Posts tagged as:

environment

“There’s plenty of money. The problem is interminable environmental review.” That’s Philip K. Howard in the Wall Street Journal [summarized here; related Common Good forum with Regional Plan Association] Excerpt:

Canada requires full environmental review, with state and local input, but it has recently put a maximum of two years on major projects. Germany allocates decision-making authority to a particular state or federal agency: Getting approval for a large electrical platform in the North Sea, built this year, took 20 months; approval for the City Tunnel in Leipzig, scheduled to open next year, took 18 months. Neither country waits for years for a final decision to emerge out of endless red tape.

{ 10 comments }

Following through on earlier rumblings, New York City’s mayor proposes a citywide ban on Styrofoam cups and plates [New York Post, earlier, Baltimore, suburban Boston]

{ 5 comments }

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on November 5, 2013

{ 1 comment }

“A new analysis from the Brookings Institution’s Ted Gayer and Emily Parker found that the program was fairly inefficient as economic stimulus and mostly pulled forward auto sales that would have happened anyway. It also cut greenhouse-gas emissions a bit — the equivalent of taking up to 5 million cars off the road for a year — but at a steep cost. … ‘In the event of a future economic recession,’ they conclude, ‘we would not recommend repeating the [Cash for Clunkers] program.’” [Brad Plumer, Washington Post; earlier]

{ 5 comments }

A chance for left-right policy alliance might have been missed here ["David Hume," Secular Right; Coyote]

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on October 11, 2013

Ronald Coase, 1910-2013

by Walter Olson on September 3, 2013

The immensely influential scholar and winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize for Economics was 102 years of age and a productive scholar to the end. An excellent short introduction to Coase’s work is found in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, edited by David Henderson.

Coase’s famous, seminal article The Problem of Social Cost, while the most widely cited in the law and economics canon, is also persistently misunderstood and misrepresented by both friends and foes, as Robert Ellickson shows devastatingly in this essay (h/t Jonathan Adler). Many, even most popular attempts to formulate the “Coase Theorem” veer far from what Coase intended and sometimes into the reverse, above all when they idealize the power of negotiation to overcome the problems of externalities in a highly fictional world that assumes away transactions costs.

As Coase himself pointed out: “The world of zero transactions costs has often been described as a Coasian world. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the world of modern economic theory, one which I was hoping to persuade economists to leave.” Precisely because across a wide range of circumstances the transactions costs of negotiation are too high to permit reallocations of rights between parties, some initial assignments of liability or property rights do impair real output compared with others.

The University of Chicago’s well-meaning notice, I fear, is among those that misstate the Coase Theorem. “Coase believed the incentives of private parties to resolve disputes in their own best interests, even if there needs to be adjudication by courts, should result in an efficient, mutually beneficial solution that is always preferable to government intervention.” (No, that’s not at all what he wrote, even if one succeeds in disentangling the court adjudication from the “government intervention.”) Likewise Bloomberg: “Holding the [polluting] company liable and ordering it to pay money to an affected property holder is less likely to yield an optimal result than having the parties negotiate, he wrote.” (No, that’s not it at all either. At most, his theory implies that the optimal liability rule is fact-contingent and should not invariably be assumed to be the one that makes the smokestack owner pay)

I also have a notion that Coase’s other greatest paper, “The Nature of the Firm” made a huge difference in the real business world in ways that have not been fully reckoned. In that era and on until some time after World War Two, it was widely imagined that the telos of a firm was just to grow and grow without limit, which meant one saw elaborate attempts at vertical integration such as Henry Ford trying to grow rubber trees for tire supply, and antitrust authorities could imagine themselves the only obstacle to the eventual agglomeration of the whole economy into a small number of firms. By the time Coase’s insights had been absorbed, executives had come to see the logic of outsourcing, no one expected the hundred largest firms to account for a higher share of employment or sales or profits each year than last, and antitrust mania went into remission, at least temporarily.

More from Stephen Bainbridge, Lynne Kiesling, Don Boudreaux, David Henderson (a Coase contra Friedman anecdote), Kevin Bryan, David Friedman, Coase interview with Tom Hazlett excerpt via Geoffrey Manne, and Jonathan Adler with much more on what Coase actually thought about the correction of putative externalities. Don’t miss Richard Epstein’s reminiscences, either. [and cross-posted with some additional links at Cato at Liberty]

{ 3 comments }

Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on August 23, 2013

  • California officials profess surprise: fracking’s been going on for decades in their state [Coyote]
  • Taxpayers fund Long Island Soundkeeper enviro group, affiliated with RFK Jr.’s Waterkeeper network, and a Connecticut state lawmaker does rather nicely out of that [Raising Hale]
  • Backgrounder on Louisiana coastal erosion suit [New Orleans Times-Picayune] “Lawsuit Blaming Oil Companies For Wetland Loss Might As Well Blame The Plaintiffs” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
  • US ties for worst of 25 countries when it comes to delay in mining permits [Sharon Koss, NTU] “Number One in DataMining” [@sonodoc99]
  • “BP Is Rapidly Becoming One Giant Law Firm” [Paul Barrett, Bloomberg Business Week]
  • “Mann v. Steyn — Mann wins round one” [Adler]
  • An insider’s view of EPA and how it uses power [Brent Fewell]

Using outdoor recreation as a jumping-off point, Warren Meyer compares construction that genuinely conserves inputs over the long term with the sorts of fussy, maintenance-intensive designs that tend to win architectural sustainability awards, “which generally means they save money on one input at the expense of increasing many others. … I briefly operated a campground that had a rainwater recovery system on the bathrooms, which required about 5 hours of labor each week to keep clean and running to save about a dollar of water costs.”

{ 5 comments }

Saltwater incursion and wetlands loss associated with industrial use of coastal Louisiana have worsened the exposure of populated areas to flooding, according to official reports and scientific studies. Now a flood protection board representing much of the New Orleans area is suing energy companies demanding a contribution of “billions” of dollars, though its spokesman acknowledges that government actions were also responsible for weakening the natural environmental buffer. John Schwartz quotes me in his New York Times report today, though without the chance to study the suit’s contentions it was hard for me to make any more than the most preliminary observations.

P.S. More details emerge in an expanded version of the story as well as in a Thursday Washington Post report. The agency is suing “about 100″ energy companies. Canal construction and other actions taken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were important contributors to the environmental losses, but principles of sovereign immunity restrict suits against the Corps. Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said “that the levee agency had usurped his authority and that the suit would enrich trial lawyers” and demanded that the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority “cancel contracts with the four law firms that had agreed to handle the case on a contingency basis.”

{ 2 comments }

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on July 22, 2013

{ 1 comment }

No food gathering is allowed in the Chicago-area Cook County Forest Preserve, and that extends to dandelions. A spokeswoman does not exactly argue that America is at risk of running out of the notoriously prolific wind-borne weed, but says foraging might take food away from animal or insect species that might otherwise eat the yellow-topped invaders, besides which “some native plants resemble dandelions and could be mistaken for them.” [ABA Journal]

{ 2 comments }

The Supreme Court had already ruled that disproportionate “exactions” levied on property owners in exchange for the right to develop are an unconstitutional taking if they consist of demands for land. Now, in Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District, the Court confirms that the rule also applies to exactions of money and effort — in this case, a demand that a landowner develop a government property miles away from his own holdings. It also confirms that the principle applies to denials of permits as well as approvals. [Roger Pilon, Tejinder Singh/SCOTUSBlog, Ilya Somin, Damon Root/Reason] Background: Cato brief and summary, Timothy Sandefur and Ilya Shapiro. More: Richard Epstein, Gideon Kanner, Randal O’Toole, Rick Hills, Ilya Somin.

Illinois isn’t exactly a state known as hospitable to liability reform, but here’s this: “The Illinois House and Senate recently passed SB1042, a bill that protects property owners from liability if they allow the public on their land to hike, fish, watch birds or participate in other forms of outdoors recreation. The bill now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature.” [State Journal-Register]

More, via Free-Range Kids, a surprisingly good insurance-company ad, from Allstate:

{ 2 comments }

Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on June 13, 2013

{ 1 comment }

Both houses of the legislature in Connecticut have approved legislation aimed at requiring the labeling of (near-ubiquitous) foodstuffs with genetically modified (GMO) ingredients. The Senate’s version includes an “all jump off together” clause preventing it from going into effect until at least four states have joined in on the idea, which must cumulatively have a population of at least 20 million, and must include at least one state adjacent to Connecticut. [Greenwich Time, Ron Bailey, related ("food companies should just go ahead and slap labels on everything they sell reporting: 'This product may contain ingredients derived from safe modern biotechnology.'")] Earlier here (NY Times is surprisingly sensible on subject), here, here, here, etc.

{ 3 comments }

Esther Wrightman, who opposes the construction of wind turbines near her Ontario home, made some YouTube videos taking a dim view of NextEra, a leading wind-power company. Now the company is suing her, alleging among other things that she infringed on its intellectual property rights by publishing satirical altered versions of its logo. [Ezra Levant, Sun; Bayshore Broadcasting]

“Air quality regulators, citing pollution and health risks, have proposed removing more than 800 fire pits that dot the coastline of Los Angeles and Orange Counties.” [Ian Lovett, New York Times]

{ 2 comments }