With national cap-and-trade legislation off the table, what are the viable options for federal climate policy? In the latest issue of Resources, Pete Nelson and I highlight RFF’s robust climate policy research, focusing on three alternatives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions: the Clean Air Act, a carbon tax, and a clean energy standard. To read the full article, click here.
Video is now available from RFF’s Policy Leadership Forum on linking carbon markets featuring Quebec’s environmental minister, Yves-François Blanchet.
I recently testified before a California Senate Select Committee on the state’s climate policies about California’s interactions in the development of policy across the country and internationally. I highlighted the four main points below in my remarks, and you can read the full testimony here.
- California is not alone. It is joined by many other jurisdictions in reducing climate pollution.
- But California is the leader in designing climate policy.
- California’s leadership is accelerating the erosion of climate gridlock at the international level.
- The value of leadership accrues to Californians, through innovation, economic growth, and environmental quality.
Last week, the Bureau of Land Management proposed new rules for oil and gas fracking on federal lands. We have not yet digested the package of rules, so we don’t have anything to say about their content yet. But some industry critics immediately attacked the proposal, arguing not that it was too strict, but that it shouldn’t exist at all. These arguments miss the mark.
Industry’s basic claim is that the federal government should not regulate fracking, leaving responsibility for doing so to the states. There are good arguments for this: for one, states are the traditional regulators of oil & gas development, at least on shore, and many of them have a great deal of experience. Also, local conditions and therefore environmental risks may also differ among states.
But BLM is not acting as a regulator here. Instead, they are a landowner (or, more accurately, a steward of lands held by the people, or by Indian tribes). BLM’s rules only apply to fracking activity on federal lands. It’s true that these lands are all located in states that have their own regulations. This means, for one thing, that BLM’s rules could not allow practices that state law does not. But BLM’s rules can be more strict.
In this respect, the federal government’s rights are identical to those of any landowner. When leasing mineral rights, any owner can (presumably) assume operators will follow relevant state rules. But he or she can also impose other restrictions, from the mundane (“don’t drill wells near my house”) to the complex (“disclose all components of fracturing fluid that you use when drilling on my land”).
Note that RFF on the Issues will not be distributed on Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day.
Adapting Infrastructure Planning
Communities are continuing to be challenged by a disaster recovery framework that “is primarily aimed at rebuilding and repairing infrastructure in place.” Citing RFF research, a new report by the Government Accountability Office stresses the importance of providing “the ‘best available’ climate-related information for infrastructure planning.”
RFF Vice President for Research Molly Macauley says that such information can inform state and local decisions about infrastructure that needs to be resilient to the extremes of floods, heat waves, and other stress. However, she recommends prioritizing investments in information, noting that “not all information has value, and perfect information is not often worth the cost of acquisition,” and offers further suggestions for what to prioritize here.
The new CAFE standards may require complementary policies to meet the ambitious goals of reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. In a new RFF discussion paper, I examine the new footprint standards, their implications for changes to the size mix of vehicles, and the role of credit policies on compliance and cost-effectiveness of the rule. Read more here.
Each week, we review the papers, studies, reports, and briefings posted at the “indispensable” RFF Library Blog, curated by RFF Librarian Chris Clotworthy. Check out this week’s highlights below:
Cities and Green Growth: The Case of the Chicago Tri-State Metropolitan Area
This working paper assesses opportunities and policies for green growth in the Chicago Tri-State Metropolitan Area. It first examines the Chicago metro-region’s economic and environmental performance and potential constraints to regional growth, and identifies emerging regional specialisations in green products and services. This is followed by a review of sector-specific policies that can contribute to green jobs, green firms and urban attractiveness, with particular attention… — via OECD
Effectiveness of Policies and Strategies to Increase the Capacity Utilisation of Intermittent Renewable Power Plants
Intermittent renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, will become increasingly important in the electricity supply mix if ambitious renewable energy targets are to be met. This paper presents evidence on the effectiveness of different strategies and measures to increase the capacity utilisation of wind and other intermittent renewable energy plants. — via OECD
Draft US Bureau of Land Management Rules for Fracking on Public Lands
…DOI Secretary Sally Jewell May 16 unveiled the long-awaited proposed rule governing fracking operations on public land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and tribal lands. The proposal would update decades-old requirements for fracking on public lands, including strengthening existing well integrity standards, imposing first-time chemical disclosure requirements for fracking fluids… — via US Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management
U.S. LNG Exports: Impacts on Energy Markets and the Economy
LNG exports could create at least 73,100-145,100 and up to 220,100-452,300 new US jobs over 20 years while having a minimal impact on US gas prices, a new ICF International study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute concluded. — via ICF/American Petroleum Institute
South Korea’s Emissions Trading Scheme — White Paper
South Korea will launch its emissions trading scheme in a little over 18 months. The government has yet to finalise the design of the scheme and is currently engaged in an active dialogue with industry. This White Paper aims to contribute to the debate by assessing how the various design options will affect the price of carbon and the efficiency of the market. — via Bloomberg New Energy Finance
For more from the RFF Library Blog, click here.
When it comes to climate policy, it seems like pessimism is the only thing that rivals greenhouse gas emissions in terms of volume. Last week, the daily atmospheric content of CO2 popped up over 400 parts per million, pushing the stated goal of keeping worldwide temperatures to a 2˚C increase even further from reach.
Beneath this gloomy surface, however, lies a golden sheen of real policy actions that are paving the way for future action to address the challenges of climate change. California and Sweden are two global trailblazers that are currently implementing robust and aggressive policies to reduce emissions and encourage innovative changes in how their national economies and governments operate. Last Tuesday, Resources for the Future, with Sweden’s Mistra Indigo and the ClimateWorks Foundation, put on a summit showcasing these two first movers in the climate policy world.
Here’s a shameless plug for a new RFF Press book about naming and shaming polluters.
OK, the title, “Environmental Regulation and Public Disclosure: The Case of PROPER in Indonesia” is admittedly a bit owlish. But I think many will be quite interested in the contents—an in-depth case study of an innovative pollution control program in a poor country has made a real difference.
My coauthors, Shakeb Afsah, Jorge García, and Thomas Sterner, and I have been involved in the design, implementation, and evaluation of PROPER for more than 15 years. We decided to pull together and flesh out what we have learned about the program because we believe that, having succeeded where many others have failed, it can and should serve as a model for other developing countries.
Environmental management in poor countries is quite challenging: severe pollution problems abound, regulatory institutions tend to be weak, and politicians get more mileage from promoting poverty reduction than pollution control. As a result, conventional command-and-control regulation often performs poorly.
PROPER has managed to sidestep some of these constraints by relying on public disclosure instead of enforcing regulatory mandates. It ranks thousands of companies’ environmental performance using a five-color grading scale—Gold for excellent, Green for very good, Blue for good, Red for non-compliance, and Black for causing environmental damage—and then disseminates these rankings via the press and internet, thereby creating incentives for polluters to cut their emissions.
Our book is a multidisciplinary wideranging exploration of the program. We present rigorous statistical analyses showing that it has helped raise the average rate of compliance with environmental regulations from thirty to seventy per cent, and identifying the specific incentives that are responsible for this improvement. We also provide a comprehensive history of the origins and evolution of program and detailed explanations of the methods and procedures on which it relies.
Try it, we think you’ll like it.
Tax exemptions, industry rebates, and border tax adjustments can help protect the competitiveness of industries affected by a carbon tax, but they are not equally efficient at achieving economic and environmental goals. In the latest issue of Resources, Richard Morgenstern, Nathan Richardson, and I examine the issues. Read more here.