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Ryan Avent's Posts

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Locally impoverished

We don’t need to destroy our economy to save the planet

As I've studied green issues, I have frequently come across the "buy local" train of thought, but I've never seen it embraced as completely as it was in this Gristmill post by Jon Rynn -- at least not since my undergraduate courses on international trade and economic philosophy. It's very easy to understand the intellectual impulse behind his arguments, but don't think I'm overstating the point in calling his recommendations potentially disastrous. Buying local is a common and appealing idea, so it's worth reviewing the economics behind Rynn's proposals. Economic self-sufficiency is an old idea. Before the revolution in economic …

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Let us pay

In times of crisis, we get what we pay for

A week of intense wildfires in southern California displaced the news from front pages, but the drought in the southeastern states rages on, despite a few welcome but too-brief rain events. As sources of drinking water slowly exhaust themselves, under pressure from growing demand and lagging supply, one wonders why governments in the region don't raise water prices to encourage conservation. Instead, most areas have chosen to ration supplies with top-down orders, which protect consumers from rate increases but force governments to spend time and energy enforcing the rules, and which all too often prove unequal to the task of …

Read more: Politics

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This urban life

Even the greenest suburbs can’t touch low urban emission rates

Last Sunday, the Washington Post published a piece by Joel Kotkin and Ali Modarres which sought to debunk the ideas that dense urban areas are greener than their suburban counterparts and that encouraging dense growth might play a significant role in reducing America's carbon output. The piece was wrong or misleading on practically every point, to the extent that any complete response would take up far more time and space than I have available. Some of the authors' most egregious errors simply must be addressed, however. Kotkin and Modarres spend the first half of their op-ed arguing that cities contribute …

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy

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To CAFE or not to CAFE

The CAFE standards vs. carbon tax debate is more complicated than we imagine

One of the most frustrating aspects of the climate debate has to be the fact that just about every informed pundit, across the ideological spectrum, agrees that a carbon tax would be an outstanding way to reduce carbon emissions -- and yet no one considers such a tax politically feasible. One might suggest that if pundits weren't constantly qualifying their support for a carbon tax with lamentations about its political impossibility, political support might be more forthcoming. In the meantime, however, the blogosphere has taken the debate over the best policy-that-can-never-be in a new direction: since we almost certainly can't …