Are Law Professors Good Political Appointees?

I just got off the phone with a Bloomberg News reporter asking me about Harvard Law Professor Jody Freeman's appointment as counselor to Carol Browner.  After singing Jody's' praises (of which there are a great many) he asked me a more general question that has me thinking.   Is it a good thing for Obama to appoint law professors as high level advisors?    The question -- at least in my mind -- is meant to be about the generic category of law professor, not about a...

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Heads out of the sand on water supply risks

Last month the Senate passed S. 22, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. Buried in the depths of the lengthy bill is an important section called "Secure Water" which is intended to ensure that the nation understands and confronts the effects of climate change on water supply. It would require that the Department of Interior assess those impacts and develop strategies to deal with them. Recognizing that states and local entitities are primarily responsible for water ...

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Irresponsible fisheries

WWF has a new report out on compliance with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's voluntary Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing, which was issued in 1995. The report details the extent to which 53 countries, responsible for more than 95% of the world's wild fish harvests, complied with the code between 2003 and 2005. An accompanying commentary by the authors in Nature (subscription required) draws two take-home lessons. 1) Developed countries in general have...

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Preview of a long dry summer

It's still the rainy season, but California's drought is already beginning to affect operation of the state and federal water projects that divert water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds to serve cities and farms from the Bay Area to Southern California.  Yesterday the California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which jointly operate the two projects, sent this letter to the State Water Resources Control Board, requesting emerge...

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Obama Addresses Efficiency Standards

President Obama is pushing for the adoption of  better efficiency standards, the Times reports: Over the last three decades, Congress has demanded stricter efficiency standards on 30 categories of products, as varied as residential air-conditioners and industrial boilers. But successive administrations have failed to write regulations to enforce the laws, even when ordered to by the courts. In remarks to employees of the Energy Department, and in a presidential memorand...

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Earth, we’re just not that into you

As part of the continual fallout from last month's Pew poll on the country's "top priorities" for 2009, which ranked the issue of global warming dead last, I've found myself in several conversations recently about terminology. Assuming one believes that this ranking is too low, is part of the problem the poll's use of the term "global warming" instead of the more au courant "climate change"?  Does warming seem gentle or even attractive, especially to those answering po...

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Why Does Larry Summers Want to Accelerate Climate Change?

I've never been a huge fan of Greenpeace: although I like much of the work they do, it has always seemed to me that they are more interested in headlines than the slogging work it takes to promote sustainability. But they had a great idea a few days ago: commission the respected private corporate consulting firm ICF, which no one would ever condemn as a bunch of tree-huggers, to analyze the stimulus proposals for greenhouse gas impacts. In particular, analyze the transp...

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Quote of the Day

"We have long suspected that the new administration would stress environmental enforcement activities at a faster clip than the last administration, and I think we're seeing that," said Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, which represents utilities. The quote referred to DOJ's filing of an enforcement action involving new source standards....

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Sweet and Sour Pork

Like any good observant lapsed Jew, I'm always on the lookout for tasty pork. But as Jonathan discussed on this blog, the highway pork in the stimulus bill is looking most unsavory -- especially relative to the sweeter meats of public transit funding. No doubt, money for public transit agencies would go a long way toward creating jobs: orders for new buses and rail cars alone would create solid manufacturing jobs domestically. But for those hoping to see big capital p...

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New Federal Nanotechnology Bill Takes Small Steps Towards Addressing the Environmental and Health Implications of Nanotechnology

The House Science and Technology Committee recently introduced H.R. 554, National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2009.  The Committee hailed the bill, which is virtually identical to last session's H.R. 5750, as serving to "strengthen and provide transparency to the federal research effort to understand the potential environmental, health, and safety risks of nanotechnology." It is true that the bill does include limited steps meant to address environmental...

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