04.30.07

California vs…

Posted in Health, Politics, Resources at 8:30 am by justakim

California seems to be on a roll. Where’s this handbasket going?

One day after Governor Schwarzenegger threatens the EPA with a lawsuit over car regulations, California filed one against the Department of Energy because their request for a waiver that would allow them to have stricter standards for washing machines were denied. The regulation proposed in 2004 would require washing machines to use no more than 8.5 gallons of water by 2007 and even less by 2010 [1].

The DOE said the proposal didn’t qualify for a waiver because it had to be”economically feasible and technologically justified,” [2] Well, perhaps it would have been feasible in 2004, while the latter part could be argued… particularly in California where water is relatively scarce.

In addition, Califronia also set up tougher restrictions on formaldehyde. They claim that this will reduce incidents of cancer caused by vapors.

And then there.s solar. In this article, a correspondent from The Economist runs into the problem of too much shade from her trees. State rebates and federal tax credits are available that can cover up to half the cost of installation, and they will not raise property taxes (whew). Home builders have to offer solar options in California now. But you still need to have light.

I am somewhat concerned to the extent of which California is trying to set itself apart with restrictions that could possibly not be worth the bother, especially in other parts of the country, where resources may be cheaper and utility curves vastly different. If it costs more to have less formaldehyde in your wood to keep it together with another substance or new technology, how much would the added cost to your housing have bought you in health care?

I like requiring thought put into solar panels and think if you have trees in the way, you’re better off with them cooling your home than the panels, don’t know about the formaldehyde, and wish the market would make water-efficient washing machines feasible. Would California have a right to tax washing machines that are not of a certain water efficiency, or would they have to sue someone over that too? It would be a tax to compensate for the subsidies on the cost of water…

1. California washing wachines
2. More on the washing machine situation.
3. Califronia vs. formaldehyde.
4. California solar vs.shade.

04.25.07

Clean Air ‘Or Else’

Posted in Climate Change, Energy, Politics, Pollution at 8:46 pm by justakim

The climate change debate heats up further as Schwarzenegger threatens EPA with a lawsuit if it does not respond within six months to California’s 2005 request for a Clean Air Act waiver so that it can regulate carbon emissions more aggressively. The EPA says that they were waiting for the recent Supreme Court Ruling earlier this month before tackling the California case. It was a 5-4 decision.

The closeness of the vote makes me uncertain as to the extent of this victory, if the definition of a pollutant lies closely with your political leanings. One would hope that the definition of pollution would not change depending on who the judge is.

Even if the EPA is allowed to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, it will still take time to come into effect. Just because the EPA can regulate it doesn’t mean it will, or at least anytime soon.

But at any rate, the California plan seems surprisingly harsh, even from my perspective. Build cars with a quarter less emissions by the 2009 model year, and cut greenhouse gas emissions statewide by a quarter by 2020? Both goals seem unrealistic. At least let the Automotive X Prize play out first!

On the other hand, of the auto manufacturers who claim these regulations will cause them to go bankrupt, I have to wonder if they include Toyota, Honda, and VW.

04.24.07

In the Name of Conservation: A canal story

Posted in Resources at 10:36 pm by justakim

There is a dispute between Mexico and California over Colorado water (so what’s new?). A project was approved to reline a leaky canal that diverts water from the Colorado to San Diego County.

Accidental runoff from this canal has been used by Mexican farmers since the canal was opened in 1942 and the same runoff also benefits wildlife, including endangered species. Much depends on the water that theoretically shouldn’t have been leaking.

Problem is, the water has theoretically been ‘paid’ for by consumers in San Diego despite the water not getting there. I’m not too sure how that works out since Western water rights are messy, but I think it was a deal to get a certain amount of water, but there are shortages when the Colorado doesn’t put out as much as has been over-allotted (smart) so the people at the end don’t get their allotted share, particularly Mexico where the amount of water in the Colorado that actually passes the border is small enough that the river does not reach the Gulf of Mexico anymore.

The ironic part of this story is that not only did the Mexican border town Mexicali issue a lawsuit, but the town of Calexico on the US side did as well because it depends on Mexicali business…

1. Canal project OK’d
2. Mexicali and Calexico

04.23.07

Ecostars say the darndest things

Posted in Pollution at 10:04 am by justakim

I’m sure many of you have heard the suggestion by Sheryl Crow to limit how much toilet paper you use and it reminded me of a related revelation.

A few years ago, one of my classmates had mentioned we could save so much if we used unbleached toilet paper. Woah… not-white toilet paper… That’s well, a bit too strange for me. It was a little disconcerting to see my acquired aesthetics battling with reason.

Well, I’m sure more than a few people remembered the environment the next time they sat down at least!

04.19.07

Biofuels vs. Forests

Posted in Climate Change, Conservation, Economic Development, Energy at 4:16 pm by justakim

Another instance of “green vs. green” in its extreme, Ugandans protest the deal to convert rainforest to sugar cane for biofuel. This is simply counterproductive. Even if they were not clearing rainforests for this activity, one must ask if the best use of this sugar cane, or the cleared land it will be grown on, is for the production of biofuel. There has to be something wrong with incentives if this is even remotely a profitable opportunity.

04.18.07

Ethanol: One Externality for Another

Posted in Energy, Pollution at 9:26 am by justakim

While ethanol may be a green fuel, it may cause more deaths than gasoline because it has many similar pollutants as gasoline, and unburnt ethanol that escapes into the atmosphere breaks down in sunlight to make ozone. The pollutants from ethanol may be more deadly than gasoline.

I really hope that these concerns will lead to development of the technology for cleaner emissions, rather than plunging blindly into it.

“There are so many people barking pretty loud about biofuels,” Jacobsen says. “They’ve been pushing these things before the science is done. Now the question is: will people listen?”

However, the small potential increase in pollution-related deaths predicted in the study could be a risk worth taking for a renewable fuel, environmentalists may argue.

Now is the time to bring that science up to speed. I don’t find this trade-off acceptable, and I doubt it’s necessary.

04.17.07

By-product Biodiesel

Posted in Climate Change, Energy at 12:06 am by justakim

The news we’ve all been waiting for, someone is actually making Biodiesel from animal by-products fat.

Well duh!! This is NOT a new idea. Heaven forbid we use waste products FIRST instead of planting more food crops already in surplus. Tyson.. that’s a lot of fat. Yay!

04.16.07

Globalization is Good?

Posted in Economic Development at 11:28 pm by justakim

I watched this video on globalization a couple days ago, and I have had to spend some time mulling it over.

Globalisation is Good

In this video, Norberg goes to a Taiwan and Vietnam to see how globalization has worked in their favor, and to Kenya where it has not. The difference is, the people in the first two countries owned their land and had incentive to invest in it, while in Kenya not only did they not own their own land, subsidies and tariffs in industrialized nations prevented them from competing in the world market.

The segment in the Nike factory in Vietnam was particularly interesting. Some of the workers have chosen to work there instead of in local shops or abroad because of Nike’s policies. They were showing a local businessman, a competitor, the park that they set aside just for their workers to enjoy. Because people like working for Nike, the local businesses also have to raise their working conditions and salaries to compete.

The other part that really struck me was the family in Taiwan. The grandparents worked on farms. The parents worked in factories. The children were working in software development. It was absolutely amazing to see how much these people have gained so quickly. It was as if one generation sacrificed themselves with hard work so that the next generation could have a good standard of living. I’m sure that most of the hard-working factory workers felt it was worth it to work so hard, so that their children could have desk jobs. Many people who have moved to America would agree, that it was a fair trade.

He mentions that many people from the industrialized world look upon these countries as if they were their personal museums. I don’t like the idea of westernizing other countries,and I don’t think that it should be the only answer to improving peoples’ standard of living, but I wonder what choices people would have made if they really had the opportunity. Given the right conditions, would only some cultures be willing to sacrifice one generation of hard work in order to attain a comfortable standard of living, or would all of them have made the choice?

Would you have?

04.13.07

Odds and Ends: Diabetes, Tickets, and Immigrants

Posted in Health, Politics, Pollution at 11:16 pm by justakim

An amusing quote I ran across in Heilbroner’s The Worldly Philosophers in the chapter on Malthus and Ricardo:

“Actually, birth control seems to have been practiced by the upper classes all through history, which is one reason why the rich got richer and the poor got children.”

There’s more evidence that there is a link between Diabetes and pollutants. Regardless of their weight, there was a relationship between the levels of some of these chemicals and insulin resistance. This relationship could be for many reasons, but it’s possible stored pollutants cause diabetes.

The farther away you live, the more costly your traffic tickets. Also on the first page of that link is the cost of WoW characters by race.

In California, immigrants increase wages because they don’t compete directly for the same jobs, instead taking on complementary jobs. I think that’s a nice way of saying they’ll do things no one else wants to do. Don’t forget this Onion video about losing jobs to illegal immigrants.

04.12.07

Schwarzenegger’s Environmentalism

Posted in Energy, Politics at 12:38 pm by justakim

It seems that Schwarzenegger is trying to bring environmentalism to the mainstream in America. While I agree with the concept, I am not completely behind some of his ideas… At any rate, here are some of my favorite quotes this morning.

Schwarzenegger will appear on a Pimp My Ride episode on the 22nd in which his muscle car gets retrofitted with a biodiesel-running engine.

“[W]e have to make those cars more environmentally muscular.”

Well, that’s not too bad but… I just can’t help but laugh. I guess an environmentally conscious mind is a great first step nonetheless. We don’t all need Prius Envy.

But this I can totally agree with:

“Like bodybuilders, the environmentalists were thought of as kind of weird fanatics also. You know the kind of serious tree huggers. Environmentalists were no fun. They were like prohibitionists at the fraternity party.”

This is the trait that grates upon me the most, and I fear that I must exhibit some of this myself when I talk or write about environmental matters. Guilt will not make people want to to listen.

“Your political base will melt away as surely as the polar ice caps,” he said. “… You will become a political penguin on a smaller and smaller ice floe that is drifting out to sea. Goodbye, my little friend! That’s what’s going to happen.”

I just can’t help but laugh. I truly believe that this is the way the world is going, it’s just a question of if it will happen soon enough and fast enough.

1. Guiltless Green
2. Make Environment Sexy
3. Pimp My Ride

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