Latest Cato Research on Environmental Regulation https://www.cato.org/ en EPA’s FY 2021 Budget Sets Out to Dupe Congress (again) https://www.cato.org/blog/epas-fy-2021-budget-sets-out-dupe-congress-again William Yeatman <p>The EPA’s annual <a href="https://www.epa.gov/planandbudget/cj">budget</a> just came out, and it’s as confusing as ever—by insidious design.</p> <p>All agencies have <a href="https://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/about-office-chief-financial-officer-ocfo">CFO offices</a> whose responsibility is to work with the White House&nbsp;to produce a&nbsp;budget for congressional consideration. In addition to crunching numbers, agency CFOs also provide lawmakers&nbsp;with two qualitative descriptions: a “budget‐​in‐​brief” and a “budget justification.” These documents are supposed to play a&nbsp;crucial role in Congress’s power of the purse. After all, Congress cannot be a&nbsp;responsible&nbsp;steward of public funds&nbsp;if lawmakers have no idea how appropriations are spent.</p> <p>Maybe it’s just me, but I&nbsp;think these documents&nbsp;should be easy‐​peasy. A&nbsp;useful budget justification would:</p> <ul> <li>Identify the regulatory program;</li> <li>Identify the office or division in the agency that is executing the program;</li> <li>Identify the statutory basis of the program (is it discretionary or is it required by statute?);</li> <li>Identify how much is being spent on the program.</li> </ul> <p>Presto! All it takes is 4&nbsp;bullet points per program. With this simple template, lawmakers could easily glean enough facts to make informed choices with the nation’s pocketbook.</p> <p>In practice, alas, the EPA’s budget descriptions have been far from simple. In a&nbsp;word, these documents have been gobbledygook.</p> <p>A few years ago, I&nbsp;tried&nbsp;to make sense of the agency’s <a href="https://www.epa.gov/planandbudget/fy-2017-justification-appropriation-estimates-committee-appropriations">FY 2017 budget justification</a>. I’d been following the EPA&nbsp;for a&nbsp;decade, so I&nbsp;felt&nbsp;qualified to understand the document. Yet after a&nbsp;few frustrating weeks, I&nbsp;remained bewildered by the agency’s Kafkaesque presentation.</p> <p>Instead of organizing its budget justification by office or statute, the EPA employed an indecipherable matrix of conceptual goals and organizational labels. Over the course of 1,200 pages, the document described 170 of these matrix combinations, using&nbsp;airy prose that failed to impart even the most basic information (such as, “which office is spending the money?”).</p> <p>It slowly dawned on me that the confusion was intentional. By making it impossible to “follow the money,” the agency hoped&nbsp;to defeat congressional oversight.</p> <p>On reviewing&nbsp;prior budget justifications,&nbsp;I&nbsp;discovered that this&nbsp;obfuscation extended at least to the George W. Bush administration.</p> <p>I’d not given much thought to the matter&nbsp;until today, on seeing a&nbsp;story about the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/planandbudget/cj">EPA’s FY 2021 budget</a>. Having had my curiosity piqued, I&nbsp;investigated the EPA’s current&nbsp;<a href="https://www.epa.gov/planandbudget/fy-2021-justification-appropriation-estimates-committee-appropriations">justification</a>, hopeful that our business‐​minded president had imposed some needed discipline on agency accounting.</p> <p>No dice. The FY&nbsp;2021 document&nbsp;relies on the same incomprehensible&nbsp;matrix.</p> <p>To be sure, there’s plenty of blame to share. Not a&nbsp;single member of Congress has the wherewithal to demand an EPA&nbsp;budget that makes sense.&nbsp;</p> Tue, 11 Feb 2020 17:21:21 -0500 William Yeatman https://www.cato.org/blog/epas-fy-2021-budget-sets-out-dupe-congress-again National Environmental Policy Act: “An unlimited license to write papers” https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-daily-podcast/national-environmental-policy-act-unlimited-license-write-papers Peter Van Doren, Caleb O. Brown <p>The Trump Administration plan to roll back regulatory review for large government infrastructure projects won’t have much of an impact on environmental quality. Peter Van Doren explains why.</p> Tue, 28 Jan 2020 16:37:54 -0500 Peter Van Doren, Caleb O. Brown https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-daily-podcast/national-environmental-policy-act-unlimited-license-write-papers Ninth Circuit “Reluctantly” Dismisses Kids Climate Case https://www.cato.org/blog/ninth-circuit-reluctantly-dismisses-kids-climate-case William Yeatman <p>Today, a&nbsp;split panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit “reluctantly” dismissed <em><a href="http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2020/01/17/18-36082.pdf">Juliana v. United States</a></em>, known colloquially as the “kids’ climate case.”</p> <p>We should all be thankful for the court’s avowed restraint—for&nbsp;much of this&nbsp;controversy, judges in the circuit seemingly champed&nbsp;at the bit to take on central planning of the American economy. A&nbsp;big assist is due the Supreme Court, which bench‐​slapped some sense into the Ninth Circuit.</p> <p>Here’s the backstory. In 2015, a&nbsp;group of children filed suit in a&nbsp;federal district court in Oregon, alleging that the federal government infringed on on their putative constitutional right to a&nbsp;climate unaffected by anthropogenic global warming.</p> <p>On its face, the kids’ case is silly. For starters, it’s not terribly plausible to claim there’s an unenumerated constitutional right to a&nbsp;specific atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases. But let’s assume there is, for the sake of argument. What could a&nbsp;court do about it?</p> <p>As a&nbsp;remedy, the <em>Juliana </em>plaintiffs&nbsp;sought for the court to order&nbsp;the government to draw up a&nbsp;comprehensive climate plan–one that is subject to judicial approval and ongoing oversight.</p> <p>The requested relief, therefore, is a&nbsp;court‐​ordered scheme to regulate the American economy. If the plaintiffs had their druthers, a&nbsp;single federal district court judge would become, after the president, the most powerful official in the country. Obviously, that’s a&nbsp;big practical&nbsp;problem with the plaintiff’s argument.</p> <p>From a&nbsp;legal perspective, the Constitution vests Article III judges with the “Judicial power.” National regulatory plans, by contrast,&nbsp;emanate from the “legislative” or “executive” powers that are the province of the political branches of government. Simply put, judges have no constitutional authority to initiate and oversee major climate policy.&nbsp;</p> <p>For these reasons, judges in other circuits have been quick to nix similar challenges. Last February, for example, U.S. Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Paul Diamond <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-climatechange-lawsuit/u-s-judge-dismisses-boys-lawsuit-against-trump-climate-rollbacks-idUSKCN1Q92SA">dismissed</a> a&nbsp;near‐​identical suit. According to Judge Diamond, the Constitution does not guarantee children a&nbsp;right to a “life‐​sustaining climate system.” After disavowing both “the authority [and] the inclination to assume control of the Executive Branch,” he concluded that climate change regulation “is a&nbsp;policy debate best left to the political process.”</p> <p>Yet, in <em>Juliana</em>, U.S. Oregon District Judge Ann Aiken entertained no such reservations. Not only did she deny two of the federal government’s procedural motions to stop&nbsp;the case, but she initially refused to certify her orders for interlocutory appeal—that is, she refused to allow the government to appeal&nbsp;her procedural orders&nbsp;before the case went to trial. It seemed as if she wanted to try <em>Juliana</em>.</p> <p>The Ninth Circuit, too, seemed eager for the case to proceed. Twice, the court denied government petitions to end&nbsp;the case.</p> <p>If all these judges in the Ninth Circuit were so eager to take the case, then how did <em>Juliana</em>&nbsp;get dismissed today?</p> <p>The answer involves unmistakable signals sent from the Supreme Court. At various points during the litigation, the federal government asked the&nbsp;Court to pause the case. In denying these motions as untimely, the Court included language that unequivocally imparted its concern regarding the constitutional viability of the claims at issue in <em>Juliana</em>.</p> <p>For example, in July of 2018, the Court <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/docket/docketfiles/html/public/18a65.html">observed</a> that “The breadth of respondents’ claims is striking,” and further directed District Court Judge Aiken to “take [justiciability] concerns into account.” A&nbsp;few months later, the Supreme Court <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docket/docketfiles/html/public/18a410.html">basically ordered</a> the Ninth Circuit to hear the federal government’s appeal (on justiciability grounds).</p> <p>After the Supreme Court’s second order, the Ninth Circuit leaned on Judge Aiken to certify her procedural orders and thereby permit the government’s appeal. Last June, the Ninth Circuit <a href="https://www.cato.org/v">held oral arguments</a>. Today, it “reluctantly” dismissed the case, holding:</p> <blockquote><p>We reluctantly conclude … that the plaintiffs’ case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large, the latter of which can change the composition of the political branches through the ballot box. That the other branches may have abdicated their responsibility to remediate the problem does not confer on Article III courts, no matter how well‐​intentioned, the ability to step into their shoes.</p> </blockquote> <p>It bears noting that a&nbsp;majority on the three‐​judge panel dismissed <em>Juliana</em> over the impassioned (though wrong) dissent of Judge Josephine L. Staton. So a&nbsp;third of the panel would have allowed the case to proceed, while the rest ended <em>Juliana</em> only with “reluctance.” It may not be&nbsp;pretty, but I&nbsp;welcome the outcome nevertheless.</p> Fri, 17 Jan 2020 16:07:23 -0500 William Yeatman https://www.cato.org/blog/ninth-circuit-reluctantly-dismisses-kids-climate-case The Antiquities Act, Protecting Land, and Executive Authority https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-daily-podcast/antiquities-act-protecting-land-executive-authority Jonathan Wood, Caleb O. Brown <p>What is the proper balance to protecting natural resources while respecting the value of those lands for alternative uses? Jonathan Wood with the Pacific Legal Foundation comments.</p> Wed, 01 Jan 2020 17:26:11 -0500 Jonathan Wood, Caleb O. Brown https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-daily-podcast/antiquities-act-protecting-land-executive-authority The Autobahn to Car Consumer Hell Is Paved with the Best Intentions https://www.cato.org/blog/autobahn-car-consumer-hell-paved-best-intentions William Yeatman <p>After <a href="https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2012/sep/06/did-obama-save-us-automobile-industry/">bailing out</a> two of the “Big 3” Detroit automakers, President Obama called in his markers during the summer of 2011. That’s when his administration <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2011/07/29/president-obama-announces-historic-545-mpg-fuel-efficiency-standard">announced</a> an agreement with major car manufacturers to increase federal fuel economy standards to 54.5&nbsp;miles per gallon (MPG) by 2025.</p> <p>At the time, fleet averages (including cars and light‐​duty trucks) were about 27 MPG; doubling that figure in 14&nbsp;years was a&nbsp;tall order requiring technological breakthroughs that might or might not happen.</p> <p>Accordingly, the 2011 agreement included an escape hatch. The plan stipulated for a “mid‐​term review” process, by which regulatory agencies could revisit their fuel efficiency targets and change course if necessary.</p> <p>Under the agreement’s terms, the mid‐​term review was due by April of 2018. All the parties to the original accord&nbsp;understood that the mid‐​term review would entail&nbsp;a&nbsp;process that unfolded up to the 2018 deadline&nbsp;in order to best inform the final decision with the latest data.</p> <p>If Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, the process would have occurred as initially expected. But then Trump won, and the Obama administration scrambled to finish a&nbsp;mid‐​term review during the outgoing president’s lame‐​duck session.</p> <p>After a&nbsp;six‐​week rulemaking conducted with breakneck speed, Obama’s agencies completed their&nbsp;mid‐​term review with only eight days to spare before Trump occupied the White House. To no one’s surprise, the Obama administration <a href="https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi?Dockey=P100QQ91.pdf">affirmed its original 54.5 MPG (by 2025) target</a>.</p> <p>About a&nbsp;month after President Trump took office, his&nbsp;administration <a href="https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-03-22/pdf/2017-05316.pdf">announced it would reconsider</a>&nbsp;Obama’s lame‐​duck&nbsp;determination. Ultimately, the Trump administration <a href="https://www.epa.gov/regulations-emissions-vehicles-and-engines/safer-affordable-fuel-efficient-safe-vehicles-proposed">proposed to freeze the fuel efficiency standards at their 2021 targets through 2025</a>. That proposal, however, has yet to be finalized. When it is made&nbsp;final, it will be challenged in court by progressive state attorneys general&nbsp;and environmental groups.</p> <p>With this context in mind, let’s turn to Europe, which has more stringent fuel efficiency standards than we do. To be precise, the European Union regulates tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases, the control of which is effectively coterminous with the regulation of fuel efficiency.</p> <p>Current regulations for the EU translate to fuel efficiency standards that are roughly commensurate with what the Obama‐​era standards would have required by 2023, based on my eyeball approximation of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/04/03/climate/us-fuel-economy.html">this <em>New York Times</em> chart</a>&nbsp;comparing&nbsp;the two regimes.</p> <p>So, how’s that working out for Europeans?</p> <p>Not well, according to <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ebb85b9e-1b7d-11ea-97df-cc63de1d73f4">last Thursday’s fascinating Big Read in the <em>Financial Times</em> by Peter Campbell</a>. The sub‐​headline <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ebb85b9e-1b7d-11ea-97df-cc63de1d73f4">says</a> it all: “rather than embrace the new technology, consumers seem more interested in larger, petrol‐​fueled cars.”</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ebb85b9e-1b7d-11ea-97df-cc63de1d73f4">article</a> starts with a&nbsp;charming story about how the European Union’s&nbsp;regulatory framework affected a&nbsp;recent automobile purchase in Spain:</p> <blockquote><p>When Blas Arambilet tried to buy an electric car in April, something strange happened.</p> <p>Months after ordering a&nbsp;white Kia e‑Niro from his local Barcelona showroom, he received a&nbsp;call from the dealership. Kia could not deliver the car this year, a&nbsp;salesman explained, because it needed to book the sale in 2020&nbsp;in order to help meet tough new targets for [fuel economy].</p> </blockquote> <p>In sum, car companies are delaying delivery of their least polluting cars, and their purpose is to game compliance with the European Union’s fuel economy regulations. Perversely, emissions‐​conscious consumers—the very buyers whom the EU’s fuel efficiency rules are supposed to favor—are the first to feel the unintended consequences.</p> <p>But it’s not just environmental‐​minded buyers who stand to lose out. <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ebb85b9e-1b7d-11ea-97df-cc63de1d73f4">According to the <em>Financial Times</em></a>, sports car enthusiasts might be denied their need for speed:</p> <blockquote><p>[Daimler] is expected by many dealers to cut production of its most polluting models. In its crosshairs is the Mercedes AMG range, its highest specification models that have supercar acceleration and the body of a&nbsp;family saloon. A&nbsp;reduction&nbsp;of 75 percent in the availability of some [of these] models … is expected by several retail executives …&nbsp;</p> </blockquote> <p>More broadly, the general car‐​buying public is in for a&nbsp;bumpy ride. <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ebb85b9e-1b7d-11ea-97df-cc63de1d73f4">Per the <em>FT</em></a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“There is going to be an imbalance between what consumers want and what manufacturers want to sell them,” say Robert Forrester, chief executive of the dealership group Vertu … [V]anishingly few buyers are turning to electric cars … [they’re instead]&nbsp;switching to heavier sports utility vehicles.</p> </blockquote> <p>For their part, carmakers are playing a&nbsp;dangerous game of chicken with regulators. The <em>FT</em> reports that manufacturers would be on the hook for $27 billion in fines&nbsp;were they to sell the same mix in 2021 as they did last year.</p> <p>In an understatement, one anonymous industry insider <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ebb85b9e-1b7d-11ea-97df-cc63de1d73f4">told the newspaper</a> that&nbsp;“the regulation is not aligned with what is happening in the market.”</p> <p>Inconvenient delivery dates for super fuel‐​efficient cars are merely the first mile of a&nbsp;long and uncomfortable road trip, but what’s the destination? A&nbsp;dramatic and government‐​imposed scarcity of what the <em>Financial Times</em> calls “American‐​style SUVs”—that is, the cars that buyers want—seems likely unless either consumer preferences or EU regulators&nbsp;pull&nbsp;a&nbsp;u‑turn.&nbsp;</p> <p>Because these “American‐​style SUVs” engender higher profit margins, they are essential to many automakers’ bottom lines. To the extent manufacturers are not permitted to sell these “gas guzzlers,” there&nbsp;will be&nbsp;pileups in the sector, in the short term at the very least, as the industry is compelled to&nbsp;change lanes to a&nbsp;new business model.</p> <p>The upshot is that consumers and automakers will be&nbsp;left in the dust if EU regulators keep their pedal to the metal with fuel efficiency requirements that remain grossly out of “alignment” with what buyers want. Could it happen here?&nbsp;</p> Sat, 21 Dec 2019 09:22:55 -0500 William Yeatman https://www.cato.org/blog/autobahn-car-consumer-hell-paved-best-intentions Voters Like Benefits But Don’t Like Paying for Them https://www.cato.org/blog/voters-benefits-dont-paying-them David Boaz <p>A banner headline in the (paper) <em>Washington Post</em> today <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/11/27/americans-like-green-new-deals-goals-they-reject-paying-trillions-reach-them/">reports</a>:</p> <p><strong>Poll: Americans like Green New Deal’s goals, balk at cost</strong></p> <p>Funny, that. When you ask Americans if they support a <a href="https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hres109/BILLS-116hres109ih.pdf">proposal</a> that would “create millions of good, high‐​wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States; invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century; [and secure] clean air and water; climate and community resiliency; healthy food; access to nature; a sustainable environment; and justice and equity” — they approve!</p> <p>But when you tell them that it might “increase federal spending by trillions of dollars”—gee, ya think?—support collapses:</p> <p><img alt="Image without a caption" height="989" src="https://www.washingtonpost.com/resizer/YUz6il7y37YVV7BI7-J6x6NqgfU=/1440x0/smart/arc-anglerfish-washpost-prod-washpost.s3.amazonaws.com/public/S6AZN7UBUZBSLO3G4FDLN47TXM.jpg" width="690" /></p> <p>This is not a new phenomenon, but it’s good to see leading pollsters such as the Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the National Opinion Research Center (which conducted the poll) picking up on the point. Cato’s director of polling, <a href="https://www.cato.org/people/emily-ekins">Emily Ekins</a>, has found similar results:</p> <blockquote><p><a href="https://www.cato.org/survey-reports/acas-pre-existing-condition-regulations-lose-support-when-public-learns-cost">The Cato 2018 Health Care Survey</a>…first replicated the results from myriad other surveys finding a majority (65%) of Americans favor regulations that prohibit insurance companies from refusing to cover, or charging higher premiums to, people with pre‐​existing conditions, while 32% oppose. <strong>However, support plummets when Americans are faced with likely consequences of these regulations.</strong></p> </blockquote> <blockquote><p><a href="https://www.cato.org/survey-reports/cato-institute-2018-paid-leave-survey">The new Cato 2018 Paid Leave Survey</a> of 1,700 adults finds that nearly three‐​fourths (74%) of Americans support a new federal government program to provide 12 weeks of paid leave to new parents or to people to deal with their own or a family member’s serious medical condition.… <strong>However, majorities of Americans would oppose establishing a federal paid leave program if it cost them $450 a year in higher taxes.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Advocates often present policymakers with polls that show popular support for some proposed government program — the Green New Deal, paid family leave, child care, free college, etc. But those polls never seem to point out the costs of the free service. When a poll does note costs, support tends to drop by a lot.</p> <p>Note that even this Post‐​Kaiser poll mentions the large increase in federal spending, but doesn’t point out that federal spending has to be paid for with taxes. In polls about “larger government with more services,” there’s <a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/libertarian-voters-hiding-post-poll">evidence</a> that if you remind respondents that “more services” means higher taxes, the margin by which people prefer “smaller government with fewer services” rises by about 9 points. So if Post‐​Kaiser had also asked respondents whether they would support the Green New Deal if it meant substantially higher taxes, support would have fallen further below 30 percent.</p> <p>Any policymaker trying to ascertain what voters want should remember to look at both sides of the ledger: what they say they want in theory, and what they’re willing to give up to get that benefit.</p> Wed, 27 Nov 2019 15:21:27 -0500 David Boaz https://www.cato.org/blog/voters-benefits-dont-paying-them Innovation and Choice Remain Critical to Environmental Improvement https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-daily-podcast/innovation-choice-remain-critical-environmental-improvement Todd Myers, Caleb O. Brown <p>The innovations that markets deliver also create efficiencies that clean the environment. Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center comments.</p> Thu, 07 Nov 2019 10:05:08 -0500 Todd Myers, Caleb O. Brown https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-daily-podcast/innovation-choice-remain-critical-environmental-improvement The Renewable Fuel Standard Is Killing the Environment https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/renewable-fuel-standard-killing-environment Arthur R. Wardle, Joseph Verruni <div class="lead text-default"> <p><a href="https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/large-dead-zone-measured-in-gulf-of-mexico" target="_blank">According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration</a><u>,</u>&nbsp;this year’s “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, where oxygen levels are so low that sea life is killed or maimed, was larger than three U.S. states. One significant cause is agricultural runoff jettisoned from the Mississippi River, which feeds the massive algal blooms whose decomposition depletes water oxygen. Like many other ongoing environmental problems affecting the Midwest, this one is aggravated by the Renewable Fuel Standard.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The RFS is intended to promote the production of biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Designers of the policy envisioned corn ethanol leading initial growth in biofuel sales, followed by more advanced biofuel varieties that would be made from grasses or crop wastes rather than food.</p> <p>Despite herculean R&amp;D efforts, the innovations necessary to make these alternative fuels economically sustainable has yet to materialize, and most of the mandate to date is being fulfilled by corn ethanol. Ramping up corn ethanol production since the RFS’s 2005 passage required additional corn harvest, either coming from cropland expansion or intensification of existing operations.</p> <p>Both strategies have consequences for the environment.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>As the Trump administration seems to be preparing to double down on Bush‐​era failed policy, one merely needs to look off our southern coast to see a&nbsp;portion of the cost.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The U.S. already produced massive amounts of corn before the RFS, which means that the best areas to grow corn were already being used for that purpose. Expansion followed in areas less suited for corn production—often environmentally sensitive or marginal land where inadequate rainfall left farms reliant on already‐​overdrawn aquifers.</p> <p>Some of this marginal land had previously been protected by the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to leave particularly sensitive areas unfarmed. In the six years following a&nbsp;2007 expansion of the RFS mandate, nearly half of expiring CRP signatories elected not to re‐​enroll. Throughout the Corn Belt’s periphery, grasslands and shrublands, wildlife habitat and high‐​erosion zones have all come under the plow. The National Wildlife Federation&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nwf.org/~/media/PDFs/Wildlife/01-13-10-Corn-Ethanol-Wildlife.ashx" target="_blank">documented</a>&nbsp;that these significant losses in habitat for grassland birds caused a&nbsp;drop in both species diversity and abundance in the Prairie Pothole Region.</p> <p>This damage has cascading effects. Growing corn on marginal lands and intensifying production means additional nitrogen fertilizer application. Runoff from this fertilizer enters nearby waterways, continues through the Mississippi watershed and down into the Gulf of Mexico, where it&nbsp;<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeem.2014.09.002" target="_blank">increases the size of the dead zone by 30 square miles for every billion gallons of ethanol produced</a>. According to NOAA, this year’s dead zone is nearly 7,000 square miles.</p> <p>The environmental benefits of corn‐​based ethanol are not strong enough to justify any of this. The environmental case for biofuels rests almost entirely on their reduced emissions—but those themselves are a&nbsp;matter of intense academic controversy. A&nbsp;<a href="https://academic.oup.com/ajae/article/100/2/570/4856035" target="_blank">recent meta‐​analysis published in the&nbsp;<em>American Journal of Agricultural Economics</em></a>&nbsp;reviewed every paper released on the topic and concluded corn ethanol offers an unimpressive 0.23 percent total reduction in greenhouse gasses relative to gasoline.</p> <p>There is good news. The RFS statute calls for the EPA to set new mandates in 2022 and to take environmental impacts into account while doing so. If the EPA takes this task seriously, it should reduce or repeal the corn ethanol mandate on environmental grounds.</p> <p>Unfortunately, instead of deregulating fuel choice and benefiting the environment, the Trump administration recently&nbsp;<a href="https://news.yahoo.com/republican-backlash-against-trump-epa-pick-fueled-biofuel-120323418.html" target="_blank">rejected a&nbsp;modest staff proposal</a>&nbsp;to cut the conventional ethanol mandate by less than five percent. Instead, administration officials are taking numerous meetings with biofuel trade organizations and legislators representing Corn Belt states, apparently seeking to make the mandate even stricter.</p> <p>Research documenting how the RFS aggravates many of our hairiest environmental problems continues to pile up. Environmental organizations are beginning to mount major campaigns against the policy. As the Trump administration seems to be preparing to double down on Bush‐​era failed policy, one merely needs to look off our southern coast to see a&nbsp;portion of the cost.</p> </div> Mon, 28 Oct 2019 09:13:12 -0400 Arthur R. Wardle, Joseph Verruni https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/renewable-fuel-standard-killing-environment Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the California Waiver https://www.cato.org/blog/greenhouse-gas-emissions-california-waiver Peter Van Doren <p>Since the 2016 election, the Trump administration has intended to freeze or repeal vehicle fuel economy and emissions standards. Last summer, the administration announced a&nbsp;plan to freeze Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and to revoke a&nbsp;waiver that allows California to set its own vehicle emissions standards. While there has apparently not been much headway in the efforts to freeze CAFE standards, President Trump <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/18/politics/epa-trump-california/index.html">recently</a> tweeted his intention to officially revoke the California waiver.</p> <p>As I&nbsp;discussed in a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/cafe-standards">blog</a> last year, CAFE standards are a&nbsp;costly and imperfect remedy to limit vehicle emissions. They were originally enacted to address an entirely different problem: the oil shocks of the 1970s and soaring oil prices. The rules have since been repurposed to address greenhouse gas emissions, but they are an inefficient and clumsy tool.</p> <p>But while the flaws of CAFE standards are straightforward, the costs and benefits of the California waiver are more ambiguous. The waiver, which was originally granted because of unique weather and geographic conditions around Los Angeles that make it particularly susceptible to smog, has also been repurposed to address vehicle greenhouse gas emissions. California is allowed to set vehicle emissions standards that are stricter than the federal government, and states are able to pick whether they follow the federal standards or California’s.</p> <p>I argued in <a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/cafe-standards">my blog</a> last summer that, while CAFE standards should be repealed, the California waiver does serve a&nbsp;purpose, though its use as a&nbsp;tool to combat greenhouse gas emissions is ineffective:</p> <blockquote><p>Regulation of pollutants that affect local air quality should be decentralized because both the costs and benefits are local. But reduction of CO<sub>2</sub> emissions is a&nbsp;global public good. Any benefits accrue to the world’s climate even though the costs are local. This mismatch between the geographic incidence of costs and benefits imply that a&nbsp;waiver that exempts one state makes no sense in the context of CO<sub>2</sub> emissions and has the potential to unduly increase compliance costs for automakers.</p> </blockquote> <p>In <a href="https://energyathaas.wordpress.com/2019/09/23/waving-goodbye-to-the-california-waiver/">a&nbsp;recent blog post</a>, James Sallee, an economist at UC Berkeley and the Energy Institute at Haas, makes the point that not only are the benefits of California’s higher vehicle emissions standards diffuse while costs are concentrated on Californians, but the benefits themselves are undermined by the fact that the state’s higher standards allow car companies to sell less efficient cars elsewhere. Sallee argues,</p> <blockquote><p>The federal greenhouse gas rule for automobiles, called Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, require automakers to sell vehicles that, on average, have fuel economy above a&nbsp;certain threshold. If California has its own, stricter greenhouse gas rule, the cars sold in California still count as part of the federal fleet under CAFE. This means that every Leaf, Prius and <a href="https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a29089178/tesla-porsche-nurburgring-ev-record/">Tesla</a> sold in California improves the industry’s federal average. That enables automakers to sell more <a href="https://www.caranddriver.com/ford/mustang-shelby-gt500">Mustangs</a> and Suburbans in the rest of the country, which means that much, if not all, of the greenhouse gas mitigation that takes place in California will be offset by increased emissions throughout the nation.</p> <p>The application of this so called “<a href="https://energyathaas.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/carbon-markets-waterbeds-and-you/https:/energyathaas.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/carbon-markets-waterbeds-and-you/">waterbed effect</a>” to California fuel economy standards was described elegantly in a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0095069611001021">paper</a> by Larry Goulder, Mark Jacobsen and Arthur van Benthem back in 2012. They studied the implementation of a&nbsp;California‐​specific fuel economy rule and concluded that between two‐​thirds and three‐​quarters of emissions reductions in California would be offset by increases in other states. In the meantime, the burden of complying with strong regulations would fall on Golden State consumers.</p> </blockquote> <p>Sallee’s point reinforces the argument that the California waiver has, just like CAFE standards, been ineffectively repurposed as a&nbsp;tool to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But despite its flaws, California and 22 other states <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/09/20/california-sues-trump-administration-after-revoking-authority-limit-car-pollution/">filed a&nbsp;lawsuit</a> challenging the Trump administration’s revocation of the waiver. Perhaps they’d be less willing to fight for the waiver if they realized their higher emissions standards burden Californians with increased costs but only provide minimal benefits.</p> <p><em>Written with research assistance from David Kemp.</em></p> Tue, 01 Oct 2019 16:20:33 -0400 Peter Van Doren https://www.cato.org/blog/greenhouse-gas-emissions-california-waiver Waters of the United States https://www.cato.org/blog/waters-united-states Peter Van Doren <p>The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers recently <a href="https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-us-army-repeal-2015-rule-defining-waters-united-states-ending-regulatory-patchwork">announced</a> the official repeal of an Obama administration definition of which streams, wetlands, rivers, and lakes are under the jurisdiction of the federal government for purposes of the Clean Water Act. Under the Act, “polluters” must obtain permits for discharge of substances into “navigable waters.” Implementation of the law requires a&nbsp;definition of “pollution” and “navigable waters.” Congress provided a&nbsp;definition and examples of pollution but was less helpful about “navigable waters,” defining them simply as “waters of the United States.”</p> <p>Ever since the enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the lack of definitional clarity in the statute and ambiguity about what constitutes a “water of the United States” has resulted in a&nbsp;legal struggle over the limits of federal authority to regulate pollution discharges into water. Jonathan Adler’s <a href="https://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/2019/6/reg-v42n2-6.pdf">article</a> in the Summer issue of <em>Regulation</em> summarizes the convoluted history of the struggle over the regulatory definition of “waters of the United States” and provides a&nbsp;framework for evaluating the proper role of states and the federal government in water pollution control.</p> <p>Many environmentalists believe that broad assertions of federal regulatory authority increase environmental benefits and less federal authority results in environmental degradation. <em>The New York Times</em>, for example, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/12/climate/trump-administration-rolls-back-clean-water-protections.html?searchResultPosition=10">said</a> that the repeal of the Obama administration rule “has implications far beyond the pollution that will now be allowed to flow freely into waterways.”</p> <p>In contrast, Adler argues the federal government should focus its efforts on situations in which “pollution crosses state lines and the affected states are unable to resolve the conflict on their own.” Thus, he is concerned that the proposed Trump administration replacement for the repealed rule does “not specifically identify interstate waters as ‘waters of the United States.’”</p> <p>Environmentalists’ second reason for advocating extensive federal regulation of water pollution is their belief that states will cater to polluters, allowing intrastate water and wetland degradation in return for jobs, income, and development. Adler argues that the evidence on state environmental regulation does not support this belief. For example, “the history of state wetland regulation … paints quite a&nbsp;different picture. Not only did states not wait for the federal government to begin regulating wetlands, but … many states have adopted programs that reach beyond federal requirements.”</p> <p>So, in Adler’s <a href="https://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/2019/6/reg-v42n2-6.pdf">view</a>, while the Trump administration’s proposed replacement falls short because it neglects a&nbsp;legitimate role for the federal government in regulating interstate waterways, placing limits on the federal role in water pollution policy will not lead to the degradation that environmentalists foresee.</p> Tue, 24 Sep 2019 13:10:36 -0400 Peter Van Doren https://www.cato.org/blog/waters-united-states Would a U.S. Carbon Tax Change Things? https://www.cato.org/publications/regulation/would-us-carbon-tax-change-things Mon, 23 Sep 2019 16:11:25 -0400 Kenneth W. Costello https://www.cato.org/publications/regulation/would-us-carbon-tax-change-things Time for Radiation Regulation to Evolve https://www.cato.org/publications/regulation/time-radiation-regulation-evolve Mon, 23 Sep 2019 16:07:14 -0400 Brant A. Ulsh, Edward J. Calabrese https://www.cato.org/publications/regulation/time-radiation-regulation-evolve A Reset for the Renewable Fuels Standard? https://www.cato.org/publications/regulation/reset-renewable-fuels-standard Mon, 23 Sep 2019 15:53:19 -0400 Arthur R. Wardle https://www.cato.org/publications/regulation/reset-renewable-fuels-standard Property Rights as a Foundation for Conservation https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-daily-podcast/property-rights-foundation-conservation Holly Fretwell, Caleb O. Brown <p>Are property rights the enemy of conservation? Holly Fretwell of the Property and Environment Research Center comments.</p> Mon, 02 Sep 2019 16:55:00 -0400 Holly Fretwell, Caleb O. Brown https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-daily-podcast/property-rights-foundation-conservation Steve H. Hanke discusses Universal Time Zones on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/steve-h-hanke-discusses-universal-time-zones-cnns-fareed-zakaria-gps Sun, 25 Aug 2019 12:05:00 -0400 Steve H. Hanke https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/steve-h-hanke-discusses-universal-time-zones-cnns-fareed-zakaria-gps Save the Endangered Species Act with Common Sense https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/save-endangered-species-act-common-sense Randal O&#039;Toole <div class="lead text-default"> <p>The Endangered Species Act has been called the strongest environmental law Congress has ever written because it gives the government almost unlimited power to regulate private landowners with the objective of saving wildlife, fish, and even insects. Environmental groups that&nbsp;<a href="https://naturalresourcereport.com/2011/12/failures-and-abuses-of-the-endangered-species-act/" target="_blank">relish seeing this law enforced&nbsp;</a>are upset that the Trump administration is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.foxnews.com/science/trump-overhauling-enforcement-of-endangered-species-act" target="_blank">proposing</a>&nbsp;to change how the law is administered.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution forbids the taking of private property for public use without compensation. The Endangered Species Act violates the spirit, if not the letter, of this amendment.</p> <p>Under the law, if you have an endangered species on your land, or if the government thinks you might have an endangered species on your land, or if the government knows you don’t have an endangered species on your land but thinks that you might someday have that species on your land, then the government can so strictly regulate your land that you can’t get any economic use out of it. For example, the government told Louisiana landowners that they <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-feds-bungle-frog-hospitality-1538329013" target="_blank">couldn’t develop their property</a> because it was defined as “critical habitat” for a&nbsp;rare frog — even though the frog didn’t, and couldn’t, live on the land without completely removing existing trees and replacing them with other species.</p> <p>Effectively, the government is requiring some private landowners to house and feed certain species of wildlife at the landowners’ expense. Moreover, the government can force this without providing any compensation at all. The law doesn’t require the government to consider the cost of its regulation, so government officials can write overly strict rules just in case it might help a&nbsp;species.</p> <p>Yet there is little evidence that giving the government this power has done much to save species. The few species that have recovered from danger did so mostly for other reasons.</p> <p></p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Those who truly want to save rare species should support revisions to the law that give people incentives to save species without imposing the costs on a&nbsp;handful of landowners.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="text-default"> <p>For example, America’s symbol, the bald eagle, was once considered endangered. But scientists agree that it recovered primarily because the Environmental Protection Agency&nbsp;<a href="https://www.edf.org/news/25-years-after-ddt-ban-bald-eagles-osprey-numbers-soar" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.edf.org/news/25-years-after-ddt-ban-bald-eagles-osprey-numbers-soar&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1566328152960000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFHuawtDw2Q0Cgy5r8oIfR7f-RHpw">banned the use of the pesticide DDT&nbsp;</a>a&nbsp;year before the Endangered Species Act was passed.</p> <p>Moreover, the Endangered Species Act may actually do more harm than good to endangered species. To avoid regulation, the law gives private landowners incentives to do everything they can to&nbsp;<a href="https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&amp;context=nwrchumanconflicts" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article%3D1002%26context%3Dnwrchumanconflicts&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1566328152960000&amp;usg=AFQjCNG4WEQADlXDB1HsYChh3_EQzAjTUw">keep endangered species off their land</a>, leading to the phrase, “shoot, shovel, and shut up.”</p> <p>This entire system is unfair because it forces a&nbsp;few people to pay the costs for something that benefits everyone else. While it is unknown whether the Supreme Court would agree that the law is unconstitutional, we shouldn’t have to ask it because we shouldn’t have imposed such an inequitable burden on a&nbsp;few people in the first place.</p> <p>The Trump administration has proposed to revise how the law is administered in several ways. Among other things, the proposed rules would allow the government to consider the costs of its regulation and would impose less intrusive regulations for the protection of species that are considered “threatened” as opposed to “endangered.”</p> <p>While these changes may ease the burden on some private landowners, Congress and the administration could do much more to assure species recovery without imposing the costs on a&nbsp;few landowners. Carrots work better than sticks, meaning we can save more species by rewarding people for doing so rather than punishing them for having those species on their land.</p> <p>First, a&nbsp;share of public land recreation fees should go into trust funds for protecting endangered species. To adequately fund this program, federal agencies such as the National Park Service, Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management should be allowed to charge for all recreation on public lands.</p> <p>Currently, most public land recreation, including hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, and off‐​road vehicles, is free. It is perfectly fair to ask people who use public lands to pay such fees, and many will be happy to pay such fees knowing that by doing so they are helping to save endangered species.</p> <p>Second, on a&nbsp;case‐​by‐​case basis, it may be appropriate to give people ownership rights to selected species. In Britain, wildlife are owned by the owners of the land the wildlife use, which can give landowners incentives to protect such wildlife. Giving Americans similar ownership rights can help save many species.</p> <p>People go to great lengths to save rare breeds of dogs, cattle, and other domestic animals, not for any economic reward but simply for the pride in doing so. Creating ownership rights in some species of wildlife can put this energy to work in saving rare species.</p> <p>Saving endangered species is important, but imposing the costs of doing so on a&nbsp;few people is unfair, counterproductive, and may be unconstitutional. Those who truly want to save rare species should support revisions to the law that give people incentives to save species without imposing the costs on a&nbsp;handful of landowners.</p> </div> Tue, 20 Aug 2019 14:16:00 -0400 Randal O'Toole https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/save-endangered-species-act-common-sense Who Benefits When Firms Game Corrective Policies? https://www.cato.org/publications/research-briefs-economic-policy/who-benefits-when-firms-game-corrective-policies Mathias Reynaert, James M. Sallee <div class="lead text-default"> <p>Sometimes firms comply with a&nbsp;regulation by gaming the measure targeted by policy rather than by changing their behavior. This relates to Goodhart’s Law, which posits that “when a&nbsp;measure becomes a&nbsp;target, it ceases to be a&nbsp;good measure.” We study how gaming of this sort can impact consumers who rely on manipulable measures for making choices in a&nbsp;market. Gaming erodes consumer information and induces mistakes. But when the gaming is done in reaction to a&nbsp;regulatory constraint, it lowers the costs to firms, which benefits consumers via pass‐​through. The impact of gaming on consumer welfare is thus ambiguous, even when the gaming completely fools consumers, and the net effect depends critically on whether gaming is done in response to a&nbsp;policy.</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> <p>We explore the impact of gaming on consumer welfare both theoretically and empirically for the case of automobile fuel‐​consumption ratings. We do three things: First, we use a&nbsp;novel data set to measure on‐​road fuel consumption and document gaming of fuel‐​consumption ratings, which escalates dramatically following the introduction of regulations that target this rating. Second, we develop a&nbsp;theoretical model that derives the impact of gaming on buyer welfare in a&nbsp;setting where sellers game energy‐​efficiency ratings, which buyers use to evaluate products. Third, we conduct welfare analysis using estimates of the automobile demand system to quantify the welfare effects identified by our theory.</p> <p>Our empirical analysis considers the introduction of stringent corrective policy in the EU automobile market. Prior to 2007, there were no policies in Europe that hinged directly on fuel‐​consumption ratings; since then, both EU standards and nation‐​specific tax schemes have created policy incentives that reward lower laboratory fuel‐​consumption test ratings. To measure gaming, we compare the laboratory ratings, which form the basis of policy, with direct measures of on‐​road fuel consumption that we construct from a&nbsp;data set that tracks fuel consumption and kilometers traveled for a&nbsp;panel of more than 250,000 drivers for a&nbsp;period of 12&nbsp;years in the Netherlands. Using these data, we estimate the percentage difference between the laboratory test and on‐​road performance (which we call the performance gap) for each vehicle vintage and model.</p> <p>We document a&nbsp;sharp rise in the performance gap coincident with policy change. Vehicles produced before 2007 show a&nbsp;small, relatively stable performance gap. Vehicles produced after that exhibit a&nbsp;large and rising performance gap, so that 2014 model‐​year vehicles have performance gaps in excess of 50 percent on average. The rise in the performance gap implies that around 65 percent of the gains in fuel economy since the introduction of policy, as measured by laboratory tests, are false. Using conventional estimates of lifetime distance traveled and a&nbsp;social cost of carbon at $40 per ton, the difference between apparent and actual emission reductions amounts to $1.2 billion annually from 2010 to 2014 when extrapolated to all of Europe. We interpret the rise in the performance gap as evidence of gaming in response to policy incentives, in the spirit of Goodhart’s Law, and then turn our attention both theoretically and in welfare simulations to our central question: Who benefits when firms game corrective policy?</p> <p>Our theoretical model considers a&nbsp;monopolist who sells a&nbsp;good to a&nbsp;representative consumer. The good has some attribute that is desirable to consumers, but it also creates a&nbsp;negative externality that motivates corrective policy. The attribute closely matches the role of fuel economy ratings in the automobile market. The attribute is not directly observable, however, so consumer demand and government regulation are based on a&nbsp;measure provided by the seller. The seller can change the measure either by changing the true attribute or by gaming, both of which are costly.</p> <p>In our model, we allow that some fraction of gaming is undetected by buyers. In the absence of policy, this means that gaming lowers buyer welfare for two reasons. First, gaming causes buyers to misoptimize (choose the wrong quantity of the good), which leads to a&nbsp;loss in buyer surplus that we call choice distortion. Second, gaming causes the seller to raise prices because buyers perceive an improvement in the product. This price effect further reduces buyer surplus.</p> <p>Corrective policy disrupts this logic by flipping the sign of price effects. Regulation raises the cost of production. Gaming allows the seller to lower its costs, and this benefits buyers through lower prices in the same way a&nbsp;reduction in a&nbsp;tax would. When this price effect dominates choice distortions from faulty information, buyers benefit from the seller’s gaming even when they are fooled by it.</p> <p>We focus on buyer surplus as a&nbsp;notion of the private surplus of consumers that consider buying the good. This is narrower than consumer surplus, which would encompass the externality, but gaming will also impact the level of the externality. The ultimate effect of gaming on the environment depends on the sophistication of the policymaker, who may increasingly tighten policy to achieve real gains, and of the buyers, who may expand the overall size of the market when they mistakenly perceive lower costs of ownership.</p> <p>Next, we set out to quantify the price effect and choice distortions in our empirical setting. We demonstrate that the price effects and choice distortions identified by our theory have direct empirical analogs in a&nbsp;discrete choice setting. We then estimate a&nbsp;demand model of the European car market that provides us estimates of consumer preferences and the marginal costs of products. Given these preferences and costs, we calibrate the incidence of gaming for a&nbsp;range of alternative assumptions regarding consumer awareness, policy stringency, and the degree of gaming.</p> <p>We find robust results that align with our theoretical predictions. When there is no corrective policy and when consumers are fooled by gaming, we find that lowering perceived fuel costs through gaming leads to modest losses in buyer surplus. A&nbsp;significant majority of these losses come through the price effect. As a&nbsp;result, firm profits rise with gaming, and this comes at the expense of lower buyer surplus.</p> <p>As suggested by the theory, the welfare effects of gaming change when we introduce a&nbsp;corrective policy. We model a&nbsp;mandated decrease in average fuel‐​consumption ratings that firms comply with via shifting their sales mix toward more efficient models. When firms comply honestly, private consumer surplus falls substantially, as consumers are forced into less desirable products. When we allow firms to relax this regulatory constraint by gaming to meet the standard, we find beneficial price effects for buyers that consistently dominate choice distortions so that the net impact of gaming is to raise buyer surplus. Gaming with or without a&nbsp;policy induces a&nbsp;similarly sized choice distortion, but we find that this is an order of magnitude smaller than the price effect for a&nbsp;significant range of parameter choices. These results provide empirical validation for our theoretical prediction: gaming benefits consumers in the presence of stringent policy, even when buyers are fooled. We also show that a&nbsp;corrective policy roughly triples the private benefit to a&nbsp;single firm that games when all others are honest, which implies that policy amplifies competitive pressures that incentivize gaming.</p> <p><strong>NOTE:</strong><br>This research brief is based on Mathias Reynaert and James M. Sallee, “Who Benefits When Firms Game Corrective Policies?,” Energy Institute at Haas Working Paper no. 289, April 2018, <a href="https://ei.haas.berkeley.edu/research/papers/WP289.pdf" target="_blank">https://​ei​.haas​.berke​ley​.edu/​r​e​s​e​a​r​c​h​/​p​a​p​e​r​s​/​W​P​2​8​9.pdf</a>.</p> </div> Wed, 14 Aug 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Mathias Reynaert, James M. Sallee https://www.cato.org/publications/research-briefs-economic-policy/who-benefits-when-firms-game-corrective-policies Grizzly Bears and Endangered Species Recovery https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-daily-podcast/grizzly-bears-endangered-species-recovery Brian Yablonski, Caleb O. Brown <p>Species recovery is a&nbsp;key goal of the Endangered Species Act. So why are recovering species so rarely removed from the list? Brian Yablonski of the Property and Environment Research Center comments.</p> Thu, 18 Jul 2019 12:59:00 -0400 Brian Yablonski, Caleb O. Brown https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-daily-podcast/grizzly-bears-endangered-species-recovery Redefining “Waters of the United States” https://www.cato.org/regulation/summer-2019/redefining-waters-united-states Mon, 10 Jun 2019 03:00:00 -0400 Jonathan H. Adler https://www.cato.org/regulation/summer-2019/redefining-waters-united-states Five Questions for 3,508 Economists https://www.cato.org/regulation/summer-2019/five-questions-3508-economists Mon, 10 Jun 2019 03:00:00 -0400 Michael L. Davis https://www.cato.org/regulation/summer-2019/five-questions-3508-economists De‐​Sludging California’s Prop 65 https://www.cato.org/regulation/summer-2019/de-sludging-californias-prop-65 Mon, 10 Jun 2019 03:00:00 -0400 Michael L. Marlow https://www.cato.org/regulation/summer-2019/de-sludging-californias-prop-65 Chris Edwards discusses the Restore Our Parks Act and the National Park Service maintenance backlog on Gray TV https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/chris-edwards-discusses-restore-our-parks-act-national-park-service Thu, 25 Apr 2019 12:31:00 -0400 Chris Edwards https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/chris-edwards-discusses-restore-our-parks-act-national-park-service WaPo Embraces Its Inner Malthus https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/wapo-embraces-its-inner-malthus Thomas A. Firey <div class="lead text-default"> <p><em>Washington Post</em>&nbsp;political reporter Colby Itkowitz writes:</p> </div> , <div class="text-default"> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>During floor debate ahead of a&nbsp;vote on the Green New Deal, Sen. Mike Lee (R‑Utah) told his colleagues that if they really want to address environmental concerns they’ll encourage people to couple off and have more babies. … This recommendation, to add more people to the planet, doesn’t track with science or reason. A&nbsp;2017&nbsp;<a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541">research article determined</a>&nbsp;that one way an individual could contribute to eliminating greenhouse gases is to have one fewer child.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="text-default"> <p>That’s the nut from her snide web article, “<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sen-mike-lee-says-we-can-solve-climate-change-with-more-babies-science-says-otherwise/2019/03/26/67f91b2e-4fed-11e9-88a1-ed346f0ec94f_story.html">Sen. Mike Lee Says We Can Solve Climate Change with More Babies. Science Says Otherwise</a>.”&nbsp;<em>Post</em>&nbsp;national correspondent James Hohmann deemed the article noteworthy enough to be the “Hot [Read] on the Left” in his “<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2019/03/27/daily-202-trump-faces-many-obstacles-if-he-s-serious-about-trying-to-make-republicans-the-party-of-health-care/5c9a544a1b326b0f7f38f26f/">Daily 202</a>″ newsletter.</p> <p>Problem is, Itkowitz seems to not understand the point Lee was trying to make. Instead, she “talks past” him — something all‐​too‐​common in politics, but not something reporters should do. Worse, if history is a&nbsp;guide, her view is more likely to prove a‑scientific and unreasonable than his.</p> <p>Here’s the story: Last Tuesday, the Senate held a&nbsp;floor debate and vote on the so‐​called “Green New Deal” — which is to say the Senate engaged in silly Republican grandstanding over a&nbsp;silly Democratic proposal. As part of the debate,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.lee.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/speeches?ID=2271BAF4-7F34-4BE8-81C5-B621E9BAF878">Lee delivered a&nbsp;floor speech</a>&nbsp;that featured everything from a&nbsp;picture of a&nbsp;machine‐​gun‐​firing, bazooka‐​toting Ronald Reagan riding a&nbsp;velociraptor waving an American flag (<a href="https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2019/03/26/sen-mike-lee-criticizes/">no, really</a>), to references to&nbsp;<em>Star Wars</em>&nbsp;tauntauns and the Hanna‐​Barbera Aquaman’s giant seahorse, to&nbsp;<em>Sharknado 4</em>&nbsp;and Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil. That is, Lee met double‐​silliness with more silliness.</p> <p>One can argue that this was inappropriate for a&nbsp;Senate debate, especially on a&nbsp;serious topic like climate change. But then, comedy can be an effective means to truth.</p> <p>Toward that end, at the conclusion of his speech Lee offers a&nbsp;serious point. Itkowitz selectively quotes it; here’s the complete section:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>The Green New Deal is not the solution to climate change. It’s not even part of the solution. It’s part of the problem. The solution to climate change won’t be found in political posturing or virtue signaling like this. It won’t be found in the federal government at all.<br><br>You know where the solution can be found? In churches, wedding chapels, and maternity wards across the country and around the world. This, Mr. [Senate] President, is the real solution to climate change: babies. Climate change is an engineering problem — not social engineering, but the real kind. It’s a&nbsp;challenge of creativity, ingenuity, and technological invention. And problems of human imagination are not solved by more laws, but by more humans.<br><br>More people mean bigger markets for innovation. More babies mean more forward‐​looking adults — the sort we need to tackle long‐​term, large‐​scale problems. American babies, in particular, are likely going to be wealthier, better educated, and more conservation‐​minded than children raised in still‐​industrializing regions. As economist Tyler Cowen recently wrote on this very point, “by having more children, you are making your nation more populous — thus boosting its capacity to solve [climate change].“<br><br>Finally, Mr. President, children are a&nbsp;mark of the kind of personal, communal, and societal optimism that is the true prerequisite for meeting national and global challenges together. The courage needed to solve climate change is nothing compared with the courage needed to start a&nbsp;family. The true heroes of this story aren’t politicians or social media activists. They are moms and dads, and the little boys and girls they are — at this moment — putting down for naps, helping with their homework, building tree houses, and teaching how to tie their shoes.<br><br>The planet does not need us to “think globally and act locally” so much as it needs us to think family and act personally. The solution to climate change is not this unserious resolution, but the serious business of human flourishing — the solution to so many of our problems, at all times and in all places: fall in love, get married, and have some kids.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="text-default"> <p>No doubt, the Utah senator’s comments were, at least in part, his own virtue‐​signaling to his predominantly Mormon constituency. But he draws on an important economic idea: at the margin, human beings have a&nbsp;positive effect on the world. Human ingenuity, hard work, preferences, and values create goods, and among those goods can be improved environmental quality. Julian Simon popularized this idea in his 1981 book&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/069109389X">The Ultimate Resource</a></em>, and it has been restated in recent years by, among others, Cowen in his new book&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Stubborn-Attachments-Prosperous-Responsible-Individuals/dp/1732265135">Stubborn Attachments</a></em>&nbsp;(reviewed by Pierre Lemieux&nbsp;<a href="https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/2019/3/regulation-v42n1-9_3.pdf#page=9">here</a>), Bryan Caplan in his 2011 book&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Selfish-Reasons-Have-More-Kids/dp/0465028616">Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids</a></em>, and my Cato colleague Marian Tupy and BYU economist Gale Pooley in their&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/simon-abundance-index-new-way-measure-availability-resources">2018 paper on the “Simon Abundance Index.”</a></p> <p>Itkowitz claims “science and reason” say different. To justify that, she links to&nbsp;<a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541/pdf">a&nbsp;2017 paper</a>&nbsp;that actually&nbsp;<em>doesn’t</em>&nbsp;determine “that one way an individual could contribute to eliminating greenhouse gases is to have one fewer child,” but rather examines Canadian high school science textbooks’ recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A&nbsp;possible strategy — one that&nbsp;<em>none</em>&nbsp;of the textbooks recommend, which the paper’s authors lament — is to “have one fewer child.” That paper, in turn, cites&nbsp;<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959378008001003?via%3Dihub">a&nbsp;2009 paper</a>&nbsp;that estimates the carbon emissions resulting from an offspring, including a&nbsp;share of the subsequent emissions of that offspring’s descendants. Not surprisingly, that’s a&nbsp;big number, dwarfing the carbon‐​reduction benefits of such common strategies as recycling, switching from gasoline‐​powered cars to hybrids and electric cars, and upgrading lightbulbs. (My takeaway from the 2017 paper is how pointless many of the commonly advocated carbon‐​reduction strategies are.)</p> <p>The 2009 paper is a&nbsp;mathematical modeling exercise under various assumptions, resulting in different estimated marginal “carbon legacies.” But that doesn’t show Itkowitz is right and Lee’s being foolish because the paper ignores Lee’s point about the effects of population change on innovation and living standards.</p> <p>From tin shortages in the ancient world, to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv27n1/v27n1-1.pdf">William Strong Newberry’s 1875 (yes,&nbsp;<strong>18</strong>75) warning</a>&nbsp;that the world was running out of oil, to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.mdpolicy.org/research/detail/a-doomsday-prophesy-50-years-later">Paul Ehrlich’s&nbsp;<em>Population Bomb</em></a>, to Jimmy Carter’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/four-decades-moral-equivalent-war">moral equivalent of war</a>, population growth has placed humanity on the Malthusian edge of poverty and privation — or so we keep being told. But we never fall off that edge. In fact, we keep moving away from it: we grow fatter (alas), longer‐​lived, and more comfortable. The reason is simple: more people means more innovation and resource availability, which means a&nbsp;higher standard of living rather than the opposite.</p> <p>That doesn’t mean humanity is guaranteed to find some easy, innovative way to cut greenhouse gas emissions. As my Cato colleague Peter Van Doren noted, both Lee’s optimism and Itkowitz’s pessimism are attitudes (probably correlated to their politics) rather than testable, scientific hypotheses. That said, history suggests it’s more likely that humanity will find innovative ways to cut emissions, or geo‐​engineer around climate change, or accommodate change, than that reducing (or government constraining) population growth will save us from a&nbsp;much warmer world — or that there will be no future environmental quality innovations.</p> <p>All that said, some legitimate criticisms can be made of Lee’s remarks. Government&nbsp;<em>can</em>be a&nbsp;useful tool for addressing externalities, just as it can also be a&nbsp;terrible tool. And there are plenty more examples of people showing the “courage” to start families than there are of policymakers showing the courage to address difficult policy problems (e.g., entitlements insolvency, government debt, pork and rent‐​seeking, better childhood education…) Those criticisms would have made good reading, as would a&nbsp;broader discussion of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Malthus.html">Malthus</a>&nbsp;and neo‐​Malthusianism, government intervention, and population change. Unfortunately, instead of that, readers got was the equivalent of the aforementioned Reagan–velociraptor picture.</p> </div> Thu, 11 Apr 2019 10:50:00 -0400 Thomas A. Firey https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/wapo-embraces-its-inner-malthus George Selgin on the doubtful economics of the Green New Deal on BBC’s In the Balance https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-radio/george-selgin-doubtful-economics-green-new-deal-bbcs-balance Sat, 06 Apr 2019 11:01:00 -0400 George Selgin https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-radio/george-selgin-doubtful-economics-green-new-deal-bbcs-balance Ryan Bourne discusses socialism and the Green New Deal on WFMD’s Your Financial Editor https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-radio/ryan-bourne-discusses-socialism-green-new-deal-wfmds-financial Sat, 30 Mar 2019 10:59:00 -0400 Ryan Bourne https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-radio/ryan-bourne-discusses-socialism-green-new-deal-wfmds-financial