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Articles by Jason D Scorse

Jason Scorse, Ph.D., is Associate Professor and Chair of the International Environmental Policy Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. His book What Environmentalists Need to Know About Economics is available at Amazon.

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  • No easy explanation for continued price increases in the oil markets

    At the end of last year I predicted that the price of oil would go down; so far I have been terribly wrong. My prediction, shared by many other economists and energy experts, was premised on a reasonable assumption: Since the world was headed for an economic slowdown, brought about the housing bubble and the financial crisis, global demand for energy would likely moderate, putting downward pressure on prices. While it was a sensible prediction, I am happy that no one took me up on my bet.

    So what happened?

  • The importance of elections for a renewable energy economy

    This article in Business Week is both a fascinating read and a perfect illustration of why national leadership is so essential for a sustainable energy future. Many environmentalists (including myself) believe that electricity generated through clean renewable sources can power not only most of our homes and industry, but also our transportation sector through plug-in cars and buses. There is little doubt that the solar and wind capacity exists, but the major obstacle is a lack of transmission lines to transport the energy from the deserts or the wind farms to the large urban areas where most power is used.

    This is where the federal government has to step in.

    First, these transmission lines are incredibly expensive, and it is unlikely that power companies will foot the bill themselves for a national grid; the total cost is in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

    Second, and no less important, is the fact that the siting of these lines is very cumbersome and filled with extensive red-tape, which means that it takes many years to get them off the ground.

    An administration that helps to both finance such a grid and to streamline the siting process is desperately needed if we are going to make serious strides in the share of renewable energy in our national energy mix. This type of work would employ hundreds of thousands of people, stimulate many local economies, and vastly upgrade America's domestic energy capacity thereby making us more energy secure. Of course, it would also help us to greatly reduce our carbon footprint.

    This is why elections matter so much.

    Eight more years of doing next to nothing on the energy front may leave America's economy and world standing so damaged that we may not be able to recover.

    While both political parties have their share of bad ideas and are beholden to special interests, I trust much less the party which has spent the past decades demonizing government at every turn.

  • Unprecedented land conservation deal

    The biggest land conservation deal in California's history was announced yesterday, totaling nearly 240,000 acres in Southern California.

    A couple of features, while not entirely new, are worth pointing out:

    1. The deal involved allowing the owners to develop about 10 percent of the area pretty intensely and maintain some natural resource extraction while preserving as wilderness the overwhelming majority -- a good example of making a trade-off that doesn't pit economic and environmental interests against each other and allows for much greater public access at the same time.
    2. New wildlife corridors are being constructed to allow animals and plants the ability to migrate; I have written about this before, since this type of flexibility will be crucial to ensure that species can adapt to climate change.

    All in all, a good deal for California and the country. Something to celebrate.

  • Valuing environmental services saves lives

    As this new BBC article points out, it appears that the loss of mangroves around cities in Myanmar made the impact of the cyclone much worse, resulting in higher casualties and greater destruction. Scientific evidence compiled after the 2004 Asian tsunami showed that areas with more intact coastal ecosystems suffered less destruction, showing the upside of investing in the preservation of coastal swamps and forests, especially in disaster-prone areas.

    These developments highlight the urgent need to continue to demonstrate and make clear to policymakers the tremendous value these coastal environmental services provide. Of course, coastal ecosystems are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the full range of environmental services that forests (both tropical and temperate), wetlands, coral reefs, and prairies provide.

    Identifying these values and estimating their magnitude is the first step in making sure that they are not ignored when development decisions are made, or when assessing the value of restoring systems that have been degraded.

    This is one area where the combination of economics and ecological science can demonstrate why conservation not only pays but saves lives.