The National Resources Defense Council is a legal organization, not an economic one, but our work overlaps quite a bit. We won't get into valuation in this class, but when economists try to put price tags on environmental commodities they have to talk to people who use them. The NRDC is apparently trying to do this in order to add pressure on the Maryland DoE to get them to in turn pressure Baltimore to improve their storm drainage system. I got this email today:
Friday, January 17, 2014
Heard from Joseph Fleming from last semester, who is starting to see Resource Economics everywhere, and he's right. Here's a look at a few issues that have been in the news over the past few weeks:
- Industry is trying solar power in all formats, including a $2.5 billion mega-plant in the middle of the California desert. Maryland won't be doing anything so huge, but Maryland has put itself in the mix of governments trying to figure out how best to meet a commitment to green energy.
- NPR reviewed an Oxfam study reviewing food systems around the world. The authors conclude that, "There is enough food overall in the world to feed everyone. But 900 million people still don't have enough to eat, and 1 billion people are obese. It's a crazy situation." Specifically in the US food is cheaper than in most countries, but a lot of that cheap food puts people on the fast track for obesity and diabetes. Not good.
- Hey GMO haters: GMO's may be the only way we can save Florida's oranges (and the $9 billion business associated with them). A new pest is doing huge damage to the crop, and so far no one has a better solution. That would be sort of like how GMO's saved papaya in Hawaii, and have done a lot of good in other places with no harm yet identified. Is that really wrong? Why?
- West Virginia had a chemical spill that reminded people that water is pretty important. The company quickly went bankrupt. How conveeeenient.
- Brazil had been looking forward to a huge windfall as oil discovered beneath the ocean floor in deep water was accessed, but that oil may be stuck down there. Bad news for Brazil, but maybe good news for the planet as that carbon stays in the ground. (I say "maybe" because if it just means that we burn other high carbon sources, we haven't gained much.)
- California (and my hometown of Reno, Nevada) are facing a huge water deficit: the snowpack which supplies most of the water through the year is at 20% of normal. Not 20% less than normal, 1/5 of the average. In addition to people's drinking water, you may have heard that California does this kind of important thing called "farming" in which they produce huge amounts of produce for the world, such as 82% of the world's almonds.
- Venezuela, where gas used to cost pennies per gallon, is considering raising prices. Some possible implications include reducing government spending, reducing incentives for people to drive around in land yachts, and maybe someday giving a reason for people to learn about the crazy foreign concept of "conservation."
I'm telling you, it's all over the place!