“Economics is a science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.”
The comment by the former head of the economics department at the London School of Economics holds an important insight for those of us who care about the environment. Environmentalism, at its core, is a concern about scarce resources. Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources.
The bankruptcy of solar-energy company Solyndra, taking half-a-billion taxpayer dollars down with them, has been described as the "first major scandal of the Obama Administration." E-mails are demonstrating the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had reservations about the deal and even predicted, virtually to the day when Solyndra would go bankrupt.
The passage of Hurricane Irene offered another chance for speculation about how climate change is "already" having an impact on the weather. Despite the fact that Irene was weaker than projections expected, it didn't stop folks from substituting speculation and insinuation for science.
A new, left-wing group called ALEC Exposed has popped up taking aim at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) noting that the organization brings legislators from across the country together to, surprise, exchange ideas about legislation. ALEC Exposed is also unhappy that businesses have a seat at the table during discussions.
The Sightline Institute has a great piece on their blog about deregulating taxi licenses in Seattle to allow improved mobility and reduce carbon emissions. They argue that more taxis would allow families to avoid having to buy another car. The piece notes that where more taxis are allowed, competition increases, driving prices down.
The best paragraph of the piece, however, can be applied to a whole range of environmental problems:
This year, Washington state became one of nine states to ban a compound known as bisphenol-A or BPA, from a number of children's products. The ban was justified based on concerns that BPA caused a range of problems from hormone disruption to obesity. The concern is that BPA contained in food containers would be ingested and lead to these problems.
Our budget and transparency director Jason Mercier recently highlighted the $27,000 spent by the Puget Sound Partnership, using a grant from the Department of Ecology, to tell dog owners to pick up after their pets. Now the Department of Ecology is defending their sponsorship of the video.
In a blog post they call the rap video a "A good return on the state’s investment." They highlight several reasons.
Over at the Sightline Institute, they're unhappy with the Seattle Times story on the weather, lamenting that the Times "won't link it to climate change." Washington is warming, Sightline says, and we're already feeling the impact.
At his recent gubernatorial kickoff, Attorney General Rob McKenna highlighted a company in King County that manufactures solar panels. McKenna noted that government regulations were hampering its ability to compete, prosper and create jobs. Generally, we agree with that perspective. In the case of solar power, however, companies that produce solar panels are heavily reliant on taxpayer subsidies and regulations.
Tonight, KCTS is running a story about the impact of diesel emissions in Seattle on cancer rates in the Puget Sound Region. To promote the broadcast, one of the contributors to the story, Investigate West, sent out this tweet earlier in the week:
@invw + @KCTS9 report "Breathing Uneasy": #PugetSound region is in top 5% for #air #toxins in US. http://bit.ly/lbEb5s
Today's Seattle Times features a story with the headline "Study of 800-year-old tree rings backs global warming." The article notes that snowpack loss in the Western United States has been more severe in recent decades than in the last millennium based on studies of tree rings. There are two key claims here.
When launching the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels promised the city would set an example for the nation by meeting the carbon emissions reductions in the Kyoto Protocol. Nickels said the city's emissions would be 7 percent below the 1990 levels by 2012.
On his way out of office in December of 2009, he triumphantly declared victory.
One of the most significant problems with current climate policy is that costly failures have been difficult to eliminate. Even when it becomes clear that a policy isn't achieving the promised environmental goals, special interest groups that financially benefit from the policy prevent it from being eliminated.
The best example of this is biofuel policy. Even Al Gore now admits the real damage caused by biofuel subsidies, both to the environment and the federal budget. He admitted: