Friday, January 30, 2015

Keystone and drilling

Lots going on these days! First, the Prez proposed allowing drilling in the southeastern US while disallowing it in Alaska. On first glance, this seems like a good balance: allow drilling in some places and not others. And maybe that's really what this is. On the other hand, a writer at the Brookings Institute (which is usually pretty centrist politically) bashes the decision as unnecessarily painful for Alaskans, who are almost all dependent on extractive industries, while sacrificing important natural areas in the southeast. I'd like more evidence and less indignance  in a rebuttal to the President's move, but it's still interesting. (Which is really more environmentally sensitive? Which really matters more to the nearby people?)

Speaking of how changes in extractive industries affect nearby people, Venezuelans are suffering from low oil prices too....

Finally, the results of a recent poll show that Americans generally support government action on climate change. Half of Republicans and a much higher share of Democrats support action, and most feel that they themselves are likely to suffer because of it if nothing is done. It's pleasing to see reality setting in! One last one after the fold....

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Parking in the news!

We'll be talking about parking in the next week or so, and I came across this article someone just wrote about parking. It says that about 1% of the cost of goods you buy in regular stores comes from the store's costs associated with paying the rent on their parking lot! Food for thought....

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Keystone: Still Kicking

I started using the Keystone XL pipeline as an intro to this class years ago, and I figured I'd change it to some other environmental issue as the years went by, but somehow it manages to stay in the news and avoid resolution. In today's news, Democrats in the Senate seem to have forced Mitch McConnell to allow another round of amendments to be considered. The first round included a landmark vote in which the Senate, including James Inhofe of Oklahoma who long denied the reality of climate change, acknowledged that "climate change is real." They couldn't get the votes to attribute the cause of climate change to human activity, though. Well, I suppose we should be pleased with baby steps.

Oops, and another entry. Just spotted this blog entry from natural resources economist David Zilberman, who teaches in the program I graduated from. He recommends that Democrats agree to the Keystone Pipeline if Republicans agree to a 50 cent gas tax or a smaller carbon tax. That's an interesting proposal: it's a total non-starter politically (can you imagine if the unified Republican Congress's first product included a 50 cent gas tax?!) but it points out some better solutions than just slowing the development of this one project.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Welcome to Resource Economics!

Howdy folks! It's a week before class starts, and because I'm evil I'm already accumulating materials that I want you to take a look at. Nasty, huh?

Next Monday we'll be talking about the Keystone XL pipeline which is in the news again. Here's the New York Times' page where they list their various coverage of the issue. Take a few minutes and look back at the coverage at least through early 2014.

The short version is that although there are pipelines all over the place (see map at the bottom of the linked page), the Federal Government has to get involved in this one because it crosses an international border. As a result, environmental groups saw this as a chance to slow down the development of the Canadian tar sands, which are a pretty nasty source of oil. By "nasty" I mean that mining the tar sands creates more than usual above-ground damage, and that compared to other sources it takes more energy/ chemicals/ money to turn it into usable oil. The fight has dragged on for at least five years: here's a 2010 article in the NYT on the tar sands.

By the way, I found the pipeline image at the "mother nature network" when it was linked to by, but it doesn't imply that they are harmless: apparently there have been over 1400 spills since 2010 just in the US. Just yesterday, Sunday 1/18, there was another spill near Yellowstone National Park. That said, there are other threats that may be as damaging, and if the pipeline isn't built then things may actually be worse, as moving out oil by rail carloads is much more labor-intensive and dangerous. So! Lots to think about.

Other issues that caught my eye recently:
Fears about how climate change threatens the oceans and

Guess who's the #3 emitter of carbon? (China and the US are #'s 1 & 2)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The dangers of fracking

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, spoke on stage about the dangers of fracking. He didn't talk about worries of contaminated water or earthquakes; he just notes that by putting more oil and gas in reach, it pushes prices down. When the price of gas is low, fewer people think about buying (his) electric cars. High gas prices are the environmentalist's friend!

Just a few days later, Brookings has a blog post saying that's not the case, that Elon has nothing to fear. See what you think!