EPA approves CO2 permit for Texas steel maker; anyone notice?

June 19, 2014

Here’s the press release from EPA’s Region 6 office:

EPA Finalizes Greenhouse Gas Permit for Voestalpine Iron Production Plant
$740M facility in San Patricio Co., TX, will bring 1,400 construction jobs and150 permanent jobs

DALLAS – (June 16, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final greenhouse gas (GHG) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) construction permit to Voestalpine for an iron production plant in San Patricio County, TX. The facility’s process for producing iron will use minimal natural gas and will be 40 percent more efficient than traditional methods. The permit is another in the series of permits drafted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and issued by EPA under a program to facilitate timely permitting for applicants in the State of Texas.

“Voestalpine shows energy efficiency is a common-sense strategy for success, not just in business but for the environment as well,” said Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “The joint EPA and TCEQ permitting program is helping Texas business grow while building greener plants.”

The plant will reduce iron ore pellets, which will be used as raw material input at steel mills. The direct reduced iron process will use only clean-burning natural gas instead of solid fossil fuels. The estimated project cost is $740 million and will bring 1,400 construction jobs to the area. Once complete, the facility will create around 150 permanent jobs.

In June 2010, EPA finalized national GHG regulations, which specify that beginning on January 2, 2011, projects that increase GHG emissions substantially will require an air permit.

EPA believes states are best equipped to run GHG air permitting programs. Texas is working to replace a federal implementation plan with its own state program, which will eliminate the need for businesses to seek air permits from EPA. This action will increase efficiency and allow for industry to continue to grow in Texas.

EPA has finalized 43 GHG permits in Texas, proposed an additional six permits, and currently has 21 additional GHG permit applications under review and permit development in Texas.

For all of the latest information on GHG permits in Texas please visit: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r6/Apermit.nsf/AirP

Connect with EPA Region 6:
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eparegion6
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/EPAregion6
Activities in EPA Region 6: http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.htm

Headquarters of Voestalpine, head-turning building by Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes, located in Linz, Austria.  Architecture News Plus image

Headquarters of Voestalpine, head-turning building by Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes, located in Linz, Austria. Architecture News Plus image. Voestalpine plans to build a $740 million steel plant near Corpus Christi, Texas.

This is big news, really.  Texas constantly complains about regulations on greenhouse gases, and regularly and constantly sues EPA to stop regulation.  Texas and it’s wacky governor Rick Perry constantly complain that EPA regulation harms jobs, and that permits never really get issued.  So this announcement should be front page news in most Texas newspapers.

How was it covered?

That’s it for Texas media.  Where are the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express, the El Paso Times?  Big market TV and radio?

National coverage was limited to low-circulation newsletters.

Seems to me that these issues of actual action on climate change, are under-reported.

More:

Groundbreaking for Voestalpine facility near Corpus Christi, Texas

Caption from Voestalpine LLC: After about a year of preparation, Wolfgang Eder, CEO of voestalpine, broke ground today for the construction of a direct reduction plant in Texas (USA). This EUR 550 million investment is the largest foreign investment in the history of the Austrian Group. The voestalpine Texas LLC plant is being constructed at the La Quinta Trade Gateway Terminal in close proximity to the City of Corpus Christi. Starting in 2016, the plant will produce two million tons of HBI (Hot Briquetted Iron) and DRI (Direct Reduced Iron) annually and will supply Austrian locations, such as Linz and Donawitz, with “sponge iron” as a premium raw material. With the new facility, voestalpine can significantly reduce production costs in Europe. The highly automated plant will create 150 jobs.


Legacy of DDT abuse: Cleaning up old pesticide dumps

February 15, 2014

Contrary to science denialist claims, DDT is not harmless.  Users and abusers of DDT, abandoned stocks of DDT and other pesticides around the world, after the stuff had become essentially useless against insect or other pests originally targeted.

In the U.S., EPA moves in to clean up DDT dumps, under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), or Superfund.  In much of the world, various UN agencies find the old pesticides, and clean them up as funding allows.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) documents its cleanup efforts with photos of sessions training technicians to find and catalog dump sites, repackaging of old drums when necessary, extraction, packing and shipping to a disposal site.

Photos tell a story words on paper cannot.

Caption from FAO: TN (Tanzania) before: 40 tonnes of 50 year old DDT were found in Menzel Bourguiba Hospital, TN - : M. Davis

Caption from FAO: TN (Tanzania) before: 40 tonnes of 50 year old DDT were found in Menzel Bourguiba Hospital, TN – : M. Davis

Sometimes the toxic wastes did not stay neatly stacked.

FAO caption:  TN before: 40 tonnes of 50 year old DDT were found in Menzel Bourguiba Hospital, TN

FAO caption: TN before: 40 tonnes of 50 year old DDT were found in Menzel Bourguiba Hospital, TN View real size

DDT use against insect vectors of disease essentially halted in the mid-1960s.  The Rockefeller Foundation’s and UN’s ace mosquito fighter, Fred Soper, ran into mosquitoes in central Africa that were resistant and immune to DDT. Farmers and businesses had seized on DDT as the pesticide of choice against all crop pests, or pests in buildings.  By the time the UN’s malaria-fighting mosquito killers got there, the bugs had evolved to the point DDT didn’t work the malaria eradication campaign.

Also, there were a few DDT accidents that soured many Africans on the stuff.  Around lakes where local populations caught the fish that comprised the key protein in their diet, farmers used DDT, and the runoff killed the fish.

Use of DDT ended rather abruptly in several nations.  Stocks of DDT that had been shipped were abandoned where they were stored.

For decades.

FAO caption:    Obsolete DDT in Luanda, Angola - July 2008 -  : K. Cassam

FAO caption: Obsolete DDT in Luanda, Angola – July 2008 – : K. Cassam

Prevention and disposal of obsolete chemicals remains as a thorny problem throughout much of the world.  Since 2001, under the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty, (POPs), the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) has coordinated work by WHO and a variety of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as governments, to make safe the abandoned pesticides, and detoxify or destroy them to prevent more damage.  FAOs efforts, with photos and explanation, is a history we should work to preserve.

DDT provided powerful insect killing tools for a relatively short period of time, from about 1945 to 1965.  In that short period, DDT proved to be a deadly killer of ecosystems to which it was introduced, taking out a variety of insects and other small animals, on up the food chain, with astonishing power.  One of DDT’s characteristics is a long half-life — it keeps on killing, for months or years. Once that was thought to be an advantage.

Now it’s a worldwide problem.


Punchline too brutal for work: Why it is that environmentalists are the real humanitarians (a necessary encore)

March 1, 2013

I wish it weren’t true.  I wish people didn’t appear to be getting stupider, less scientifically literate, and less knowledgeable of history (see Santayana‘s thoughts in the upper right-hand corner of the blog . . .).  My e-mail box is filling today with notes from people claiming environmentalists want to rid the Earth of humans, urging that we should oppose them and let poisoning of our air and water continue . . . oblivious to the irony of the claim coupled with their supposed opposition to the idea.  Here’s the truth, in large part, an encore post from several months ago (I apologize in advance for the necessary profanity):

The fictional but very popular memes that environmentalists hate humans, humanity and capitalism wouldn’t bother me so much if they didn’t blind their believers to larger truths and sensible policies on environmental protection.

One may argue the history of the environmental movement, how most of the originators were great capitalists and humanitarians — think Andrew Carnegie, Laurance Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, and all the early medical doctors who warned of the dangers of pollution-caused diseases — but it falls on deaf ears on the other sides.

Here’s the 30-second response, from Humon, in cartoon form:

Mother Gaia explains why environmental protection is important, from Humon at Deviant Art

Facts of life and environmental protection – from Humon at Deviant Art

Tip of the old scrub brush to P. Z. Myers, and Mia, whoever she is.  Myers noted, “Environmentalism is actually an act of self defense.”

More:

Wall of Shame; sites that don’t get it, or intentionally tell the error:

English: 1908 US editorial cartoon on Theodore...

1908 Rense cartoon in the St. Paul, Minnesota, Pioneer Press, celebrating Teddy Roosevelt’s conservation of U.S. forests; image from Wikipedia, and Boundless blog


Texas’s Superfund cleanup sites, listed by county

September 21, 2012

I got a notice from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality:

The Texas Superfund Registry has been published in the September 21, 2012 issue of the Texas Register.

64 of Texas’s 254 counties have Superfund sites, either state or federal; many of them have been cleaned up, but many are active.  My count shows 161 sites total for Texas.

You can go to the site and find the information in several different sorts — here is the list, by county, unedited, straight from TCEQ (Not sure why Parker County is listed differently).

Index of Superfund sites by county.

If a county does not appear on this list, it is because there is no state or federal Superfund site in that county. This index includes all sites—those where cleanup is complete as well as those for which cleanup or assessment is in progress.

On the county maps, a light blue star designates a federal Superfund site. A red star designates a state Superfund site.

Related Categories:
Superfund Sites in Anderson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Anderson County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Angelina County Current and former Superfund sites located in Angelina County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Bell County Current and former Superfund sites located in Bell County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site..
Superfund Sites in Bexar County Current and former Superfund sites located in Bexar County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Bowie County Current and former Superfund sites located in Bowie County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Brazoria County Current and former Superfund sites located in Brazoria County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Calhoun County Current and former Superfund sites located in Calhoun County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Cameron County Current and former Superfund sites located in Cameron County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Carson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Carson County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Cass County Current and former Superfund sites located in Cass County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Cherokee County Current and former Superfund sites located in Cherokee County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Collin County Current and former Superfund sites located in Collin County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Dallas County Current and former Superfund sites located in Dallas County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Eastland County Current and former Superfund sites located in Eastland County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Ector County Current and former Superfund sites located in Ector County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in El Paso County Current and former Superfund sites located in El Paso County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Ellis County Current and former Superfund sites located in Ellis County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Fort Bend County Current and former Superfund sites located in Fort Bend County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Galveston County Current and former Superfund sites located in Galveston County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Grayson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Grayson County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Gregg County Current and former Superfund sites located in Gregg County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Guadalupe County Current and former Superfund sites located in Guadalupe County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hale County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hale County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hardin County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hardin County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Harris County Current and former Superfund sites located in Harris County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Harrison County Current and former Superfund sites located in Harrison County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hays County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hays County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Henderson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Henderson County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hidalgo County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hidalgo County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hockley County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hockley County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Houston County Current and former Superfund sites located in Houston County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Howard County Current and former Superfund sites located in Howard County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Howard County Current and former Superfund sites located in Howard County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Hunt County Current and former Superfund sites located in Hunt County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Jasper County Current and former Superfund sites located in Jasper County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Jefferson County Current and former Superfund sites located in Jasper County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Karnes County Current and former Superfund sites located in Karnes County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Kimble County Current and former Superfund sites located in Kimble County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Knox County Current and former Superfund sites located in Knox County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Liberty County Current and former Superfund sites located in Liberty County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Llano County Current and former Superfund sites located in Llano County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Matagorda County Current and former Superfund sites located in Matagorda County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in McCulloch County Current and former Superfund sites located in McCulloch County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Midland County Current and former Superfund sites located in Midland County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Mitchell County Current and former Superfund sites located in Mitchell County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Montgomery County Current and former Superfund sites located in Montgomery County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Moore County Current and former Superfund sites located in Moore County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Nacogdoches County Current and former Superfund sites located in Nacogdoches County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Navarro County Current and former Superfund sites located in Navarro County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Newton County Current and former Superfund sites located in Newton County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Nueces County Current and former Superfund sites located in Nueces County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Ochiltree County Current and former Superfund sites located in Ochiltree County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Orange County Current and former Superfund sites located in Orange County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Rusk County Current and former Superfund sites located in Rusk County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in San Patricio County Current and former Superfund sites located in San Patricio County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Shelby County Current, proposed, and former Superfund sites located in Shelby County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Swisher County Information from the EPA about this federal Superfund site in Swisher County. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Tarrant County Current and former Superfund sites located in Tarrant County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Taylor County Current and former Superfund sites located in Taylor County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Titus County Current and former Superfund sites located in Titus County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Tom Green County Current, proposed, and former Superfund sites located in Tom Green County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Van Zandt County Current and former Superfund sites located in Van Zandt County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Waller County Current and former Superfund sites located in Waller County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Superfund Sites in Zavala County Current and former Superfund sites located in Zavala County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.
Topics Under This Category:
Superfund Sites in Parker County Current and former Superfund sites located in Parker County, Texas. Locator map. Links to details about each site.

More, Superfund news from other states:


EU climate authority approved Britain’s plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions

July 11, 2012

It’s stunning to listen to radio, or read newspaper letters-to-the-editor sections in the U.S., and see people who argue we have no need to control carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the European Commission (EC) Climate Change Committee (CCC) approved Britain’s plan to auction pollution rights, part of the UK plan to control and limit carbon emissions.

You’d think we don’t share the same planet.

Here’s the news, from Britain’s Department of Environment and Climate Change:

EU Emissions Trading System: European Commission approves the UK’s national auction platform

Press Notice 2012/081

11 July 2012

Today the European Commission (EC) Climate Change Committee (CCC) voted to approve the UK’s national auction platform for phase III and aviation auctions under the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).

Welcoming this important vote, Greg Barker said:

“This announcement is a further step towards ensuring that we can start auctioning phase III and aviation allowances as planned. The endorsement by the EU Climate Change Committee reflects the strength of the UK’s proposal and continued leading role in carbon auctioning.”

The CCC endorsement is the latest step in the UK’s preparations for auctioning phase III and aviation allowances. Under EU rules, the Commission and Member States in the form of the CCC must first approve the platform. This will be followed by a three month scrutiny period by the European Council and Parliament. The UK expects auctioning to start in November 2012, subject to successful completion of this scrutiny process.

Following a decision by the CCC last year, Member States are due to start auctioning some 120m phase III emissions allowances early before the end of this year. The UK’s share of these allowances is 12m. Subject to EU approval, it is expected that these allowances will be auctioned in November and December this year. In addition, the UK is expected to auction approximately 7m aviation allowances by the end of 2012.

Auctions of these allowances will be held separately during the same period.

Further detailed information on the UK’s phase III and aviation auctions, including the proposed auction calendar and how to access the auctions, will follow in due course.


Notes to editors

  • The European Union Emission Trading System (EU ETS) is at the heart of UK Government policy to tackle climate change
  • The rules governing the system are set out in the EU ETS Directive; it covers sectors responsible for around half of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions
  • In 2008, the EU ETS Directive was revised to make auctioning the main method for allocating emissions allowances in Phase III of the EU ETS (2013-2020). In Phase III, at least 50% of general emissions allowances will be auctioned across the EU. In addition, EU member states will auction 15% of aviation allowances
  • Under the rules set out in the EU Auctioning Regulation, Member States have the option to either auction via a common EU platform, or set up their own, national platform. The UK, Germany and Poland have opted to set up national auction platforms.
  • In April DECC announced that ICE Futures Europe was its preferred supplier for the contract to conduct auctions of phase III and aviation EU ETS. This followed an EU-wide competitive tender process that launched in December 2011.
  • Before auctions can begin on the UK platform, the platform must first be approved by the Climate Change Committee and then be subject to a 3 month scrutiny period by the European Parliament and Council. These requirements are set out in the EU Auctioning Regulation.
  • Both Germany and the European Commission (auctioning on behalf of 24 Member States) have announced their intention to start auctioning after the summer.

Further information can be found on:


Meanwhile, back in reality, Superfund cleanup of Torrance DDT site continues

July 11, 2012

English: Map of Superfund sites in the US stat...

Map of Superfund sites in California. Red indicates sites currently on final National Priority List, yellow is proposed for the list, green means a site deleted (usually due to having been cleaned up). Data from United States Environmental Protection Agency CERCLIS database available at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/phonefax/products.htm. Retrieved April 24, 2010 with last update reported as March 31, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s near midsummer, so the sputtering of right-wing and anti-science propaganda calls for a “return to DDT” should begin to abate, absent a serious outbreak of West Nile Virus human infections, or some fit of stupidity on the part of DDT advocates.

DDT remains a deadly poison, and you, American Taxpayer, are on the hook for millions of dollars needed to clean up legacy DDT manufacturing sites across the nation.  Contrary to bizarre claims, DDT really is a poison.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works constantly at these cleanups.  Comes this press release from EPA talking about a small success, a $14.6 million settlement with past property owners or users of sites in Torrance, California, designated for cleanup under the Superfund.  The money will pay for cleanup of groundwater at the sites.

Links to sources other than EPA, and illustrations are added here.

EPA Reaches $14.6 million Settlement for Groundwater Cleanup at Torrance Superfund Sites

Release Date: 07/10/2012
Contact Information: Nahal Mogharabi, mogharabi.nahal@epa.gov, 213-244-1815

Plant will Treat a Million Gallons per Day, Prevent Spread of Contamination

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a $14.6 million settlement with four companies for the construction of a groundwater treatment system at the Montrose and Del Amo Superfund sites in Torrance, Calif. Construction of the treatment system is the first step in the cleanup of groundwater contaminated by chemicals used to manufacture DDT and synthetic rubber over three decades.

Once operational, the system will extract up to 700 gallons of water per minute, or a total of a million gallons each day, removing monochlorobenzene and benzene, and re-injecting the cleaned, treated water back into the aquifer. The treated water will not be served as drinking water, but will instead be re-injected to surround the contamination and prevent it from any further movement into unaffected groundwater areas. Construction of the treatment system is expected to be completed in 18 months. EPA will pursue further settlements with the four companies and other parties to ensure that additional cleanup actions are taken and the groundwater treatment system is operated and maintained until cleanup levels are met.

“One of the toxic legacies of DDT and synthetic rubber manufacturing is polluted groundwater,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “The treatment plant will be a milestone for the site, protecting the groundwater resources for the thousands of people who live or work near these former facilities.”

Montrose Chemical Corporation of California manufactured the pesticide DDT from 1947 until 1982. Monochlorobenzene was a raw material used in making DDT. The Montrose site was placed on the EPA’s National Priorities List (NPL) in 1989. The Del Amo Superfund site, located adjacent to the Montrose site, was formerly a synthetic rubber manufacturing facility that used benzene, naphthalene and ethyl benzene. The Del Amo site was placed on the NPL in September of 2002. Groundwater contamination from both sites has co-mingled and will be cleaned up by this single treatment system.

The four responsible parties for this settlement are: Montrose, Bayer CropScience Inc., News Publishing Australia Limited, and Stauffer Management Company LLC. In addition to constructing the treatment system, these parties will also pay oversight costs incurred by EPA and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

To date, extensive investigations and cleanup actions have been performed at both sites. EPA’s DDT soil removal actions in the neighborhood near the Montrose site were completed in 2002. In 1999, Shell began cleaning-up the Del Amo Superfund site, constructing a multi-layer impermeable cap over the waste pits and installation of the soil-vapor extraction and treatment system. Additional soil and soil gas cleanups at the Del Amo site are slated to begin in 2013.

The proposed consent decree for the settlement, lodged with the federal district court by the U.S. Department of Justice on July 9, 2012, is subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval. A copy of the proposed decree is available on the Justice Department website at: http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

For more information on the Del Amo and Montrose Superfund Sites, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/socal/superfund/index.html

###

Follow the U.S. EPA’s Pacific Southwest region on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EPAregion9
And join the LinkedIn group: http://www.linkedin.com/e/vgh/1823773/

More: 

Map of NPL sites in contiguous US

Map of NPL sites in contiguous US (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Tea partiers: Constipated, now in the dark — what else can they screw up?

July 9, 2011

Life is just a constant bitch for tea partiers.

Rand Paul revealed why he’s full of . . . that certain fecality, shall we say.  He did that in a hearing about light bulbs, and appliances.  Energy conservation gives Rand Paul formication (look it up).

Joker burns money - Warner Brothers publicity still, with Heath Ledger as the Joker

Burning money: Republicans prefer more heat than light, less energy conservation, and the libertarian, self-help yourself to others' money philosophy popularized in recent movies.

But what about efforts to undo the energy conservation bill that practically forces long-lived, low-energy light bulbs on us?  The Tea Party doesn’t like that idea, either.  Michael Patrick Leahy, writing at the blog for Rupert Murdoch’s Broadside Books, explains why he thinks the Tea Party should oppose Fred Upton’s bill to repeal the energy standards Rand Paul castigated.

Basically, none of these guys knows beans about energy, nor much about the technology or science of electricity and lighting — they just like to whine.

Leahy wrote:

Section 3 [of the “Better Use of Light Bulbs Act,” HR 2417] states that “No Federal, State, or local requirement or standard regarding energy efficient lighting shall be effective to the extent that the requirement or standard can be satisfied only by installing or using lamps containing mercury.” This reads to me that Congress is attacking the mercury laden CFL bulbs. The point of the individual economic choice guaranteed in the Constitution, however, is that Congress ought not to favor CFLs over incandescents, just as it ought not to favor incandescents over CFLs. I’m no fan of CFL bulbs personally, but look for CFL manufacturers like GE to make this argument against the bill at every opportunity.

Section 4 of the Act is designed to repeal the light bulb efficiency standards in effect in the State of California since January 1 of this year. The standards are essentially the federal standards that will go into effect January 1, 2012, but moved up a year. While I personally question the legal status of these very specific rules promulgated by the California Energy Commission based on a vague and non-specific 2007 California statute, it seems to me that there are serious Constitutional questions surrounding a Federal law prohibiting a State to establish its own product efficiency standards. While a good argument can be made that the Commerce Clause grants Congress the right to repeal California state regulations, a reasonable argument could be made by opponents of the bill that Congress can’t do this because the state of California is merely establishing local standards, which is its right.

Given these concerns about Sections 3 and 4, what purpose does it serve to include them in the bill? Both raise potential objections to the passage of the bill on the floor of the House if it comes to a vote this week.

Now, granted this is the House of Representatives, and not the Senate where Sen. Paul keeps a chair warmed, occasionally.  Still, is it too much to ask the Tea Party to support the bills it asks for?  Leahy said:

A full and open discussion of these issues in public hearings held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee would have been the right way to begin a legislative process that would have identified and addressed these potential objections. That’s the course that a Committee Chairman seriously committed to repealing the light bulb ban would have taken. Instead, Chairman Upton has followed this secretive, behind closed doors, last minute rushed vote approach.

There was a hearing in the Senate — good enough for most people — and of course, there were hearings on the issue in the House.  The Tea Party was unconscious at the time.  The bill they’re trying to repeal was a model of moderation as touted by the president when it passed, President George W. Bush — and it’s still a good idea to conserve energy and set standards that require energy conservation (the law does not ban incandescent bulbs).

Also, while they’re complaining about the mercury in Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs), remember, Dear Reader, they oppose letting our Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protect you from mercury in your drinking water or the air that you breathe.  Pollution is only worrisome to them if they can use worry as a tool to whine about people making life work without pollution.  A rational person would point out that the mercury released by coal-fired power plants to produce the energy required by repeal of the conservation law would more than equal the mercury from all the CFLs, even were all that mercury to be released as pollution (which it isn’t, if properly disposed of):

8 hours: The amount of time a person must be exposed to the mercury in a CFL bulb to acquire the same mercury level as eating a six-ounce can of tuna, according to Climate Progress’s Stephen Lacey.

Is it too much to ask for reason, circumspection, and a touch of wisdom from these guys?  You’re supposed to drink the tea, Tea Party, not smoke it.

Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller (can we get on the no-call list?) says Republicans plan to vote for darkness instead of light next Monday.

A wet shake of the old scrub brush in the general direction of Instapundit, who never met a form of pollution he didn’t prefer over clean water or clean air.

_____________

Update:  Mike the Mad Biologist talks sense about the light bulb vote planned by the dim bulbs:

Because it’s not like more efficient light bulbs would be helpful at all:

The American Council on an Energy Efficient Economy says that the standards would eliminate the need to develop 30 new power plants – or about the electrical demand of Pennsylvania and Tennessee combined.

Only Republicans can make the current crop of Democrats look good…

Mike provides more points that make the Upton bill look simultaneously silly and craven:  The current law does not ban incandescent bulbs at all, for example, one manufacturer has introduced two new incandescent bulbs in the past year.  Tea Party Republicans:  No fact left unignored, no sensible solution left undistorted and unattacked.

Also see:


Punchline too brutal for work: Why it is that environmentalists are the real humanitarians

June 21, 2011

The fictional but very popular memes that environmentalists hate humans, humanity and capitalism wouldn’t bother me so much if they didn’t blind their believers to larger truths and sensible policies on environmental protection.

One may argue the history of the environmental movement, how most of the originators were great capitalists and humanitarians — think Carnegie, Laurance Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, and all the early medical doctors who warned of the dangers of pollution-caused diseases — but it falls on deaf ears on the other sides.

Here’s the 30-second response, from Humon, in cartoon form:

Mother Gaia explains why environmental protection is important, from Humon at Deviant Art

Facts of life and environmental protection - from Humon at Deviant Art

Tip of the old scrub brush to P. Z. Myers, and Mia, whoever she is.  Myers noted, “Environmentalism is actually an act of self defense.”


EPA at 40: Director Jackson claims too much?

December 18, 2010

EPA turned 40 on December 2.* EPA Director Lisa Jackson somehow wangled a few inches from the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page to extol the virtues of the agency.

She’s come under fire from some quarters, including especially the Home for Unwed Crabs,  for overstating the case.  Did she?

EPA Director Lisa P. Jackson

EPA Director Lisa P. Jackson

Or is this one more case of using environmentalists as scapegoats by the hard right, and other know-nothings and know-not-enoughs?

Jackson’s piece makes mild defense of a great idea in government, I think.  To me, the critics appear hysterical in comparison.

In tracking this down, I discovered that Matt Ridley had been given some really bum information about Rachel Carson, DDT and malaria, which appears in his new book, The Rational Optimist. To his credit, Ridley made a quick correction of the grossest distortions.  He defends the premises, still, however, which I find troubling. There may be subject for a later comment.

Disinformation is insidious.  Claims against the accuracy and reputation of Rachel Carson follow the stories of Millard Fillmore’s bathtub, but with darker, malignant intent.

Seriously:  What does Lisa Jackson overstate here?

The EPA Turns 40

‘Job-killing’ environmental standards help employ more than 1.5 million people.

Forty years ago today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency opened its doors, beginning a history of improvements to our health and environment. We reach this milestone exactly one month after the midterm elections strengthened the influence of groups and individuals who threaten to roll back the EPA’s efforts.

Last month’s elections were not a vote for dirtier air or more pollution in our water. No one was sent to Congress with a mandate to increase health threats to our children or return us to the era before the EPA’s existence when, for example, nearly every meal in America contained elements of pesticides linked to nerve damage, cancer and sometimes death. In Los Angeles, smog-thick air was a daily fact of life, while in New York 21,000 tons of toxic waste awaited discovery beneath the small community of Love Canal. Six months before the EPA’s creation, flames erupted from pollution coating the surface of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River, nearly reaching high enough to destroy two rail bridges.

These are issues that are above politics. The last 40 years have seen hard-won advances supported by both sides of the aisle, and today the EPA plays an essential role in our everyday lives. When you turn on the shower or make a cup of coffee, the water you use is protected from industrial pollution and untreated sewage. In fact, drinking water in Cleveland was recently shown to be cleaner than a premium brand of bottled water. You can drive your car or catch a bus without breathing dangerous lead pollution. At lunch, would you prefer your food with more, or less, protection from pesticides?

The most common arguments against these protections are economic, especially as we continue to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Fortunately, the last 40 years show no evidence that environmental protection hinders economic growth. Neither the recent crisis nor any other period of economic turmoil was caused by environmental protection. In fact, a clean environment strengthens our economy.

Special interests have spent millions of dollars making the case that we must choose the economy or the environment, attacking everything from removing lead in gasoline to cleaning up acid rain. They have consistently exaggerated the cost and scope of EPA actions, and in 40 years their predictions have not come true.

We have seen GDP grow by 207% since 1970, and America remains the proud home of storied companies that continue to create opportunities. Instead of cutting productivity, we’ve cut pollution while the number of American cars, buildings and power plants has increased. Alleged “job-killing” regulations have, according to the Commerce Department, sparked a homegrown environmental protection industry that employs more than 1.5 million Americans.

Even in these challenging times, the EPA has been part of the solution, using Recovery Act investments in water infrastructure, clean-diesel innovation and other projects to create jobs and prepare communities for more growth in the years ahead.

The EPA’s efforts thrive on American ingenuity and entrepreneurship. Holding polluters accountable sparks innovations like the Engelhard Corporation’s catalytic converter, which pioneered the reduction of toxic emissions from internal combustion engines, and DuPont’s replacements for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which protected the ozone layer while turning a profit for the company. One executive told me that the EPA’s recent standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars will help create hundreds of jobs in a state where his company operates—a state whose U.S. senators have both opposed the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

These attacks are aimed at the EPA, but their impacts are felt by all Americans. Pollutants like mercury, smog and soot are neurotoxins and killers that cause developmental problems and asthma in kids, and heart attacks in adults. We will not strengthen our economy by exposing our communities and our workers to more pollution.

In these politically charged times, we urge Congress and the American people to focus on results from common-sense policies, not inaccurate doomsday speculations. That is how we can confront our nation’s economic and environmental challenges and lay a foundation for the next 40 years and beyond.

Ms. Jackson is administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

* [Oops. Same birthday as Donna. Happy birthday, Donna! Happy EPA's 40th (yours, too? can't be much more, can it?)]


I get e-mail, from the President on the Gulf oil eruption

June 5, 2010

First time in years I’ve gotten solid information from a politician that didn’t come wrapped in a plea for money. I got a message from President Obama today (I’m sure a few million of his closest friends got the same one):

Ed –

Yesterday, I visited Caminada Bay in Grand Isle, Louisiana — one of the first places to feel the devastation wrought by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While I was here, at Camerdelle’s Live Bait shop, I met with a group of local residents and small business owners.

Folks like Floyd Lasseigne, a fourth-generation oyster fisherman. This is the time of year when he ordinarily earns a lot of his income. But his oyster bed has likely been destroyed by the spill.

Terry Vegas had a similar story. He quit the 8th grade to become a shrimper with his grandfather. Ever since, he’s earned his living during shrimping season — working long, grueling days so that he could earn enough money to support himself year-round. But today, the waters where he has worked are closed. And every day, as the spill worsens, he loses hope that he will be able to return to the life he built.

Here, this spill has not just damaged livelihoods. It has upended whole communities. And the fury people feel is not just about the money they have lost. It is about the wrenching recognition that this time their lives may never be the same.

These people work hard. They meet their responsibilities. But now because of a manmade catastrophe — one that is not their fault and beyond their control — their lives have been thrown into turmoil. It is brutally unfair. And what I told these men and women is that I will stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until they are again made whole.

That is why, from the beginning, we have worked to deploy every tool at our disposal to respond to this crisis. Today, there are more than 20,000 people working around the clock to contain and clean up this spill. I have authorized 17,500 National Guard troops to participate in the response. More than 1,900 vessels are aiding in the containment and cleanup effort. We have convened hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world. This is the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country.

We have also ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and this week, the federal government sent BP a preliminary bill for $69 million to pay back American taxpayers for some of the costs of the response so far. In addition, after an emergency safety review, we are putting in place aggressive new operating standards for offshore drilling. And I have appointed a bipartisan commission to look into the causes of this spill. If laws are inadequate, they will be changed. If oversight was lacking, it will be strengthened. And if laws were broken, those responsible will be brought to justice.

These are hard times in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast, an area that has already seen more than its fair share of troubles. The people of this region have met this terrible catastrophe with seemingly boundless strength and character in defense of their way of life. What we owe them is a commitment by our nation to match the resilience they have shown. That is our mission. And it is one we will fulfill.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Good news is that BP now reports some success in stopping the flow of oil.  Information flows increase, oil flows decrease — good trends.

Obama and Jindal, May 2, 2010 - Pete Souza, WH photo

Caption from the White House: President Barack Obama talks with U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, who is serving as the National Incident Commander, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, aboard Marine One as they fly along the coastline from Venice to New Orleans, La., May 2, 2010. John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, is in the background. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza). (This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.)

More information:


DDT: One of the 50 worst inventions

May 30, 2010

Time Magazine recently proposed a list of the “50 worst inventions.”

Wouldn’t you know it?  The piece was published on May 27, the anniversary of Rachel Carson’s birth (just to give fuel to the fire of the conspiratorialists), and DDT was listed as one of the 50 worst inventions.

After the war, use exploded: from 1942 to 1972, some 1.35 billion lb. of DDT were used in the U.S.

But absent from the DDT mania was consideration of the environmental effects of dumping millions of pounds of potent pesticides each year. Rachel Carson’s seminal 1962 environmental tract Silent Spring was the first to call attention to the nasty little fact that DDT produced fertility and neurological problems in humans and accumulated up the food chain in wildlife, poisoning birds. Use of the compound plummeted, and in 1972, DDT was banned in the U.S. entirely.

The list is more humorous than accurate, but it’s nice to see a journal that doesn’t suffer from DDT poisoning to make it claim, against the facts, that DDT is a miracle chemical with no harms.
Other inventions among the 50 worst, according to Time:

Killer CO2 cloud – the story climate change “skeptics” hope you won’t read

October 14, 2009

From Neat-o-rama: Grazing cattle killed in the 1986 Lake Nyos disaster (Image Credit: Water Encyclopedia)

From Neat-o-rama: Grazing cattle killed in the 1986 Lake Nyos disaster (Image Credit: Water Encyclopedia)

It’s not even secret.  But those propagandists who run advertising claiming that carbon dioxide is natural and, therefore, harmless, hope against hope that you don’t know the true history, that you’ve never heard of Cameroon, that you don’t know about volcanic emissions, and that you forgot the story of the killer CO2 cloud of 1986.

Read it here, “Cameroon:  The Lake of Death.”

More information:

Lake Nyos, in Cameroon, shortly after the 1986 killer CO2 cloud.  Image from Neat-o-rama.

Lake Nyos, in Cameroon, shortly after the 1986 killer CO2 cloud. Image from Neat-o-rama.

Help make a cloud of witnesses:

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More evidence of climate change: Arctic methane hydrates evaporating

August 21, 2009

It’s a pretty picture, but it should strike a bit of fear once you know what it is.

New Scientist explains:

Sonar image of methane plumes rising from methane hydrates on the Arctic Ocean floor; image from National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (Britain)

Sonar image of methane plumes rising from methane hydrates on the Arctic Ocean floor; image from National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (Britain)

It’s been predicted for years, and now it’s happening. Deep in the Arctic Ocean, water warmed by climate change is forcing the release of methane from beneath the sea floor.

Over 250 plumes of gas have been discovered bubbling up from the sea floor to the west of the Svalbard archipelago, which lies north of Norway. The bubbles are mostly methane, which is a greenhouse gas much more powerful than carbon dioxide.

The methane is probably coming from reserves of methane hydrate beneath the sea bed. These hydrates, also known as clathrates, are water ice with methane molecules embedded in them.

The methane plumes were discovered by an expedition aboard the research ship James Clark Ross, led by Graham Westbrook of the University of Birmingham and Tim Minshull of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, both in the UK.

Fortunately, the methane is not making it out of the water — yet.  The gases are absorbed before they get to the surface — but that increases ocean acidity.  If, and when, the methane hits the atmosphere, it will contribute to greenhouse warming of the planet.  This could create a runaway heat effect:  Warmer waters cause hydrates to release methane to the atmosphere, which causes the atmosphere to warm more, faster.

Scientists have not dismissed all other possibilities, but methane hydrate melting is the most likely cause:

Cohen cautions that the Arctic methane may not be from hydrate, but could be coming from the methane’s primary source, which might be deep within the Earth.

If that was the case, the warming of the West Spitsbergen current may not be to blame.

He says that the large amounts of methane being released make this unlikely, however: “If the methane is all primary, it would be an unprecedented amount.” So the idea that the hydrates are at least partly to blame is more plausible. “It’s not definitively proven, but it’s certainly reasonable,” he says.


Carnival of Fighting Malaria (and DDT)

October 8, 2008

It’s been about a year since the first, completely impromptu Carnival of DDT.  Last fall, in October and November, there was enough going on about DDT to merit something like a blog carnival, with a second in November.

My news searches today turned up a number of items of interest in DDT and fighting malaria — enough to merit another summary post, IMHO.  Here goes.

First, Tim Lambert at Deltoid sets straight the history of the policy of the World Health Organization (WHO) with regard to DDT use, and whether WHO caved in to pressures from environmentalists to completely ban DDT, as Roger Bate had earlier, erroneously said.  Tim has a number of well-researched, well-reasoned posts on DDT and health; people researching the issue should be sure to visit the archives of his blog.  But for today, make sure you read “Roger Bates’ false history.

Ornithologist Tom Cade holds a gyrfalcon, which is larger than the peregrine falcons he helped to preserve. Now working to aid the revival of the California condors, he will speak Friday at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.  Allentown (Pennsylvania) Morning-Call

Ornithologist Tom Cade holds a gyrfalcon, which is larger than the peregrine falcons he helped to preserve. Now working to aid the revival of the California condors, he will speak Friday (October 10) at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Allentown (Pennsylvania) Morning-Call

This Friday the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary presents an award to Tom Cade, the Boise, Idaho guy credited with doing much to save the endangered peregrine falcon. You can read about it in the Allentown, Pennsylvania, Morning Call.

Cade played a major role in reviving the nearly extinct peregrine falcon in the 1970s. As a graduate student, he studied how a pesticide contributed to their sharp population decline. He eventually founded a conservation group, The Peregrine Fund, which reintroduced captivity-bred birds to the wild.

. . . The falcon’s revival is widely considered one of the most successful recoveries of an endangered species. The species teetered on the brink of extinction in 1970, when as few as 39 known pairs of nesting falcons existed. A 2003 survey puts the number of nesting pairs at more than 3,100.

On Thursday Cade will receive the Sarkis Acopian Award for Distinguished Achievement in Raptor Conservation.  According to The Morning Call, “The award is given infrequently by Hawk Mountain officials and is named after the Kempton-area bird sanctuary’s primary benefactor, a late philanthropist who studied engineering at Lafayette College.”

Also, see this story about the recovery of peregrines in Canada, from the Sudbury Star.

Bug Girl tells the story of a new documentary on the Michigan State University professor who documented the deaths of songbirds made famous in Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring. Dr. George J. Wallace’s work became the subject of an article in Environmental Journalism in 2005.  Students and faculty at MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism produced the movie, “Dying to Be Heard.”  Be sure to check out the comments at Bug Girl, for more information.

International health care expert César Chelala argues that the “War Against Malaria Can Be Won, Without DDT” at the on-line Epoch Times. Chelala reports on a project in Mexico — where DDT use has never stopped since 1946 — a project now extended to other places in Central America, demonstrating that the tried and true methods of preventing mosquitoes from breeding and avoiding contact work well to fight malaria.  Plus, he says, it’s cheaper than using DDT.  Doubt that it could work?  Chelala points out that the Panama Canal could not be dug without controlling mosquito-borne illnesses, and the Canal was opened in 1914, 25 years before DDT was demonstrated to be deadly to insects, more than 30 years before widespread deployment of DDT.

Early detection and treatment is critical to eliminate the parasite carriers. An important aspect of this project has been the collaboration of voluntary community health workers who are taught to make an early diagnosis in situ and to administer complete courses of treatment not only to those affected but also to the patients’ immediate contacts.

The project was carried out in specific pilot areas called “demonstration areas” which had been selected due to their high levels of malaria transmission. In those areas, the number of malaria cases fell 63% from 2004 to 2007. In several demonstration areas I visited in Honduras and Mexico as a consultant for the Pan American Health Organization malaria had practically been eliminated. Plans are underway to expand the project to other regions where malaria remains a serious threat.

One of the advantages of not using DDT (besides avoiding its toxic effects) is the enormous savings realized from discontinuing its routine use. These savings can now be put to good use with other diseases.

You might also want to view Chelala’s description of solutions for public health crises in Africa, at The Globalist.

Chelala’s cool, clear and accurate reporting sadly contrasts with the hysteric and wrong reporting at Newsbusters and other polemical outlets on the web, seemingly bent on perpetration of the hoax that DDT is harmless and Rachel Carson was wrong.

Liz Rothchild’s one-woman play about Rachel Carson, “Another Kind of Silence,” got good reviews upon opening at the Warehouse Theatre, in Croydon, England.

Meanwhile, from Uganda comes news that DDT spraying failed to reduce malaria in spraying done in that nation. Proponents expected a sharp and steep decline in malaria, but numbers are not greatly reduced.  Even after taking account for the legal difficulties of spraying, after conservative businessmen sought an injunction to stop DDT use, the results do not speak well for DDT’s effectiveness.

Contrary to expectations, data collected by health departments in Apac and Oyam districts, which record the highest malaria incidence in the world, do not reflect significant improvements since DDT spraying ended prematurely. From May to July 2008, which is the period immediately following the spraying, between 400 and 600 clinical malaria cases per 100,000 of the population were reported per week in Oyam; and 600 to 800 such cases in Apac for the same period. These are almost exactly the same as the number of cases reported between January and April 2008.

Getting news out of Africa is not always easy.  Reading reports from Ugandan papers, it becomes clear that reporting standards differ greatly from the U.S. to Uganda.  Still, the saga from Uganda demonstrates that DDT is no panacea.  Uganda is a nation that had not used DDT extensively prior to the mid-1960s.  Resistance to use now comes from tobacco and cotton interests who speciously claim that potential DDT contamination of crops would result in the European Union banning vital Ugandan exports.  The legal issues all alone assume Shakespearean tragedy dimensions.  Or, perhaps more accurately, we could call the story Kafkaesque.

See also:

Happily, we have evidence that younger people show concern about DDT pollution, in a story about the stuff in Teen Ink magazine.

A study in the UK finds DDT present in colostrum, the vital pre-milk substance newly-lactating mothers create for their babies, as well as in later breast milk.

Bed bugs continue their own surge on Americans, and knee-jerk writers editorialize for the return of DDT, completely unaware that bed bugs are among those critters most resistant to DDT, and unaware that there are other, more effective solutions.

James McWilliams writes in The Texas Observer that most of us are ecological illiterates, which makes control of pollution more difficult, in a review of a new book, The Gulf Stream. Canny readers will recognize McWilliams as the author of the recently-published book, American Pests: Our Losing War on Insects from Colonial Times to DDT.

Sandra Steingraber will lecture on November 11 in Philadelphia on “The Many Faces of DDT,” part of a series of lectures sponsored by the Chemical Heritage Foundation, “Molecules That Matter.”  Steingraber is the author of Living Downstream:  An ecologist looks at cancer and the environment.

Canada’s Leader-Post reports that Chinese food processors have been caught using DDT in food to reduce insect infestations.  The cycle starts all over again.

Time for this carnival’s midway to shut down for the night.  Don’t let the bed bugs bite.


Jeffrey Sachs: Pricing can’t cure all environmental ills

April 14, 2008

Natural resources people — foresters, river masters, biologists, botanists, agronomists, farmers, rock climbers and miners — understand almost instinctively that wise management of natural resources takes a blend of wisdom in commercial sectors and by government. Still, every once in a while some newly-minted Ph.D. in economics, or some economist who recently learned that governments own 86% of the land in Nevada, put forth a “bold proposal” to let the markets resolve environmental issues. Let pricing do it, they say.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, gives a short interview to the Wall Street Journal’s economics bloggers, in which he details why pricing cannot do the entire job, with examples:

Sachs: Pricing plays a role. Certainly with carbon emissions we need a price. But it’s almost never enough when we’re talking about really big technological changes. When you think of the computer industry and its roots in defense, when you think of the Internet with its root in defense and the National Science Foundation, when you think about drug development and the crucial role of the National Institutes of Health – one major industry after another has always relied, and needed to rely, on a mix of public and private actions.

When we’re talking about something as basic as a sustainable technology this is going to be inevitable. Think about how we’re going to climb out of the mess on nuclear power for example. We need a nuclear power industry in this country but it’s tied up in knots. Pricing by itself isn’t going to do it. There has to be public acceptability, there has to be sense of security that a regulatory framework, safe storage and nonproliferation protection is in place. These are just too complicated to be solved by a price.

For many other things, such as watershed management, there isn’t even a price that turns them into a market. The issues of watershed management involve different rights of upstream and downstream users, and different types of users. [like agriculture, households and industry.] The right price is going to be different. Pricing plays a role, but so does basic science, eminent domain, right of passage and liability.

Sachs is widely experienced in international economics, and in alternative economics. As an advocate of free markets generally, he’s pretty deep into development ideas. You won’t always agree with his opinions, but you’d do well to pay attention to what he says and the data upon which he bases his opinions.

Teachers, this is a short answer that covers a wealth of issues in your economics courses.


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