bulbs, they actually leave the lights on for much longer periods of time thus actually using more energy. Without knowing the actual energy input needed for the Vu1 technology other than knowing that they are energy efficient, what is to say that consumers won’t overuse these bulbs as well? In summary, I believe that the Vu1 bulbs have many advantages environmentally over other energy efficient bulbs; however there are still some questions that may limit its success in the long term.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
I believe that this new legislation is a step in the right direction and will greatly help native oyster populations. Moratoriums on Rockfish worked wonders years ago to increase the population sizes and would undoubtedly do the same for oysters. However it is discouraging that portions of the bay would be closed permanently to oystering and would not be reopened even when population sized would returned to reasonable levels. About 95% of the world’s oysters are grown from aquaculture and it would be a shame to lose the unique historical business that wild oystering has to offer.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Interesting way to boost GM and low-energy vehicles at the same time. A few problems: 1) messing with demand for durables can be expensive later; 2) I wonder how much energy savings this will actually promote, since some older cars are pretty gas efficient.
Any more that you can come up with?
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
The global capacity for gas exports will increase 25% from 200 million tons. The natural gas exports from Qatar, Egypt, Nigeria and Algeria which were suppose to enter European and Asian markets are now arriving on supertankers in the United States where there is a glut too. Natural gas prices have lowered in the United States as its use has fallen by two-thirds. The new imports will not lower the prices any further but will sustain the prices in the market until it comes out of the recession.
The new influx of natural gas into the United States has caused mixed reactions. Consumers will most definitely benefit from the lower prices. Many industrial products utilize natural gas in the production process to run machines and operate factories. Natural gas also provides one-fifth of the power generated by electric utilities. Proponents for energy independence, are on the other side of the issue, and are in fear that the new imports will ruin domestic production markets for natural gas. The domestic rig count will be cut by fifty percent as the imports increase. Prices for natural gas are down to $4 per thousand cubic feet from $13 only a year ago.
“The United States used to have gas bubbles all by itself; now the world can have a gas bubble,” said Donald Hertzmark. The once highly priced necessity for countries with little alternative energy sources has become abundant and will aide a global movement out of the recession.
Having a natural resource in such abundance is great for consumers and the producers who utilize it production processes. With such a high abundance and a lowered price, investments in renewable energy sources can be more heavily researched and tested. These practices will hopefully lead to greater energy independence and lead to developments of cleaner energy technologies.
-- Michael Fisher
Monday, March 23, 2009
The cost of purchasing and installing solar panel systems in homes and businesses has been decreasing rapidly since a decade ago. That cost has dropped 27.6% from 1998 through 2007. In a study done by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the costs of 37,000 photovoltaic systems across the country were examined and it was found that the average price fell from $10.50 per watt in 1998 to $7.60 per watt in 2007. The study also revealed that the state in which the system is installed has an affect on the price of installation. Systems smaller than 10 kilowatts cost an average of $8.10 per watt in California, the second lowest average in the country next to Arizona. Maryland was found to have the highest average price at $10.60 per watt.
The solar panel industry is continuing to find new ways to drive costs of panels down by using new materials, new production processes, and streamlining installation techniques. The demand for solar energy is increasing as homeowners and businesses are looking to lower energy bills and leave a smaller carbon footprint. Economics is playing a major roll in the issue as photovoltaic solar energy still isn’t economical. It is said that this type of renewable energy needs to fall below $5 per watt in order to truly be competitive with other forms of energy production.
I believe that it is obvious economics will be the deciding factor with solar energy’s success or failure. Right now a small system for homeowners costs approximately $25,000. This price, roughly that of buying a new car, is not economical if a homeowner wants to recover their investment in a reasonable amount of time. The time it takes to recover expenses would also depend on the location of the home; closer to the equator would increase efficiency and shorten the time it takes to “break even”. I am totally interested in having a solar energy system on the house that I purchase in the future, if the cost declines or I stumble upon a large pile of money. Having household appliances connected to a solar power system would reduce energy bills significantly, however, a monthly payment for the solar power system would wipe out that affect and possibly cost more to the homeowner.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Severin Borenstein (who works in Berkeley) says that we shouldn't fund solar because the technology is inefficient (i.e. it doesn't generate enough power to pay for itself even accounting for the externalities associated with traditional power generation) and it's hard to argue with him given his thorough study. He calls for increased resources to be invested in research, so that better solar panels can be produced.
There may be other ways that cities can use this mechanism to invest in increased energy efficiency, which would be good too. On top of that, though, I have to think that this new means of securing funding for solar might provide the impetus to get the research done that Borenstein calls for. Hopefully most everyone can agree on that!
My favorite quote is the, "market can regulate for more economic efficiency, but not for more social-economic efficiency." I'm not sure exactly what that means, but there's a grain of truth to it.
There are a few interesting issues here: first, if the town doesn't have enough water, it seems like it should die, and that might be sad but unavoidable. The twist at the end of the story, though, is that it sounds like the mining company that's taking all the water may be forcing that end by taking more water than it has water rights for. If that's the case, then trust in markets has blinded economists and policymakers to the potential for abuse- and that abuse, that externality, is killing the town.
Show me a transaction with no externalities and I'm a libertarian too- I just don't see too many of them out there!
Thursday, March 12, 2009
In the article “Green Iron” from The Economist, the author discusses a new solution for treating industrial wastewater. As we all know, wastewater that is dumped from factories into rivers and streams has large amounts of harmful dyes, nitrogen, phosphorus and other chemicals. These chemicals can have serious effects on the waterways ecosystem, kill fish, and can even contaminate drinking water. This is a serious issue for these and many other reasons.
Dr. Wei-Xian Zhang had previously developed a system for cleaning groundwater and contaminated soil using iron nanoparticles. This method was effective but very expensive, averaging $100 for a kilogram of these nanoparticles. In recent work, Dr. Zhang and fellow colleague Dr. Luming Ma invented a much more efficient and cost effective method. By using ordinary scrap iron that you might find in a junk yard, Dr. Zhang was able to devise a method for treating water being discharged from factories.
By adapting the standard technique for treating wastewater, Dr. Zhang’s created a method that passes water through iron filings held in large tanks. The industrial chemicals are attracted to the surface of the iron filings, which have a large surface area. Scrap iron can be purchased locally for 20 cents a kilogram and after being coated with a solution of copper chloride to increase the effectiveness, costs only rise about another 5 cents. This techniques effectiveness is much greater than the biological treatment method. The amount of nitrogen removed goes from 13% to 85%, phosphorus from 44% to 64%, and colors and dyes from 52% to 80%.
This discovery could make a huge impact on the way factories such as pharmaceutical companies, textile factories etc… dispose of contaminated wastewater. The external costs of such pollution are quite large. By developing a more effective and less expensive method, Dr. Zhang has in turn lowered the companies MAC (Marginal Abatement Cost). The MAC is how much it costs for companies to clean up pollutants in the water. By drastically lowering the cost of cleaning the wastewater, factories will be able to abate more pollutants than before and at a much lower cost.