Showing posts with label government regulation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label government regulation. Show all posts

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Quarry Construction

Avaaz has posted a new action regarding a mega-quarry to be built in Ontario, Canada.  I have only read their site and I'm not sure of the details but it is worth looking into.  Basically, a company posed as a farming operation and acquired huge tracts of land that will now be converted to an open pit limestone quarry.  Quarries are always contentious and this one appears no different.  If you are interested sign the petition.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Fish Farming

Some people feel that fish farming, particularly for salmon, create environmental problems.  In British Columbia, a court has recently ruled that the government must release information about sea lice and other data gathered on fish farming.  You can read about it here.

This is a good thing for so many reasons.  Information gathered by government authorities about practices that impact the population at large should be made public. Since we have so many regulations and administrative bodies governing many areas of our society the more open the better.  If we are all aware of what is going on and complete information is available to everyone better decisions can be made.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Great News!!! We're Getting More Nuclear Plants!!

I'm not serious about the headline but the reality is the Obama administration is planning to offer loan guarantees to fund the construction of nuclear plants.  If the plants are going to be such a boon and savior why do they need the guarantees?  Probably because they are only able to get funding if the federal government guranatees it.  I'm sure there exists a minimum price that consumers will pay for the power too.  To make the deal even sweeter the government will find a cheap/free way for the companies to get rid of the waste.  What an awesome deal for the taxpayer.  We subsidize the construction, guarantee a minimum return, take out the garbage and let somebody else enjoy the profit. 

The problem lies in the business as usual approach to policy that supports private profits and shifts all the risk to the public.  It seems like nothing can be done without a government guarantee or subsidy.  If that is the case maybe we need to revisit the "free market" concept and decide if we want it free or just pretend.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Privatizing Profits and Socializing Losses

I heard this phrase on the radio or somewhere and it really made me think. Privatizing profits and socializing losses was used to refer to the banking situation in the United States but I think it is a good slogan for the types of regulations employed. When something is lucrative it stays private but if there is risk of loss we share. It made me wonder about environmental regulations and how it might apply. Any ideas?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What if the Electric Car was not Killed?

Last night I (finally) watched Who Killed the Electric Car? and it did not disappoint. It really made me angry to be honest. The electric car, which will supposedly renew the automobile industry and lead us into a clean green future, was available at least 10 years ago in a viable format. We all know what happened but watching the movie in light of the auto bailouts really got to me.

GM could have been a leader in the electric car segment. Instead they did things the way they still do and ended up bankrupt and needing billions of our dollars. Now, the technological edge that would lead us out of recession and into a more sustainable future has been squandered. If they were left to go bankrupt we may have saved ourselves from future blunders of this sort. I also find it odd that during the auto bankruptcies and bailouts there was never a mention that GM had already developed and destroyed the technology that the governments were demanding they develop as a condition of the loans. The whole thing stinks and it makes me really upset that we are still 10 years away from a breakthrough. I'm afraid that this business as usual approach will keep us 10 years away 10 years from now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bailing Out on the Environment

I know the GM bankruptcy is old news but there is one environmentally noteworthy component. Under the government orchestrated bankruptcy, GM has left many liabilities in "Old GM" and taken the assets to the "New GM". One of the liabilities left behind is $530 million worth of environmental liabilities. Unfortunately, "Old GM" only has $1.2 billion available to distribute. That adds another layer of costs to the taxpayer as they are now bailing out GM and paying for the cleanup of their polluted sites. This is not picking on GM, this is just the way the law works.

It seems that corporate bankruptcies are a way to leave behind obligations to society at large and take the best parts of your business and start over. The irony is that part of GM moving forward is creating "greener" cars that are more efficient and environmentally friendly. Hopefully they build them a little cleaner this time around, too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cap and Trade on the Horizon

Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, stated that cap and trade for carbon emissions is needed so that there is some direction and stability for business. I figure that it is imminent now. The current administration looks to be laying the foundation for not only an economic recovery but a structurally different economy going forward. At least that is what it looks like. I'm hoping it is not sold as a grand plan that turns into the same old programs.

With a vigorous debate on healthcare, economics, energy and the environment materializing combined with a new economic approach derived from this crisis we may have a new way forward. I'm cautiously optimistic and looking forward to an integrated approach on all these fronts rather than piecemeal regulations that favor lobby groups. Another difference is that everyone can participate with the internet.

Cap and trade should set clear guidelines on how the system works and what we have to work with. This will spark new innovation across the board in technology. I look forward to seeing what we come up with to tackle the challenges ahead.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Global Grocer

Ever wonder where your food comes from? The Global Grocer can help. The site is a flash recreation of shopping and when you click on a product it gives you some information about that products origins and health and safety issues associated with it.

It looks like a lot of the food we used to produce ourselves is now imported. A by-product of free trade and globalization no doubt. This has so many ramifications economically and environmentally. Also, if the peak oil disaster scenario materializes how will we eat?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Cash-for-Clunkers

According to the Detroit News a cash-for-clunkers program is coming to America. From the sounds of it the program applies to vehicles getting 18 mpg or less. The real strange part is that to qualify for the incentive you need to only buy a new vehicle that has a 2 mpg improvement on what you already have. HybridCarBlog outlines briefly how the program is designed.

I don't really have much to say about this program because it makes so little sense that I don't know what to say. Overall, it looks like another corporate welfare scheme where current SUV owners can trade in for a new SUV. Coincidentally, SUV sales are where automakers made their profits. Any bets on gas prices this summer?

Monday, May 04, 2009

McLibel Revisited

Seeing a McDonald's restaurant this morning made me think back to the McLibel trial.  I still find it odd that such a big company would sue people and risk something being put on the public record.  After this I wonder what corporate policy is at McDonald's or elsewhere.  It also makes me realize the power the law has over everything we do.  The McLibel case reminds us that the law is there for everyone and it can be used to level the playing field.  For a more thorough analysis of corporations in society watch The Corporation or check out POCLAD.

I'm not pro or anti corporations or anything like that.  I just think we all need to make decisions with complete information and be sure that we take the responsibility of citizenship seriously.  If people are aware of what is going on around them then they can choose to do something about or not.  Passing through life on cruise control is not an option.   One thing I'm not is a legal expert so I can't say for sure what role corporations are playing in our society. You don't know until you look.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Playing Politics with Earth Day

Earth Day has passed for another year. I think few politicians passed on the photo ops and press coverage of being involved on Earth Day. Tree plantings and garbage picking photos we're probably part of it. However, politics is not only about photos and good press. Politicians feel they need to do something to have green credentials. Read this editorial from a newspaper in Toronto, Canada. Sounds like politicians in that city are not afraid to spend taxpayer's money to be green. The downside is that it sounds like those projects don't make economic sense and were previously rejected for that reason. Now that green is all the rage the cash is flowing. Just like we need to be wary of greenwashing on products I think we need to watch for the same from public policy. Until we start enacting policies to change everything we do day in and day out the piecemeal approach may just be greenwashing for political gain.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Maybe this is Why Kids are so Energetic?

I'm sure mot people have heard about melamine being found in baby formula. The latest find is perchlorate, which is a rocket fuel chemical. I said what the #$@! is going on, too. This just shows how pervasive contamination has become in the environment and that it is not going away. According to the article much of the chemical originates from rocket and missile tests during the cold war era. You can send the EPA a message by filling out this web form and let them know that you want action taken on this issue. I have little faith that we will be able to clean up our toxic legacy and future generations will pay for our shortsightedness.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Green Business Climate

Economic issues are on most people's minds these days. In this economy many people are considering starting their own business. Since green collar jobs are big talking point evaluating the green business climate is a good place to start. Depending on where you live there may be more or less government support for your venture. A chart at Economist.com shows the percentage of green spending in a country's stimulus package. While it may not show you the specific funds available it does let you know if where you live is spending to create a green economy.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Green Jobs Create Negative Job Growth

Citing a Spanish study, a Bloomberg article reports that green job creation programs actually cost jobs elsewhere in the economy. I haven't been able to find the study to see for myself but some of the point raised in various news articles citing the study have been rational. Basically there is one conclusion: subsidies don't work very well. The part I find odd is that when it is applied to the green economy it becomes a negative news story but there is no shortage of "stimulus" and bailout money. I fail to see the difference between that and green job subsidies. Competition is what will make or break technology and industries. By continually financing failing sectors and companies we build failure in to the economy and then forget how to get by without the extra money. Either way we're missing the point. We need to redevelop our economy in a more sustainable fashion. We don't have enough money or resources to continue this way.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Price of Progress?

Developing countries are trying to build their economies and societies to offer a better standard of living for their citizens. However, progress comes at a price and tough choices need to be made. Ethiopia is currently finishing a hydroelectric dam project that will meet the energy needs for the development of the country. However, by seeing the BBC reports not everyone is in agreement. It is difficult to judge development projects in other parts of the world based on our perception of the impact. We don't know what it's like to live without electricity. It does raise an interesting point. If we think these projects are not the best way for countries to develop why are we not changing our development pattern? If what we have done is wrong why don't we redevelop following a better model? From an environmental perspective, our policies in this current economic "crisis" are not really doing anything different. It's tax code changes, bailouts and making business as usual easier rather than fundamental change. I don't have a complete alternative system but looking at what we have done and what we are doing what we are doing is not changing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Legislating a Green Economy

There is currently a movement in legislatures to promote green energy and the building of a green economy. This approach is not without critics either. Recently the Canadian province of Ontario passed the Green Energy Act. Some of the basics include required home energy audits by sellers of homes, feed-in tariffs and spending to usher in renewable energy. The National Post has been quite critical publishing editorial pieces almost daily about there view of the proposed legislation (1, 2, 3 as examples). They also cited a section of the legislation that outlines inspection and search powers and those were portrayed rather negatively as can be expected with any legislation that has search powers.

What is really happening here? I can't tell. I've tried reading the legislation but haven't been able to get anywhere. The news releases and talking points sound kind of vague at best. It looks like the intent is good by promoting renewable energy and conservation. However, the implementation and the details of how everything will work still need to be deciphered. I think this is one of the first pieces of such legislation in a major North American jurisdiction so we need to see how it works and who will follow suit. I think we have a long way to go in North America for any real green infrastructure but any movement in that direction is a positive start.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rant of the Year



Even though you may think his commentary is colored by him speaking for traders I think he is speaking for more people than we think. A Chicago Tea Party for a president from Chicago sounds interesting.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

No Stimulus

The group Americans for Prosperity is circulating petitions against any "stimulus" plan. Some of there reasons are summarized below:

NO to more taxpayer-funded bailouts and giveaways to special interests!

NO to using economic hardship as an excuse for Big Government power grabs!

NO to heaving trillions of dollars in new debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren!

NO to this no-stimulus scam!


I don't know much about the group or there goals. I'm not really that interested, frankly. However, they are raising several issues that seem to have gone unnoticed in the promotion of the plan. It does seem like everybody is on board with a package and President Obama is warning of crisis and collapse. The fine print on these plans doesn't do as much as advertised or seem to serve dual purposes. For example, there are 2 billion dollars planned for advanced lithium-ion batteries for automotive applications. Is that going to bring electric cars on the road or a thinly disguised subsidy for the Chevy Volt? Is funding for nuclear plants part of an overall energy strategy or subsidies for a largely unprofitable industry that generates dangerous waste? Large omnibus bills like this stimilus package can easily hide small things that seem innocuous. Strategies that are targeted to specific problems that can have measureable results will go a lot further in my opinion. But, I'm not in Congress...

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Next Generation

Power generation is a vital component to our economy. We cannot address many environmental issues without addressing the generation mix. Finally, electrical infrastructure is need of replacement in many parts of North America. What's next?

In my opinion, nuclear is not the answer. A recent report highlights that many nuclear projects are not viable commercially unless they have government support. I realize that these days nothing looks viable without government support but many critics of alternative/renewable energy say that without tax credits they are not competitive. Neither is nuclear. The only one that is cost-effective is coal but that will only last until emissions are priced in cap-and-trade system.

Conservation is the key to all of it. Using less energy is the best way to relieve capacity constraints on generation. After that renewable energy needs to be combined with a distributed generation network. Until those elements are seriously considered little will change.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Obesity Tax"

N.Y. state is proposing a tax on soft drinks as part of the upcoming budget. Whether it passes is another matter but it should stimulate a debate. There will be one argument that says these things should be taxed and another that will say soft drinks are benign and people need to think for themselves.

This is a tough one. Tobacco has been taxed for years with some success in reducing smoking rates. Will it work for soft drinks? I don't know. I think we need to look at a more complete approach to tackling obesity rather than a tax on soft drinks only. Generally, I don't like the idea of regulating or taxing behavior because I feel that people should be able to make their own decisions. In the end, unless the tax is $100 per can of pop I doubt it will make a real difference.