Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Air Resources Board is poised to make a bad decision... help them see the light!

© 2010 Joshua Stark

Contact the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and tell them to vote down the current cap & trade proposal before them tomorrow. 

I haven't written on cap & trade in quite a while, but here's a quick run-down of my views: 

1)  Carbon pricing must be collected by the government - giving away carbon 'credits' is tantamount to allowing companies to tax consumers for the companies' pollution;

2)  Carbon offsets are too costly to monitor and too easy to get around - if you don't trust that California can pay for adequate monitoring of its carbon offset projects, do you really believe Brazil or Chiapas can?;

3)  Cap & trade can work, but only if it is fairly expensive, and only if the revenues are given back mostly to the people via a direct rebate, and the rest only used to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

(If you are interested in my more extensive writings on the topic, click here, here, here, and/or here.)

Keeping in mind that there is no such thing as a "carbon market" - it isn't a good or service with any consumption value, and any scarcity of carbon will be contrived by the government - it is easy to remember that any attempt to put a price on carbon emissions will be a tax of some sort.  This is not bad!  Taxes are not always bad!  However, they are bad if they are allowed to be collected by private parties, and the latest proposal, by giving away carbon credits to the companies and industries that pollute the most, will do exactly that. 

In addition, the forest rules in the latest proposal will most likely provide incentives for timber companies to clear-cut, and they will definitely subsidize wood products in California, with the subsidies, again, being paid by consumers directly to the companies that pollute the most (those getting the free credits).  Look for California oil companies to start buying a lot more wooden chairs and tables than you'd think they'd need.  Also look out for giant chair bonfires at your local refinery...

This is a bad proposal, and its complexity makes it ripe for gaming.  It is also probably going to be so cheap that it will do very little to curb actual carbon emissions, with the result being a nominal tax on consumers given directly to polluting companies.  What an interesting way to save our planet!

For more information, start with this article at California Watch; to contact CARB about the cap & trade proposal, click here.

A voice for High Country News

© 2010 Joshua Stark

If you live in the Western United States, then you must subscribe to High Country News.  If you romanticize the West for its grand expanses and wildness, then you, too, should be a subscriber to HCN.

If you've never heard of High Country News, check out their website.  They are a great paper,  with thorough expose's on any number of issues impacting the Western U.S., & with some excellent commentary, to boot.

This morning, for example, I read an opinion piece by Ben Long, a Wyoming hunter decrying the widespread acceptance of poaching wolves in his community.  After expressing his disgust with local gun rafflers alluding to poaching while marketing their raffles, he makes absolutely clear that poaching is a sick attitude that does nothing to promote hunting or the rule of law.  Mr. Long makes an especially good point about the rule of law and its value in protecting our hunting heritage and wildlife. A couple years ago, I, too, wrote a bit about the "sss" to which he refers.  I'll add to Mr. Long's piece and say that hunters, as the public face of gun owners and the power this infers, have an even greater responsibility to promote and follow the rule of law. 

If you clicked to read the HCN opinion piece, and you are not a subscriber to HCN, you cannot read the entire article.  Usually, I'm a bit miffed when that happens to me, but HCN isn't a gigantic paper with loads of pop-up ads to make up for our cheap asses.  In fact, the first thing you should notice is that the website is a .org, because they are a nonprofit organization.  They pay for their work through subscriptions (gasp!) and donations, and they do good work.

I'm not affiliated with HCN, (though I'd love it!), I just think they do good and valuable work.  If you are interested in the West, then do yourself a favor and subscribe.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

4-H does that? Great!

© 2010 Joshua Stark

Though I grew up rural, I never got into 4-H.  We didn't have land, and we were never an animal-husbandry type family.

As an adult, however, I've become very interested in the agrarian life, and how it can apply to my own condition (if you are interested in reading about my semi-urban homesteading attempts, please read my other blog, Agrarianista).  Most recently, I applied for (and I believe, subsequently did not get) a position with the Sacramento County 4-H.

I was interested in all the work they've done providing experiences to young people, and in researching today's 4-H, I was very impressed with the types of activities and roles they offer kids from pre-school through high school.  4-H focuses on getting kids to "learn by doing", a model for teaching that is dear to my heart, and also an effective pedagogy.  Today, 4-H works to get to urban youth as well as rural kids, with programs that give children the opportunity to practice environmental sciences and sleep out under the stars, as well as learn agricultural and homesteading skills.

Of course, I am especially impressed with the 4-H Shooting Sports category.  I've been interested in getting young people involved in shooting, but without the politics associated with the groups who offer such services, and 4-H offers just that:  the opportunity to teach kids how to shoot and how to interact with the outdoors (both the wild and the farmland), while giving them the breathing room to enjoy the experiences.

If you are interested in passing on your knowledge about the wild, about farming and food, about the interconnectedness of the urban, rural, and wild places, then contact your local 4-H and volunteer today.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

California okays methyl iodide

© 2010 Joshua Stark

Yesterday, the State gave the final approval to methyl iodide, despite the opposition of dozens of scientists, and more than a few legislators. 

Back in June, I posted a piece using the methyl bromide-to-iodide controversy as a great example of "internalizing externalities".  In the case of this switch, it seems ridiculous to me that we should replace one chemical because of its impacts on the ozone layer with a chemical that stays closer to home, thus raising serious cancer (and other) risks. 

As reports, State officials are reassuring the public by claiming that this fumigant will only be applied by specialists, and the soil will be covered by an impermeable tarp... must I point out how much more awful that makes the product sound?  What a way to reassure!

And this reassurance illustrates, yet again, just how we structure our ag. policies to favor huge, monocropping companies.  How many mom-&-pop small farms will be willing or able to tap strawberries when the big companies are able to increase yield/lower prices by paying for "specialists"?  The burdens to entry into the strawberry market are thus ratcheted up, leaving it safer for oligopoly. 

Again, in the wrong direction with our agriculture.