Resource Scarcity, a formula for Discord

Who would have thought that a modern city like Cape Town would be on the list to face what is clearly a catastrophic event with regard to resources; or should I say, a lack of resources. The fact that the City is fast approaching a point where the usual expectation of clean water may be no more should be frightening.

clean water moneyPerhaps more frightening is the observation that the City is about to really be split into water haves and water have-nots. Worse still, is the opinion of some of the water haves who can dig wells saying that they can maintain their lifestyle without using City water.

This kind of a statement underlies an entire thinking process that is a partial cause of the water crisis in the first place. That is, as long as I have money, I can get mine.

I suggest that people read the piece on Water and U.S. National Security.

Read the full article:
Dangerously Low on Water, Cape Town Now Faces ‘Day Zero’
Limited free access; NY Times subscription may be required.


Airbnb as a land protection model?

Recent posts tried to cover the damage being caused by Washington through its opening of previously protected lands to exploitation and destruction by commercial interests. Specifically, the formalization of the “Tragedy of the Commons”.

In the last article posted on this topic, we saw how land owners/users in the west have viewed that Federal Government’s actions as a form of taking in the sense that they can no longer do whatever they want with large swaths of land. This article on the Airbnb model is an interesting twist. It is not new in my mind, the Nature Conservancy has used a financial model of sorts for decades.

What is interesting is tying the land to the value of the environment and encouraging landowners to do what we know makes sense through financial incentives rather than proscriptive regulations. Why not do both?

It is important to distinguish the fact that many ranchers and energy companies seem to view the common good as only that which makes money for them, but I do think that this model could somehow be incorporated into the current regulatory system.

What do you think?

Read the full articles:
Using the Airbnb Model to Protect the Environment
Limited free access; NY Times subscription may be required.


To Nuclear or not to Nuclear?

In the three pieces attached, we see the complexity of the nuclear power argument. Two respected former Governor’s have differing views on whether or not the proposed PSE&G subsidy proposal is a good idea. The current Governor has forced a change in the prior legislation to include more perks for renewable energy.

So what is a legislature to do?

nuclearThe issue is certainly complex and it raises an interesting question about the entire issue of subsidies for power generation. We have discussed this before. Some of my Libertarian friends think that renewables receive too many subsidies at the expense of older forms of power generation. My Green friends think that this is necessary to even the playing field.

Clearly, nuclear does not generate greenhouse gases…but it does generate very dangerous waste with no plan on how to store it safely. All forms of energy generation get some form of subsidy…some for more than 100 years…So, it seems to me, if New Jersey wants to subsidize its existing nuclear plants, than it has to make a policy call…

Do we want multiple forms of non-greenhouse gas power generation or do we want to continue with fossil fuels?

I think that the new legislation partially answers that question.

Of course, the devil is in the details as they say. Should there be transparency? Should Rate Counsel be involved? These questions are too complicated for this post…

Read the full articles:
N.J. nuclear bill returns — amid new controversy
Gov. Kean: Don’t rush bailout of PSEG’s nuclear plants. Wait for Murphy


Fear of the Federal Government

The Times Magazine ran a feature piece on why people in the west fear the federal government. It is a well written piece that brings the perspective of the rancher into focus. The fears outlined are perfectly logical. Specifically that their livelihood is threatened.

Of course, when read in detail, the article also shows why federal land protections are needed. In one part of the article a rancher notes that he cannot see any damage to a stream that the government wants to protect for trout breading. Since he cannot see any harm, he should be allowed to send his cattle through the stream..In fairness, he did fence off the he is simply exercising his right to voice an opinion.

In the same discussion, he notes that he could not log areas where Bald Eagles were nesting and that was a waste. There are plenty of eagles as far as he can see.

In another part of the article, ranchers note that Yellowstone has all this wonderful grass that is going to waste and that they should be allowed to take advantage of it for grazing.

All of these statements make a strong point. They point to the fact that when people have a limited view of the world, they tend to reinforce the old economic principal, the tragedy of the commons.

It is true that many of these ranchers have been on the land for more than 100 years. By their logic, the time spend has earned them the right to use it and they would never over use it. History does not side with them.

Indeed, if we base a decision on time on the land, then it should all be given back to the Native Americans from whom it was stolen by, in some cases, the ancestors of the ranchers there today.

A broader perspective is needed.

HOWEVER, it is important that we work with people to help them steward the land and to keep their livelihoods wherever we can. That does not mean giving them unfettered access.

Read the full article:
Fear of the Federal Government in the Ranchlands of Oregon
Limited free access; NY Times subscription may be required.