Being careful about the word 'voluntary'

More on Bush’s climate strategy

My post yesterday said what needs to be said about Bush’s "new" climate strategy, but this passage from Dana Milbank’s hilarious column today is too good to pass up: “Will the new framework consist of binding commitments or voluntary commitments?” asked CBS News’s Jim Axelrod. “In this instance, you have a long-term, aspirational goal,” [Bush environmental advisor Jim] Connaughton answered. Aspirational goal? Like having the body you want without diet or exercise? Or getting rich without working? “I’m confused,” Axelrod said. “Does that mean there will be targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions, and that everybody will be making binding …

The real cost of property regulations

Regulations may increase rather than decrease property value

UPDATE 6/8/07: The study I mentioned in this post was was based on data collected and analyzed by two researchers at Oregon State University. Those researchers, William Jaeger and Andrew Plantinga, have produced a more complete report (pdf) containing a full economic analysis and no editorializing. The conclusion, however, is basically the same: there's no evidence to support the claim that Oregon's growth management protections have harmed property values, at least in aggregate. When Measure 37 was up for a vote in 2004, supporters claimed that Oregon's planning laws were so draconian they reduced property values by $5.4 billion per year. That eye-popping figure may be one of the central reasons voters were inclined to support the measure. (Voter support has since severely evaporated.) As it turns out, however, that $5.4 billion cost to Oregon's property owners was a chimera. To unmask the $5.4 billion illusion, Georgetown University's Law Center just published a rigorous empirical study of trends in Oregon property values and found that all those land-use regulations have cost, well, not much at all. In fact, they may have added value, at least on average. I won't walk blog readers through the whole study, but the Georgetown report should be required reading for those following the issue closely: it represents by far the best-researched examination of the question to date. Perhaps the most damning finding is one of the simplest: a comparison between property values in Oregon and other states from 1965 to 2005. As it turns out, Oregon's highly-regulated property slightly outperformed values in neighboring California and Washington, though it lagged Idaho by a little. Oregon also outperformed the national average.

Honey, pack up, we're moving to ... Minnesota!

Who knew the stoic people of Minnesota were so advanced?

Wow, we hear about California this and California that, occasionally some Vermont or Oregon thrown in, once in awhile someone will know that Texas is a wind capitol. But I can't remember anyone ever mentioning that, when it comes to a serious program to address global heating, Minnesota rocks! Just for comparison, note how weak and pallid Oregon's renewable energy standard (which only applies to electricity, not energy) is compared to Minnesota's comprehensive greenhouse gas law. From the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Al Gore and politics

Al Gore: When the inevitable question came — his intentions about 2008 — he said politics “rewards a tolerance for artifice, repetition, triviality that I don’t have in as great supply as I might have had when I was younger.” … “I think there are a lot of things about politics as it has evolved that I’m not really that good at,” he said. “Some people find out earlier in their lives that they’re not good at what they’ve chosen to do.” He interjected a self-deprecating laugh. Then he turned serious again. “And I’m not being falsely humble. I think …

Wider, but still paper thin

Reality checking the polls

Public opinion polls show a significant increase in the number of Americans who support strong climate action. Deeper digging shows this support is superficial, too thin to drive the rapid sociopolitical change now required. For the first time, however, a small, but measurable number of Americans -- probably no more than 3% -- identify climate change as the greatest threat. U.S. environmentalists' carefully buffered climate narrative, calculated to not frighten the majority, does not engage these "three percenters." A significant shift in U.S. public opinion on climate has been measured in recent polls. 27% of those polled in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll between May 4-6, 2007, said global warming is "extremely important" and 26% "very important." 33% believe that global warming is the "single biggest environmental problem facing the world," according to a April 5-10, 2007 ABC News/Washington Post Poll, up from 16% in March. Public support for "immediate action" on climate has increased to 34% in January, 2007, from 23% in 1999, according to a NBC/Wall Street Journal tracking poll. When asked to choose what is most important -- either in open-ended polling questions or picking one issue from a list -- climate change, and environmental issues in general, are barely mentioned:

Bush's 'new climate strategy'

Shockingly, it’s the same as the old climate strategy

Today’s headlines are full of the news that President Bush is "unveiling a new climate strategy." If your immediate reaction is cynicism, well … looks like you learned something over the last seven years. Let’s look a little closer. In a speech today, Bush said he wants to convene a series of meetings of the 15 major GHG emitting countries to hammer out “global emissions goals.” To give credit where it’s due, there is considerable symbolic significance to the news that the U.S. is shifting from a stance of truculent foot-dragging to active engagement. Perhaps he’s desperate for a PR …

Just Say Noh

Forty nations condemn Japan’s “scientific” whale hunt The International Whaling Commission has been meeting in Anchorage this week, and as always, Japan is making a splash. Yesterday saw fierce debate over a resolution condemning that country’s “scientific hunt,” in which it’s allowed to kill about 1,000 Antarctic whales. The resolution, sponsored by New Zealand, ultimately passed by a vote of 40-2 — but Japan and 26 other countries angrily abstained. “I find [this resolution] extremely disturbing, vexatious, and in some ways irrelevant,” said one commissioner. “It is frivolous, devoid of action, and meaningless.” Apparently deemed less frivolous was a resolution …

Did I say no more CTL?

I meant just one more

There’s a growing tension between the subsidy-happy proclivities of Congress and its self-imposed mandate to reduce carbon emissions. You just can’t spend all the available federal dollars on ethanol and CTL and expect to reduce emissions. Bills like this one, introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), are going to bring that tension to a head: A bill about to be introduced in the Senate would push utilities to generate drastically more of their power — 15%, compared with the current 2% — from sources such as wind or the sun by 2020. While three similar measures have died after passing …

Testing, Testing … Is This Thing On?

Federal chemical testing program inadequate, scientists say In 1996, Congress mandated that the U.S. EPA launch a chemical testing program within three years. My, how time flies. The Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program is now set to begin in 2008 — and shockingly, critics say it panders to Big Chemical. They point to the EPA’s plans to only do high-dosage tests, despite evidence that low-dosage exposure to some chemicals can be harmful. The agency also plans to either use a rat breed known to be insensitive to some chemicals, or to let companies pick which kind of rat they want tested. …

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