Monthly Archives: April 2008

What Economic Models Can Tell You

Nat KeohaneThis post is by Nat Keohane, Ph.D., director of economic policy and analysis at Environmental Defense Fund.

Last Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sponsored a panel discussion on the economic impact of climate change legislation. I was on the panel, along with Bob Shackleton of Congressional Budget Office, Francisco de la Chesnaye of Environmental Protection Agency, Margo Thorning of American Council for Capital Formation, and Anne Smith of CRA International.

In responding to questions about my recent study of how climate legislation will impact the economy, I made two key points:

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Corn Ethanol: Importance of Performance Standards

Robert BonnieThis post is by Robert Bonnie, Co-Director of the Land, Water and Wildlife Program at Environmental Defense Fund.

Corn FieldThe New York Times recently reported that thousands of farmers are dropping out of the federal government’s Conservation Reserve Program. The prices for corn and other crops are so high that conservation subsidies can’t compete with what farmers can make by planting the land. One reason for the high prices is the ethanol mandate in the energy bill Congress passed last year.

Shifts in land use from diverting food-producing land to grow crops for energy – called "indirect land-use change" – can potentially negate the environmental benefits of corn ethanol. There is still much debate on how to measure it, but no question it’s important to consider. One recent study published in Science (Searchinger et. al.) found that using croplands for biofuels causes a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions relative to gasoline when indirect land use change is taken into account.

Unintended consequences such as these highlight the danger of mandating a specific clean energy technology, and the importance of relying on performance standards instead.

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Why the Farm Bill Matters for Global Warming

Britt LundgrenThis post is by Britt Lundgren, an agricultural policy specialist at Environmental Defense Fund.

You may have heard about the gridlock over the 2008 Farm Bill, which was supposed to have been signed into law already, but hasn’t yet. Versions of the bill have passed both the House and the Senate. Now the bill is "in conference" to resolve differences over new spending and offsets to pay for the bill.

It’s unclear whether the conference will produce a bill that the President will sign. The President has repeatedly threatened a veto, saying he wants more reform of our antiquated system of crop subsidies (a point on which we strongly concur – see my guest post on Grist).

Still, there is much we stand to lose if Congress and the President can’t agree on a good a new Farm Bill. The 2008 bill includes significant new funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s voluntary conservation incentives programs and renewable energy programs.

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Noon Today: Talk with President Fred Krupp on washingtonpost.com

Sheryl CanterThis post is by Sheryl Canter, an online writer and editorial manager at Environmental Defense Fund.

Today, at noon Eastern Time, Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp will participate in a live online discussion on the Washington Post Web site.

The discussion, on Fred’s new book Earth: The Sequel, will last for one hour. You can go to the site before the discussion starts to read about the book and submit questions or comments.

If you participate, tell us how it went!

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Are We Ready for Climate Change’s Health Impacts?

Catherine MalinaThis post is by Catherine Malina, an associate in the Health Sciences Program at Environmental Defense Fund and a survey interviewer for the "Are We Ready?" report.

Environmental Defense Fund released a new report [PDF] today on the U.S. public health system’s state of preparedness for global climate change. It’s based on a survey of local health department directors from across the country. I was one of the survey interviewers.

Is our nation ready to address the public health challenges of a warming planet? Our survey found there’s much work still to be done.

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What Will it Cost to Protect Ourselves from Global Warming?

Nat KeohaneThis post is by Nat Keohane, Ph.D., Director of Economic Policy and Analysis at Environmental Defense Fund.

We just released a new report on how climate change legislation will impact the economy [PDF]. There have been many recent cost estimates, but ours provides something unique. To put the numbers in perspective, we looked at model projections in the context of government data on jobs, consumer expenditures, electricity consumption, and so on.

The models – all from highly respected, independent sources – don’t agree on much. But they do agree on one thing: the overall impact on the economy will be very small. ¬†All the models project that, over the next twenty years, the cost of climate policy will be just a few months of economic growth.

The good news coming out of this study is that we can afford ambitious cuts in global warming pollution.

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Posted in Economics / Read 11 Responses