This week, the Wall Street Journal is publishing four pieces I wrote addressing various aspects of energy and environment policy. You can read them all at the WSJ Experts page. There are some nice pieces by others as well, so it is worth a look at all of the articles.
Tonight, union and environmental activists are threatening to protest Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's speech at our annual dinner. Such protests, of course, are long on rhythmic chanting and short on thoughtful argument.
It is notable, however, that the announcement of the protest encourages "environmental activists" to protest the Governor's "environment-damaging policies." So, here are five questions for environmental activists who decide to show up tonight.
Today, the Washington State Department of Commerce released its assessment of the Energy Freedom Program, created in 2006 to "promote public research and development in bioenergy." As part of the program the state loaned just over $10 million to four companies, in partnership with public entities, to generate biofuels and renewable energy. One company just began operations in July, but the other three have been operating for a few years now and are a useful guide to the failure of political efforts to create a "green" economy.
Are you serious about climate change? Do you think it is a policy worth addressing? How can we tell who is really serious from the everyday poseur who is simply engaging in public preening? Here is a simple test.
The U.S. Department of Energy yesterday released a report on "Impacts to the Energy Sector from Climatic Conditions." It notes "climate change is happening -- and the effects are already being felt across the country." The report examines how "decreasing water availability" and other impacts are harming energy production.
Here's a grab bag of stories to read while eating your burger, brat and steak tomorrow. It's what the Founding Fathers would want.
Using the Free Market to Save the Rhino
Here's a great (and moving) piece from NPR's Planet Money on a proposal to encourage the breeding of rhinos in an effort to flood the market with rhino horn (which grows back) and undermine poaching by driving prices down. At the current rate, poaching will cause a decline in the rhino population in 2016.
The budget passed by both chambers of the legislature last week contained a few hopeful signs toward measuring the environmental effectiveness of government policies. When Governor Inslee signed the budget on Sunday, however, he vetoed three sections of the budget that would have helped assess and promote the effectiveness of the state's environmental policy.
There are some promising signs that legislators are beginning to demand environmental effectiveness when funding projects designed to protect Washington's natural resources. In addition to the clause in the Governor's climate bill requiring projects to be prioritized based on carbon reductions per dollar spent, there is budget language requiring a similar approach in other environmental arenas.
Today, President Obama outlined his new strategy on climate change, calling for more support for a range of politically chosen strategies. Prior to the speech, Governor Inslee released a statement saying the approach is "a smart, practical and cost effective set of policies."
The approach proposed by the President, however, stands in contrast to Inslee's own climate legislation and model legislation passed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
It is a simple reality that you are more careful with your own money than with others'. The latest example comes from Seattle Times business columnist Jon Talton, who has argued repeatedly that the world is about to run out of oil. The theory, called "Peak Oil," says that since oil is a finite resource, we will run out in the near future, causing massive economic disruption. This is often used as an argument for increased political control of the economy.
The Army Corps of Engineers announced it won't consider the impacts of burning coal in China when examining the proposed export terminal in Washington state. Those who oppose exporting coal from the U.S. to China argue that such an analysis was necessary to understand the full impact of the exports.
Attempting to calculate all potential carbon emissions from coal exports, however, is completely unscientific and contradicts Seattle's own position when analyzing its carbon footprint.
Sometimes the simplest things can expose so much. Seattle's debate about the impact on climate policy of growing pot within city limits demonstrates how silly and ineffective some of Seattle's climate policies really are, contradicting the city's own "buy local" efforts.
As KUOW reports today, Seattle City Councilman Mike O'Brien is concerned that growing marijuana in Seattle will make it difficult to meet the City's goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. O'Brien told KUOW:
When innovators working in a free-market come up with a better, environmentally friendly solution to a problem, what is the reaction of government agencies? Attack it.
Tom Watson, a King County employee who calls himself the "EcoConsumer," offers his thoughts on how to be a good environmentalist. On his (taxpayer-paid) blog, you will find a range of topics, from praise for Occupy Wall Street to recommending that people eat more kimchi (he calls it one of the "most enviro-friendly foods you can eat" but doesn't explain why).
After other local cities have banned plastic grocery bags, the City of Kirkland commissioned a public opinion survey to see what residents would think about bringing the policy to the community. Not much, apparently.