Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fishing- Still a Wild Frontier

Pretty epic story in the NYT recently about Bob Barker chasing down some fish pirates. Seriously! As much as the numbers depress me on how much the US spends on the military, I sure wish someone would impose order on the oceans to stop slavery and this kind of violation of international law. Does the world need police? Who should pay for them? Discuss....

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Organics & carbon

While organic agriculture is better for the environment in some ways, one recent article finds that they are heavy machine users, and hence emit at least as much carbon as conventional farms. It'd be nice if the "organic" label system was more than a yes vs. no but had a 1-10 rating system or something so that farmers would have an incentive to improve, and buyers would know more about what they're getting.

That'd be much better than the GMO labeling that some people are excited about- why must we demonize what we don't understand?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Eat American Seafood

It turns out that some of the imported stuff was processed by slaves. No wonder it's so cheap. (Please do take a look at the article if you have time!)

Update, 7/27: the NYT has caught on. Here is its version, which is pretty brutal, and also links the Thai fish trade to pet food.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The good and bad of fracking

You've probably heard the one about the one-handed economist, but what can I say: the world is complicated! Here are the two sides of fracking. New study, out July 15th, finds that hospitalizations related to a variety of ailments (including heart, skin, brain, and others) are up in places where fracking is happening. On the other hand, cheaper energy and other benefits saved people (mostly in the South) about $48 billion per year from 2007-2013. Note that this is NOT an estimate of corporate profits: actually the dropping price of energy cost industry about $26 billion, but the benefits added up to $74 billion per year over that time, so the net benefit [NOT including the health/ environmental damages] was the $48 billion.

So, how do you balance that?

One other thing to keep in mind: doing good accounting means that we also need to think about what the fallback option is. If we, say, tax fracking (and a ban can be considered a really high tax) then what happens? The country's energy mix may shift a little bit in ways you want it to, like toward renewables and maybe nuclear, but it will also shift a lot back toward what it was ten years ago, which is toward coal. Coal mining and burning is linked to at least as many health problems as fracking, I'm sure! Not to say that fracking should therefore be given free rein, just that we need to recognize that the balancing is happening in a context....

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Slate on GMO's

Nice, clear if lengthy takedown of the anti-GMO movement on Slate, a reliably liberal site. Really, it's not about Monsanto brainwashing us! Take a look.