Archive forEnvironment

Global Warming Economics

The debate over whether their are ways to attempt to slow down or prevent global warming are being talked about regularly. It is thought that there may be ways to possibly change where economic activity takes place. It is not known whether this would work or not but global warming is rising at a dangerous rate.


Watchdog Group Opposes Oil Shale Research Subsidy


This article gives both side of the argument for and against subsidizing shale oil research. Groups that are against the government subsidizing research for shale oil argue that the oil companies have more than enough money, and that the public should not have to pay for hugely wealthy companies to do research when they have enough resources already. On the other side, opposers of shale drilling want more research done, and support that the government is encouraging the oil companies to perform the research.

In my opinion, the government should take the money that would have been used to subsidize shale research by the oil companies, and perform the research themselves. The oil companies have a high incentive to hide any negative effects that they are causing on the environment in their research, and may not take care to do it well, especially since they do not have to use their own money. This system would appease the conservative view that these huge companies do not need more money, and also satisfy the need for more research about shale oil drilling.

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Renewable Energy Costs in Britain

There are a lot of parallels between the issues addressed in this article and the challenges that are currently being dealt with in the US. Even with Britain’s current dismal economy, the administration is continuing to push for clean energy through nuclear and wind power. Just like in the US, these cleaner forms of energy cost more than the current forms of energy (coal and natural gas), and require economic incentives in order to even be considered. Perhaps this can be an example that even in tough economic times, the beginnings of a transition to cleaner energy forms is possible.


World Toilet Day: November 19

World Aid has created a powerful short film to highlight the difficulties facing many women who lack access to improved sanitation facilities (toilets). I don’t usually post activist items but with today being World Toilet Day and my own research focusing on water and sanitation, I am making an exception.


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Marcellus Shale and longterm economic gains

This article summarizes the issues many energy resource industries face when it comes to the long term benefits of energy exploration. It seems many cities only gain temporary benefits from the entry of new companies seeking the resources necessary in energy production. Citing Williamsport as an example of a city which received an economic boom recently which eventually trailed off as the natural gas reserves were depleted. The article offers alternatives and ways that cities can gain long term benefits from these energy companies moving in. Such as training local workers and students as well as setting up restaurants tailored towards the palettes of the workers moving with the company.

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China, Industrial Spending, and Protests

This article highlights a protest in Sichuan, China against the development of a copper-smelting plant. The proposed plant would cause serious pollution for the town, which was the reason for the mostly young adults to protest. The plan was eventually abandoned. Protests such as these and other sentiments demonstrate a potential shift away from industrial development and manufacturing in their economy. In the past, China’s government has focused solely on building the country up, providing jobs, and growing their economy, which has been largely successful. However, there are some external costs that they have failed to consider. Firstly, there is the cost to the environment. Often farmers have their land taken and a factory or chemical plant is put in place of it. Furthermore, there is an external cost to creating too many state-funded investment projects, as some smaller government organizations are having difficulty sustaining this attitude.
In the particular example of Sichuan, despite the high social cost from the pollution of the copper smelting site, there are other externalities to consider. The article says that the town is made up of retired adults, hoping to stimulate a job market in the town, discouraging younger constituents from leaving. The situation asks for some cost-benefit analysis, as mentioned in Frank.

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An uneasy economy, and those living through it–election.html


This article talks about normal, everyday people living in the recession, and how it affects everyone equally. They have to live on less, no longer able to splurge on extravagant vacations or dinners. The family talked about in the beginning can no longer to afford to heat their whole house because of the cost. Like others, they have cut back in big ways, including selling their gas guzzling hummer in exchange for a more practical useful vehicle. Many have to start over to ensure their own state of economic well-being. The article also makes an important point about politics and the economy: democrats and republicans both are seeing the effects and are well aware that the economy is a major factor in the election. The article states that there is no clear prediction of what will happen, no matter which candidate wins presidency or how the economy will ultimately turn out.

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The Big New Push to Export America’s Gas Bounty

This is an interesting New York Times article about Excelerate Energy, an American natural gas company, that is hoping to create a large export terminal and contribute to the United State’s entrance into the global market as a seller of natural gas. This article discusses several key concepts that we have discussed in class including the basic ideals of supply and demand as well as how price can be deceptive when externalities are not factored in.

The United States is able to extract natural gas from the ground via fracking at a reasonably  “low” cost (without factoring in the multitude of external costs such as water contamination, health issues, increased traffic and other such impacts on local regions). The U.S. would then be able to sell this natural gas on the global market, where the price is extremely high due to huge global demand and gas shortage. As the stated in the article “The wide price disparity between American and global markets has energy giants like Exxon Mobil and BP eager to sell cheap American natural gas to foreign buyers to cash in on robust global demand.” It appears to me that these externalities are not being factored in by American energy companies. Would the United States still be able to make such a huge profit on selling this “cheap” natural gas to the global market if they took externalities and social cost of this gas extraction into account? Do the external costs outweigh the potential benefits of becoming an international exporter of natural gas?

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Domestic Airlines and Biofuel

This article discusses the increasing use of and interest in biofuel within the domestic airline industry as a result of an international agreement with seventeen other countries to create carbon-neutral growth by 2020. Airplanes represent one of the biggest consumers for fossil fuels, with U.S. Airlines using 18 billion gallons of jet fuel per year – approximately 10% of our country’s demand for oil. In today’s economy, there is a lot to be gained from switching to biofuel, but the transition could prove difficult. Just as in our discussions in class of positional concerns, if one airline were to choose biofuel, there prices would rise substantially, and their customers may switch to other airlines. While some consumers would value the use of biofuel, flying is already so expensive and a massive area of consumer discontent (invasive TSA policies, countless accounts of harassment by officials, and much, much more), that a hike in prices would indubitably turn customers away.
However, the external benefits of large airlines choosing biofuel would be enormous. Firstly, there is the obvious benefit of a decrease in the use of fossil fuels, a decrease much more noticeable than one family’s switch to a hybrid car. Also, the large scale demand for biofuel would lead producers to find more efficient, cheaper production methods, enabled by the capital from the airlines, representing the economic concept of economies of scale. The expansion of the industry would benefit all consumers as it would provide another cost-efficient option for fuel, decrease dependence on traditional oil, and benefit the environment in general.


Mackenzie Johnson

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Clean Water Act: Happy 40th Anniversary!

Today – October 19, 2012 – marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. These two articles provide a brief history of the Act and argue that the Clean Water Act focused on those polluters and pollutants that were most harmful and could be removed at lowest cost. We now face the challenge of removing pollutants that are more costly to remove and finding ways of improving water quality at lowest cost.


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