Michael A. Livermore

Michael A. Livermore is the executive director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law. He is the author, with Richard L. Revesz, of Retaking Rationality: How Cost-Benefit Analysis Can Better Protect the Environmental and Our Health.

When will we stop paying the hidden fossil fuel tax?

Last week, the nation suffered from major sticker shock when we learned that our use of fossil fuels comes with a hidden price tag of $120 billion per year.  Thanks to the results of the National Research Council’s report on energy and the environment, some of the extra costs of dirty energy were exposed.  (Full disclosure: Policy Integrity’s faculty director, Richard L. Revesz, sat on the report’s panel).  But folks should prepare for a second round of surprise costs because, as the authors of the report mention, there are more stickers that weren’t accounted for in this sum.  David Roberts …

Methane leakage runs up a $50 billion bill

Methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so when it’s leaking by the ton, it’s a $50 billion problem. The New York Times described the phenomenon of methane leakage in a recent article which raised questions about the true costs of this waste.  The EPA estimates that 3 trillion cubic feet of the invisible gas unintentionally escape into the atmosphere each year from patchy gas and oil wells, pipelines, and tanks. This accidental loss alone is equivalent to about half of the global warming power of all U.S. coal power plants emissions.  That is the …

Garbage in, garbage out

Economics of climate legislation deserve honest accounting

The debate over the Kerry-Boxer bill has picked up where Waxman-Markey left off: the economics of climate legislation. Perhaps empowered by the “death panel” misinformation campaign, climate bill obstructionists are reviving rumors of economic disaster in the hopes of panicking the public and eviscerating or blocking final legislation. Just as no one was every going to pull the plug on grandma, the truth of the matter is that the benefits of controlling our carbon emissions far outweigh the costs. As we enter the opening round of hearings on the bill, it is important to draw the line between fair political …

The other half of cost-benefit

Counting the benefits of climate legislation

While reducing greenhouse gases will have costs, so will the results of climate change. That may seem obvious, but up until now the debate over climate legislation has only focused on the costs, without looking at the benefits. Last week, a federal interagency taskforce released preliminary findings that began to set a dollar value for the negative effects of climate change. Often referred to as “the social cost of carbon,” this estimate is key to exposing the hidden costs of a high-carbon economy. If we only focus on the costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, we are seeing only half …

Flattening the U

The senator from Montana and the middle class

This morning, the Senate took its final step on climate change before its summer vacation—a hearing pulled together by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus from Montana on how carbon allowances are allocated under the Waxman-Markey bill. The main takeaway: Under the House bill, the middle class does the heavy lifting to pay for the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The focus of the hearing was how the Senate can improve the allocation of the carbon allowances, which are likely to be worth more than $100 billion per year. Dallas Burtraw, a senior economist at Resources for the Future, …

Small changes at EPA could have big environmental impacts

While climate change legislation works its way toward 60 votes in the Senate, President Obama’s EPA has been quietly working on some serious revisions to the guidelines it uses to conduct cost-benefit analysis.  Tweaks they might make to the powerful but low-profile Guidelines for Preparing Economic Analyses could have major impacts on the environment and could spur greenhouse gas reductions if the Senate fails to take action.  The Guidelines is little known outside of EPA, but used regularly by the agency to design every major environmental regulation.  Before any rule is adopted, it must go through an economic analysis according …

the sun'll come out tomorrow

The three things Cass Sunstein should do on his first day

Cass Sunstein.After some minor drama, it looks like Cass Sunstein is finally on the road to confirmation for director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) after being nominated by President Obama in January.  The Senate should schedule a vote as soon as possible so he can get to work.  As I’ve mentioned before, Sunstein’s appointment is pivotal for environmental regulation and green advocates should be looking forward to his first official day on the job.  His inbox is probably overflowing with tasks, but here are the top three that he should work on first:  (1) Work with …

State budget crisis could be key to climate change

If the Governors of a few key states pick up their phones in a hurry they could shrink their gaping budget shortfalls and help climate change legislation pass the Senate with one call. On Wednesday, Adriel Bettelheim at CQPolitics explained: The climate change bill (HR 2454) the House passed on June 26 would distribute allowances from 2012 to 2025 to each state to protect consumers from energy price hikes, help utilities and other industries transition to clean energy and to spur conservation efforts and new technologies. The states would establish State Energy and Environmental Development, or SEED, accounts — essentially …

Obama’s new CAFE standards keep the pressure on Congress to act

It’s an annual rite as familiar as April showers; Americans again jumped in their cars in droves this past weekend to celebrate the unofficial start of summer. It was fitting that last week President Obama took a major step, announcing regulations that will increase fuel efficiency within a few years. With this move, Obama ensured that the Memorial Day weekends of the future will not leave as big a carbon footprint. These standards will save billions of barrels of oil, stop millions of tons of carbon emissions, and may help pull Detroit out of its funk as it forces new …

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