General

Celebrate Earth Day By Destroying The Planet!

Is It Possible To Have A Holiday Without Going Shopping?

The first e-mail in my inbox this morning was from a regional pharmacy chain, advertising “Great Earth Day Savings!” That seemed to me to be a little ironic: celebrate by the planet by consuming as much as you can! It isn’t alone. Just Google “Earth Day Shopping” and you’ll get hundreds of hits.  Now, obviously, […]

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The Quest to Tame the River

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"Mississippi River Tragedies" tells the story of the river's refusal to stay within the walls that we build.

As the song tells us, “Old Man River, he just keeps rolling along” – but he doesn’t necessarily roll where we want him to.  Human efforts at controlling the river and its massive tributaries succeed at times but seem always doomed to eventual failure.  We are playing defense against an opponent that is infinitely patient, […]

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The Missing of Summer Lawns*

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It's Time to End the Wasteful Practice of Irrigating California's Residential Landscaping With Fresh Water

What a difference a drought makes. Once upon a time, a fundamental attribute of home ownership in California and the American West was an expansive, verdant lawn surrounding private homes, townhouses and apartment complexes. Indeed, some communities have historically imposed permit conditions or adopted local ordinances mandating the inclusion and maintenance of lush, healthy lawns […]

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Does Keystone Matter?

Project XL

A recent analysis suggests that the pipeline could result in production of a billion extra barrels between now and 2030.

Many people who have studied the issue tell me that the Keystone XL issue is mostly symbolic, because the Alberta oil sands are going to be used one way or another.  But I’m having some second thoughts because of arguments made (here) by Berkeley economist Max Aufhammer. He’s a pretty hard-headed analyst, not given to […]

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Biofuels and Food Prices

hunger + corn

A recent economics paper suggests strongly that biofuels have raised food prices for the world's poor.

Berkeley economist Brian Wright has a disquieting article in the Winter 2014 issues of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, which just crossed my desk.  JEP is published by the American Economic Association and is a great resource for those of us who are interested in economics but aren’t professional economists.  This article is a case in […]

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Justice Roberts Should Welcome EPA’s Proposed New Wetlands Rule

For Display Use Only, No Permission to Reproduce in Any Form

The Environmental Protection Agency today issued a proposed new rule that seeks to clarify exactly how far the federal government’s jurisdiction reaches in requiring permits for the dredging and filling of wetlands.  In doing so, President Obama’s EPA is responding directly to Chief Justice John Roberts’ lament in his concurring opinion in Rapanos v. United […]

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Rand Paul versus Clean Water

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Rand Paul's plan to cut wetlands protection and make enforcement against polluters impossible.

Rand Paul recently won a big victory in the straw poll held by CPAC,the Conservative Political Action Conference.  In the environmental area, his signature measure is the Defense of Environment and Property Act. On its surface, the goal of the law is to cut back on federal jurisdiction over wetlands. The bill would drastically cut back […]

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U.S. Supreme Court Deals Blow to National Rails-to-Trails Movement

rails2trails

Justices Hand Property Owners Another Important Win, With Public Access the Loser

Some U.S. Supreme Court decisions blow through American jurisprudence like a hurricane. Others slip into the law books quietly, like the proverbial cat’s paws. Today’s Court decision in Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States falls into the latter category: largely overlooked by Court followers and the media, but with the potential to have […]

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