Friday, August 31, 2012

The SO2 Allowance Trading System: The Ironic History of a Grand Policy Experiment

Two decades have passed since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 launched a grand experiment in market-based environmental policy: the SO2 cap-and-trade system. That system performed well but created four striking ironies. First, by creating this system to reduce SO2 emissions to curb acid rain, the government did the right thing for the wrong reason. Second, a substantial source of this system’s cost-effectiveness was an unanticipated consequence of earlier railroad deregulation. Third, it is ironic that cap-and-trade has come to be demonized by conservative politicians in recent years, since this market-based, cost-effective policy innovation was initially championed and implemented by Republican administrations. Fourth, court decisions and subsequent regulatory responses have led to the collapse of the SO2 market, demonstrating that what the government gives, the government can take away.
Beginning in 1995 and over the subsequent decade, the SO2 allowance-trading program performed exceptionally well along all relevant dimensions. (Early assessments of the system’s design and performance were provided by Schmalensee et al 1998 and Stavins 1998.) The program was environmentally effective, with SO2 emissions from electric power plants decreasing 36 percent – from 15.9 million to 10.2 million tons – between 1990 and 2004 (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2011b), even though electricity generation from coal-fired power plants increased 25 percent over the same period (U.S. Energy Information Administration 2011). The program’s long-term goal of reducing annual nationwide utility emissions to 8.95 million tons was achieved in 2007, and by 2010 emissions had declined further, to 5.1 million tons. Overall, the program delivered emissions reductions more quickly than expected, as utilities took advantage of the possibility of banking allowances. With its $2,000/ton statutory fine for any emissions exceeding allowance holdings (and continuous emissions monitoring), compliance was nearly 100 percent.

The costs of achieving these environmental objectives with cap-and-trade were significantly less than they would have been with a command-and-control regulatory approach. Cost savings were at least 15 percent and perhaps as much as 90 percent, compared with counterfactual policies that specified the means of regulation in various ways and for various portions of the program’s regulatory period (Carlson et al. 2000; Ellerman et al. 2000; Keohane 2003). In addition to static cost effectiveness, there is evidence that the program brought down abatement costs over time by providing incentives for innovation in equipment and operating procedures that are generally much stronger than those provided by traditional command-and-control regulation (Ellerman et al 2000, pp. 235-48; Popp 2003; Bellas and Lange 2011).

While the program was less costly than a conventional approach, the costs may not have been as low as they could have been. Marginal abatement costs varied significantly across facilities, at least in the program’s first two years (Carlson et al. 2000). On the other hand, there is evidence that the intertemporal allocation of abatement cost (via allowance banking) was at least approximately efficient (Ellerman and Montero 2007), and the pattern of voluntary compliance was consistent with cost-effective compliance strategies (Montero 1999).

The following factors may have kept costs above the theoretical minimum, though the influence of each has been debated: (1) provisions in the CAAA that encouraged early use of flue-gas desulfurization (using devices called “scrubbers”) instead of switching to low-sulfur coal – in an effort to limit impacts on high-sulfur coal producers (Ellerman et al 2000, pp. 301-2); (2) lack of information about marginal abatement costs on the part of market participants, particularly in the early years; (3) state regulation that, particularly in the early years of the program, had the effect of distorting or constraining utilities’ responses to federal environmental regulation (Arimura 2002; Bohi and Burtraw 1992; Ellerman et al 2000, pp. 190-5); (4) interactions between the SO2 program and other federal regulations, such as New Source Review and New Source Performance Standards, which constrained the program’s operation; and (5) policy uncertainty when regulators and policy makers subsequently considered further reductions in the national SO2 cap.
Whereas some studies at the time of the program’s enactment predicted that its benefits would be approximately equal to its costs (Portney 1990), more recent estimates have pegged annual benefits at between $59 and $116 billion, compared with annual costs of $0.5 to 2 billion.  More than 95 percent of these benefits are associated not with ecological impacts (including acidification of aquatic ecosystems), however, but with human health impacts of reduced levels of airborne fine sulfate particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) derived from SO2 emissions. Epidemiological evidence of the harmful human health effects of these fine particulates mounted rapidly in the decade after the CAAA was enacted (Chestnut and Mills 2005).

Estimates of these health benefits vary widely, but they appear to be on the order of $50 billion to more than $100 billion per year (Burtraw et al. 1998; Burtraw 1999; Chestnut and Mills 2005; National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program 2005; Shadbegian, Gray, and Morgan 2005; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2011a). As Table 1 shows, strict ecosystem benefits are probably considerably less than program costs, though at least one study (Banzhaf et al 2006) suggests that ecosystem benefits alone have exceeded program costs. In any case, estimated human health benefits of the program have exceeded annual costs by a factor of more than fifty! The government did what turned out to be the right thing for the wrong reason.

Verdantix Says The US Market For Energy And Environment Technology Services Will Reach $2.5 Billion In 2015

By 2015, large firms in the US market will spend $2.5 billion annually on technology consulting and systems integration relating to their energy, environment and sustainability initiatives, according to a new report from independent analyst firm Verdantix. The forecasted level of investment reflects a 47% increase from spending of $1.7 billion in 2012 and a compound annual growth rate of 11% over the 2011 to 2015 period. This compares with a total US market size for all energy, environment and sustainability spending of $39.8 billion in 2012 making technology services 4% of the total market.

“Power utilities will account for a whopping 47% of US private sector spend on energy and environment technology services in 2012” commented Stuart Neumann, Verdantix Senior Manager and author of the report.  “This reflects the growth in smart grid technology services spend which will reach $503 million in 2012 and the boom in smart meter projects represents $385 million of spend. The $4 billion in US stimulus funds targeted at smart meters has been a key driver. Other growth factors revealed in our analysis include a big push by oil and gas firms to strengthen their environmental management systems, an ongoing focus on energy and carbon data management and data-driven facilities energy efficiency. The roll out of large solar parks and utility-scale wind farms is also creating new IT systems requirements.”

The Verdantix report ‘US Sustainable Technology Services Spend 2011-15’, covers spend by 1,833 firms across 11 different energy, environment and sustainability initiatives. Spending on technology services related to six energy management initiatives dominate the market opportunity representing $1.4 billion of the $1.7 billion total in 2012. Technology services in the environmental management and water stewardship market segments will be worth $218 million in 2012. Strong environmental technology services practices such as Deloitte, ERM, Fujitsu Services and Mahindra Satyam will benefit from this spending. The embryonic market for sustainability technology services – covering climate change, sustainability performance management and low carbon transport – captures just $151 million of corporate IT spending in 2012.

“The size and growth rate of the US market for energy, environment and sustainability technology services is sufficient to generate interest from all major technology services firms” commented David Metcalfe, Verdantix CEO. “The problem is that few IT services firms are making money in this market. The opportunities are fragmented across eleven different categories making market entry problematic. And growth rates for supposedly ‘hot topics’ like water stewardship are just 10% per annum over the 2011 to 2015 period. Headline issues like climate change risk management systems will garner just $30 million in spend in 2012 – less than a medium-sized IT outsourcing deal. Only suppliers with a strong market position in sectors like utilities or oil and gas are making a decent profit. New entrants need smarter strategies.”

Portland's Solar Powered Loo Named Finalist in Canadian "Best Restroom" Contest

In March 2012, Cintas Canada Ltd kicked off their third annual restroom contest, asking for nominations of [non-residential washrooms accessible to the general public] that are designed, or customized to integrate function with fashion, bring personality into a space where you least expect to see it, and offer a clean, well-maintained and tastefully designed restroom. The contest recognizes establishments that place high value on hygiene and style in their public toilets.  Qualifying facilities were then judged and finalists were selected based on cleanliness, visual appeal, innovation, functionality, and unique design elements.
Langley Street Loo
On August 14th, Cintas announced the five finalists. The nominees hail from cities across Canada, including Repentigny (Qu├ębec), Toronto (Ontario), Vancouver (British Columbia), and Victoria (British Columbia).

One top contender is a Loo purchased in 2011 from the City of Portland for $90,000.  The Langley Street Loo, located in Victoria,... sports the same eco-friendly and open design that Portlanders have come to know with our Loos.  The loos’ layout offers the optimal balance of personal privacy and public access.  The stainless steel facility features a graffiti proof coating and combines a unisex toilet and an exterior hand washing station. The Langley Street Loo is the only loo in the running that is powered entirely by solar powered LED lighting fixtures and meets the Americans with Disabilities Act standards for accessible design).

Through October 12, 2012, Cintas is inviting both Canadian and Americans to vote for their top pick at The contest’s website will take visitors on a photographic tour of each of the finalists’ facility and allow them to vote for their favorite restroom.
According to the August 29, 2012 Los Angeles Times (
The solar-powered, 6-by-101/2 -foot street-corner cabin, ingeniously stripped of much of its plumbing and privacy, has been installed at six locations around Portland, from the city's dodgiest centers for the homeless to an upscale waterfront where stay-at-home moms take their children to play.

So well has it eased into the urban landscape that Portland is looking to build and market Loos across the continent, hoping the profits will allow for the construction and maintenance of more at home. San Diego, Vancouver, Houston, Baltimore and Seattle all have expressed interest. The first official export was installed in Victoria, British Columbia, in November.
They are not self-cleaning, but are made of prison-grade steel with plumbing so basic that they are almost impossible to damage, and a twice-a-day check by maintenance staff seems to keep them in good working order.  The only water faucet is on the outside, making customers less likely to linger for hair-washing or laundry.
The project was the brainchild of [Randy] Leonard, who watched several years ago as former Mayor Tom Potter championed the idea of spending $200,000 a year to keep a restroom in City Hall open overnight to service the city's homeless.  The problem, as Leonard saw it, was that most of the homeless hung out in Old Town, a mile away. Who, he wondered, was going to walk two miles round-trip to use the bathroom?  Leonard sat down at a table with the city's Central Precinct police captain and a community activist from what would become the citizens group PHLUSH, or Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human. They pored over designs from other cities, especially in Europe, and architectural designer Curtis Banger came up with a peekaboo toilet powered by two solar panels on the roof and with graffiti-washable panels. The cost: $60,000 to install plus $1,200 a month to maintain....
The first installation was completed in December 2008
An April 14, 2012 Associated Press story by Steven DuBois ( noted that 

Big cities from New York to San Francisco have bought high-tech, self-cleaning automatic toilets, with mixed results. In one high-profile failure, Seattle installed five such toilets in 2004 - at a cost of $5 million - only to sell them on eBay four years later because of problems with drug use and prostitution.

Meanwhile, the much cheaper Portland Loo maintains a Facebook page and has ... followers on Twitter. The five downtown toilets average about 200 flushes each per day. And, unlike toilets in other cities, have not drawn a torrent of criticism about foul smells and rampant crime.  Now Portland is trying to sell its patented loo to other cities. The city has sold one to Victoria, British Columbia, and now hopes contracting with agents who make a commission will generate more sales.  "We can ship them to somebody for $99,000 and all they have to do is bolt them on to their sidewalk and hook them up to sewer and water," said City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who originated the idea for the loo after Portland had its own publicized failure with public bathrooms.

The solar-powered Portland Loo costs about $60,000 to manufacture and the annual maintenance has run $12,000 apiece. The drab, durable structures stand 10-feet tall and have open slots that expose a standing person's head and feet, allowing police to check for lawbreakers. The metallic-gray finish is resistant to graffiti. The toilet itself is prison-grade and there is no sink to break. A tiny faucet for hand-washing is outside and a worker cleans the loos twice a day.

The toilets were designed with the assumption that people would try to ruin them. Vandals have busted the locks and the flush button, but even the first loo installed in 2008 remains in pretty good shape.

"The whole idea behind it was to design it not as this beautiful, aesthetic piece of work and then be aghast if somebody did something bad to it," Leonard said. "We designed it anticipating all of that."

The cities of San Diego and Anchorage, Alaska, have expressed interest in buying the loo.
To help generate sales that would defray maintenance costs, the Portland council voted this week to allow three contractors to market the toilet: Curtis Banger, who provided design services for the loo; Madden Fabrication, which manufactures the loo; and Carol McCreary, founder of the Portland advocacy group PHLUSH - Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human.  All are eligible to receive 10 percent of the sales price as a commission.

To learn more about the Portland Loos, visit For information on the sale of the Loo to Victoria, click here.
Separately, on August 14, 2012 Bill Gates Named Winners of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge "an effort to develop "next-generation" toilets that will deliver safe and sustainable sanitation to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don't have it." The awards recognize researchers from leading universities who are developing innovative ways to manage human waste, which will help improve the health and lives of people around the world.
Unsafe methods to capture and treat human waste result in serious health problems and death. Food and water tainted with fecal matter result in 1.5 million child deaths every year. Most of these deaths could be prevented with the introduction of proper sanitation, along with safe drinking water and improved hygiene.

Improving access to sanitation can also bring substantial economic benefits. According to the World Health Organization, improved sanitation delivers up to $9 in social and economic benefits for every $1 invested because it increases productivity, reduces healthcare costs, and prevents illness, disability, and early death.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Identifying a Cost-Effective Aviation Fleet for the U.S. Forest Service

This brief provides an overview of a RAND study to support the U.S. Forest Service in determining the composition of a fleet of airtankers, scoopers, and helicopters that would minimize the total social costs of wildfires.

The Rand research team developed two separate but complementary models to estimate the optimal cost-minimizing portfolio of initial attack aircraft—that is, aircraft that support on-the-ground firefighters in containing potentially costly fires while they are still small.

The National Model compares different prospective portfolios of aircraft against simulated fire seasons comprising historical wildfires in the United States between 1999 and 2008, showing how outcomes might have differed with more or fewer available aircraft. One important limitation of the National Model is that it assumes that a uniform level of local firefighting resources, such as ground crews, bulldozers, and fire engines, is available to fight every fire.

The baseline National Model simulation suggests that a fleet of five 3,000-gallon airtankers and 43 1,600-gallon scoopers would minimize total social costs, using the assumption that water is half as effective as retardant.

Because the model approaches aircraft allocation on a national level and the number of airtankers is small (five), it exaggerates the capabilities of airtankers to quickly deploy anywhere in the United States. To counter this shortcoming, the research team created a restricted variant of the model with zones correlating to Forest Service Geographic Area Coordinating Centers, making the airtanker’s assumed 45-minute average mission time more realistic. In this restricted variant, the optimal fleet is composed of eight 3,000-gallon airtankers and 48 1,600-gallon scoopers. An additional shortcoming of the National Model is that it does not permit three-way comparisons of airtankers, scoopers, and helicopters, so the model’s results exclude helicopters. The RAND Local Resources Model addresses this limitation.
The Local Resources Model uses realistic estimates of the local firefighting capabilities available to fight each fire when estimating the appropriate aircraft fleet size and mix. Specifically, it uses data on the fire season and ground resources, and it relies on estimates of containment outcomes generated by the Fire Program Analysis (FPA) system, a Forest Service system designed to facilitate resource allocation decisions. The Local Resources Model also allows the costs of large fires to vary by location and fire condition (e.g., large fires near urban areas are more costly).

The Local Resources Model suggests an optimal initial attack fleet composed of one 3,000-gallon airtanker, two 2,700-gallon helicopters, and 15 1,600-gallon scoopers.

An important limitation of the FPA system and, hence, the Local Resources Model is that it attributes as much efficacy to a gallon of water dropped from a scooper as to a gallon of retardant dropped from an airtanker. However, the National Model suggests that even when the efficacy of water relative to retardant is degraded to just 20 percent—or even 5 percent—the optimal fleet mix remains dominated by scoopers. Thus, the FPA system’s assumption that water and retardant are equivalent does not explain the models’ consensus that the optimal Forest Service fleet is scooper-dominated.
by Edward G. Keating, Andrew R. Morral, Carter C. Price, Dulani Woods, Daniel M. Norton, Christina Panis, Evan Saltzman, and Ricardo Sanchez, 
MG-1234-USDAFS, 2012, 140 pp. $29.95, ISBN: 978-0-8330-7677-9 (available at
The Rand Corporation RAND Homeland Security and Defense Center

Report: Fossil Fuel Subsidies Hurting Global Economic Growth
Ending fossil fuel subsidies would save governments nearly $1 trillion while also improving environment and economic conditions worldwide, according to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental and social advocacy groups.

At a press conference at the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, NRDC international climate policy director Jake Schmidt made the following statement:
The only beneficiaries of fossil fuel subsidies are oil, gas and coal companies that are raking in record profits at the expense of the rest of us.  Instead of subsidizing well-established corporations that destroy our planet, governments ought to be doing more to help support and develop more clean, renewable energy that can actually help our planet, reduce our energy consumption and revive our economies.”
Based on government data from around the world, the new report finds that ending fossil fuel subsidies would:
  • Save governments and taxpayers $775 billion each year.
  • Reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 6 percent by 2020.
  • Reduce global energy demand by 5 percent by 2020.
  • Not hurt the poor (if the right policies are adopted) since the vast majority of subsidies mainly benefit only the richest segments of the population.
NRDC created the report with partners Oil Change International, Vasudha Foundation (India) and Greenovation Hub (China) and Heinich Boll Stiftung (Germany).

To read the report in its entirety, see
For a fact sheet on fossil fuel subsidies, see
And for more, see:
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Press Release dated  June 18, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Knowledge is (Less) Power: Experimental Evidence from Residential Energy Use

Abstract: This paper presents experimental evidence that information feedback dramatically increases the price elasticity of demand in a setting where signals about quantity consumed are traditionally coarse and infrequent. In a randomized controlled trial, residential electricity customers are exposed to price increases, with some households also receiving displays that transmit high-frequency information about usage and prices. This substantially lowers information acquisition costs and allows us to identify the marginal information effect. Households only experiencing price increases reduce demand by 0 to 7 percent whereas those also exposed to information feedback exhibit a usage reduction of 8 to 22 percent, depending on the amount of advance notice. The differential response across treatments is significant and robust to the awareness of price changes. Conservation extends beyond the treatment window, providing evidence of habit formation, spillovers, and greenhouse gas abatement. Results suggest that information about the quantity consumed facilitates learning, which likely drives the treatment differential.

by Katrina Jessoe, David Rapson
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
NBER Working Paper No. 18344; Issued in August 2012

Study: Smart Roofs Could Transform California Energy and Water Use - Green and Cool roofs will save money, reduce emissions, and relieve stress on limited water supplies
Installing green roofs and cool roofs in southern California could save consumers more than $211 million in energy bills and reduce emissions equivalent to removing 91,000 cars from the road each year, according to a new study from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA School of Law. Installing green roofs will additionally reduce stormwater runoff that pollutes our beaches.

“Southern California is facing a complex, and mostly worsening, set of sustainability challenges but solutions exist,” said Noah Garrison, project attorney for NRDC’s water program. “Green roofs and cool roofs are a solution that can be implemented today.  Taking simple steps like installing drought resistant plants on a roof surface or painting roofs to reflect the sun’s energy can dramatically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and, for green roofs, reduce the amount of pollution that flows to our rivers and beaches.”

According to the report, “Looking Up: How Green Roofs and Cool Roofs Can Reduce Energy Use, Address Climate Change, and Protect Water Resources in Southern California,” if green roofs or cool roofs were installed on 50 percent of existing roof surfaces for residential, commercial, and government and public use buildings in southern California, it could save up to 1.6 million megawatt hours of electricity annually, enough energy to power more than 127,000 homes in California and save residents up to $211 million in energy costs each year based on 2012 rates.  The energy savings would cut carbon pollution by 465,000 metric tons annually.

Because green roofs absorb and evaporate rainfall, installing green roofs on 50 percent of the existing roof surfaces could reduce stormwater runoff by more than 36 billion gallons each year - enough to fill more than 54,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools - significantly reducing the volume of pollution reaching our local waters.

“The scale of these benefits is truly impressive, and justifies a much more aggressive set of policies and incentives to help advance the adoption of green roofs and cool roofs in our region,” said Cara Horowitz, the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation executive director of the Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA School of Law. “If Los Angeles and other southern California cities provided better incentives for residential and commercial building owners to install green roofs and cool roofs, we would have healthier, more sustainable neighborhoods and save money too.”

Ensuring new development projects install green and cool roofs can also provide tremendous savings.  Installing green roofs and cool roofs on 50 percent of new construction and redevelopment would save up to one million megawatt-hours per year by 2035 and $131 million in electricity costs during that time period, while cutting carbon pollution by 288,000 metric tons annually, which is the equivalent of taking more than 56,000 cars off the road each year. It would also result in a reduction of 20 billion gallons of stormwater runoff in southern California each year by 2035, significantly reducing the volume of pollution flowing to local rivers, lakes, and beaches.

Additionally, green and cool roofs can cut urban temperatures.  Cities create their own heat islands—areas where surface and ambient air temperatures are higher than in surrounding undeveloped or rural land.  The dark, paved surfaces in urban and suburban areas absorb and radiate heat back into the surrounding communities.  These increased air temperatures worsen smog and other air pollution, and can result in increased heat-related illnesses.  Installing green roofs and cool roofs across urban landscapes can help cool down neighborhoods, reducing temperatures in urban cores by as much as 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit, with air quality and human health benefits. 

“Green roofs and cool roofs make sense for southern California – we have mild winters but hot summers, and these types of roof can keep buildings and entire cities cooler, saving energy and protecting water resources in the process,” said Garrison.

Green roofs have a thin covering of soil and live plants growing on them which provide shade, insulation, and evaporative cooling that reduces temperatures on the roof surface and in the building interior below.  The temperature of a green roof can often be cooler than the surrounding ambient air, resulting in less energy needed to cool the building interior. Conversely, the temperatures on the surface of a dark, conventional roof may exceed those of ambient air by 90°F (50°C) or more on a hot, sunny day, and much of that heat transfers into the building’s interior, requiring more energy for cooling.

Cool roofs, like green roofs, use smarter materials to reduce energy demand and lower temperatures compared with traditional rooftops.  Cool roofs use reflective materials, often but not always light-colored, to reflect more of the sun’s energy than dark, traditional roofs, and to more efficiently transmit heat from the building’s interior. Compared to conventional dark roofs, the surface of a cool roof can be 50° to 60°F (28° to 33°C) cooler on a hot, sunny day.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Press Release dated June 13, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Prescription for healthier humans: More time at the park

“Parks are a part of our healthcare system,” said Daphne Miller, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. These green spaces are crucial to solving hypertension, anxiety, depression, diabetes — “the diseases of indoor living.”

But parks officials and the medical profession still need more data to take aim at the many “naysayers on the other side” who don’t believe in what landscape architects (and many urban residents) value, Miller said....

Miller was speaking at a recent conference in New York City called Greater & Greener: Reimagining Parks for 21st Century Cities. In a separate panel [(Powerpoint available at] ... Deborah Cohen, senior natural scientist at RAND, and Sarah Messiah, a research professor at the University of Miami, presented some exciting results.

... Cohen has used “systematic observations” measuring “play in communities” to determine if and how people burn calories in parks (see downloadable app). Her team of researchers visited parks and counted people in target areas every hour, three or four days a week. Cohen was particularly interested in “vigorous” physical activity such as brisk walking, jogging, or running....

She said some 50 percent of all vigorous activity occurs in parks. Unfortunately, that doesn’t say much, because “hardly anyone engages in vigorous activity anymore.” For boys, the average is two minutes a day, and for girls, just one minute a day.

To measure the impact of new parks on activity levels, Cohen did a before and after study. She watched residents in low-income, high-crime areas in Los Angeles before and then after three pocket parks were installed. These are tiny parks (less than half an acre), mainly playgrounds, which aren’t staffed. She found that for two of them, “the parks were better used than the larger parks serving larger areas.”...

Then, Cohen evaluated 12 “fitness zones”  — places in L.A. parks where the Trust for Public Land has installed outdoor exercise equipment. Of the 23,500 people who used the parks during her study, some 2,500 were in the fitness zones — two to four people each hour on average. She said these fitness zones led to “increases in moderate, vigorous activity” and were “relatively cost-effective”: At $45,000 a piece, with a 15-year lifespan, these systems offer 11 cents per metabolic equivalent of task (MET), referring to the metric for measuring the energy use of physical activities. “Anything under 50 cents per MET is worth it,” she said.

Benefits did not necessarily increase with the amount invested. When Cohen looked at the MET value of new facilities costing upwards of $1 million, she found that in one park, after the major improvements, the use actually fell from 2,000 to 1,500 people a day. The culprits? Reduced hours, cut programs, less maintenance, and a shorter baseball season....

In ... another experiment, some parks were given $4,000 to spend on signage, courses, activities, and other programming, while a “control group” didn’t receive any money. The “control” parks saw user levels fall, while the intervention parks saw increased users.
By Jared Green

Disentangling preferences and expectations in stated preference analysis with respondent uncertainty: The case of invasive species prevention

Abstract: Contingent valuation typically involves presenting the respondent with a choice to pay for a program intended to improve future outcomes, such as a program to place parcels into conservation easement, or a program to manage an invasive species. Deducing from these data the value of the good (or bad) at the core of the program – the welfare gain generated by a parcel of conserved land, for instance, or the loss incurred by a species invasion – often is not possible because respondent preferences are conflated with their expectations about future environmental outcomes in the absence of the program. This paper formally demonstrates this conundrum in the context of a standard contingent valuation survey, and examines the use of additional survey data to resolve it. The application is to the prevention of lake invasions by Eurasian Watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), an invasive aquatic plant that is present in many lakes in the northern U.S. and Canada and a possible threat to many more. Respondents are shoreline property owners on lakes without Eurasian Watermilfoil. The estimated per-property welfare loss of a lake invasion is $30,550 for one model and $23,614 for another, both of which are in reasonable agreement with estimates obtained from a recent hedonic analysis of Eurasian Watermilfoil invasions in the study area, and from a companion contingent valuation survey of shoreline property owners on already-invaded lakes.

Myriophyllum spicatum
Full-size image (19 K)

Fig. 1. Histogram of respondent expectations of future Milfoil invasion.
Full-size image (83 K)
Fig. 2. Histograms of respondents' stated probability of answering “Yes” to a bid amount for the Milfoil prevention question. (2.1) Bid amounts less than $100, (2.2) Bid amounts between $100 and $250, (2.3) Bid amounts between $251 and $500 and (2.4) Bid amounts greater than $500.
Full-size image (24 K)
Fig. 3. Estimate of average welfare gain from Milfoil prevention/control as a function of the probability threshold at which responses are coded Yes vs. No. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)
by Bill Provenchera, E-mail the corresponding author, David J. Lewisb, E-mail the corresponding author, Kathryn Andersonc, E-mail the corresponding author
 a Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 427 Lorch St., Madison, WI 53706, USA  
b Department of Economics, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, WA 98416, USA  
c Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1710 University Ave., Room 287, Madison, WI 53706, USA
Volume 64, Issue 2; September, 2012; Pages 169–182
Keywords: Stated preferences; Expectations; Respondent uncertainty; Contingent valuation; Species invasions

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) Calculates Annual Cost of Charging an iPad at $1.36

Consumers who fully charge their iPad tablet every other day can expect to pay $1.36 for the electricity needed annually to power the device, according to an assessment by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

The analysis shows that each model of the iPad consumes less than 12 kWh of elelctricity over the course of a year, based on a full charge every other day. By comparison, a plasma 42” television consumes 358 kWh of electricity a year. EPRI conducted the analysis in Knoxville, Tenn., at its power utilization laboratory. Costs may vary depending on what region that a consumer resides and the price of electricity in a particular location.
The assessment was conducted to determine the load requirements – the amount of power needed to operate the devices -- of the increasingly popular iPad. According to Apple, 67 million of the devices have been purchased worldwide.

EPRI calculations show that the average energy used by all iPads in the market is approximately 590 gigawatt hours (GWh). In a scenario where the number of iPads tripled over the next two years, the energy required would be nearly equivalent to two 250-megawatt (MW) power plants operating at a 50 percent utilization rate. A quadrupling of sales in two years would require energy generated by three 250-MW power plants.

“As information technologies continue to change rapidly we see important implications for energy consumption,” said Mark McGranaghan, vice president of Power Delivery and Utilization at EPRI. “These results raise important questions about how the shifting reliance from desktop to laptop to mobile devices will change energy use and electricity requirements for the information age. At less than a penny per charge these findings bring new meaning to the adage, ‘A penny for your thoughts.’”

McGranaghan also pointed out that changes in battery technology and technology features will affect energy requirements. “Our measurements indicate that new iPads will consume about 65 percent more electricity per year. What remains to be seen is how better batteries, better features and changing preferences will affect overall energy consumption by consumers as a whole.”
The EPRI analysis shows that the Apple iPhone 3G consumes 2.2 kWh of electricity each year, which results in a power cost of $.25 annually.
Other products that were included in the analysis were laptop PCs, which consume 72.3 kWh of electricity each year and cost consumers $8.31 and 60W CFL light bulbs which consume approximately 14 kWh of electricity and cost consumers $1.61 a year.

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
Press Release dated June 21, 2012

The impact of voluntary programs on polluting behavior: Evidence from pollution prevention programs and toxic releases

Abstract:We investigate how a class of voluntary environmental initiatives known as pollution prevention (“P2”) programs affect toxic pollution. We construct a data base of federal and state-level P2 programs and exploit variation in adoption dates and program characteristics to study their effects on facility-level releases. We find convincing evidence that these mechanisms alter polluter behavior. In particular, we find that (1) state P2 programs had a significant impact on average facility level toxic releases, reducing annual releases by 11–15%; (2) for every $100,000 of federal matching funds awarded for state P2 activities, average facility level releases in the recipient state declined on the order of 1–1.5%; (3) P2-induced reductions are significantly enhanced by information spillovers, diffused primarily via industry networks rather than geographic proximity; (4) facilities respond to technical assistance programs by reducing toxic releases, but only for substances that are not simultaneously regulated by formal command and control strategies; and (5) facilities respond to filing fees and non-reporting penalties by altering their toxic releases, but only for chemicals that are easily monitored by regulators.

a Department of Economics, Brandeis University, 415 South Street, MS 021, Waltham, MA 02454, United States 
b Brandeis University, United States
Volume 64, Issue 1, July 2012, Pages 31–44
Keywords: TRI; Information spillovers; Voluntary programs; Toxic pollution; Environmental regulation

NRDC Report: DriversTo Save $68 Billion by 2030 Under 54.5 MPG Standard

Drivers will save $68 billion in fuel costs when the Obama administration’s 54.5 miles-per-gallon standard is fully implemented in 2030, according to a report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Drivers in Texas, California and Florida will save the most in 2030 according to “Relieving Pain at the Pump.”

But motorists everywhere right now can find relief from $4-a-gallon gas prices on the showroom floor.  New 2012 models contain substantially more fuel-efficient choices as automakers begin to fulfill requirements under the administration’s original 2009 clean cars agreement to raise standards to 35.5 mpg by 2016.

“Drivers today have twice the fuel-efficient car options than just three years ago. The technology –and fuel savings-- are only going to improve thanks to even stronger efficiency standards,” said Luke Tonachel, senior vehicles analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “As consumers look to trade in older cars over time, they will have the latest in fuel saving technology available to them, putting money back in their pockets.”

The 54.5 mpg by 2025 standard, set to be finalized in August, will double today’s average level of fuel efficiency. This will save individual drivers $4400 over the life of the vehicle, after considering the cost of the fuel saving technologies. NRDC quantified savings in all states in 2030, giving the more efficient vehicles a chance to penetrate the roadways.

The top 20 states where drivers would save the most from the 54.5 mpg fuel efficiency standards are listed at the bottom of this release.

The NRDC analysis also found there are 57 fuel-efficient models available in showrooms today, rising from 27 models in 2009.  Automakers have introduced a plethora of fuel-saving features in some of the more popular, conventional gas-powered cars as a result of the 35.5 mpg standard. This gives consumers fuel-saving vehicle options in addition to buying a hybrid or electric vehicle.

“This study should put to rest any notion that drivers have to sacrifice anything for to get more miles to the gallon,” said Alan Baum, principle with Baum and Associates who contributed to the analysis.  “From pickups to SUVs to minivans to cars, automakers are squeezing more out of vehicles with conventional gasoline engines than ever before. The internal combustion engine is far from dead; it’s just going through a major makeover. ”

The report can be found online here

Luke has more details about the report in his blog here:

The top 20 states where drivers would save the most from the 54.5 mpg fuel efficiency standards are:

 1) Texas               $7.750 billion              
2)California          $7.270 billion
3)Florida:             $6.683 billion
4) New York:       $2.959 billion
5)North Carolina: $2.797 billion
6) Georgia:           $2.564 billion
7) Virginia:          $2.179 billion
8)Pennsylvania:    $2.004 billion
9)Tennessee:        $1.958 billion
10)Arizona:          $1.887 billion
11) Illinois           $1.853 billion
12) Ohio:             $1.664 billion
13) Washington:  $1.547 billion
14) Maryland       $1.529 billion
15) Michigan       $1.520 billion
16) New Jersey:   $1.452 billion
17) Alabama       $1.271 billion
18) Kentucky:     $1.207 billion
19) Missouri:      $1.207 billion
20) Minnesota    $1.162 billion

These state rankings are a net savings, reflecting the actual fuel savings at the pump and the incremental costs associated with fuel-saving technologies in the new vehicles, according to the report.

Audio from the April 19, 2012 press conference is available here: 
Natural Resources Defense Council
Press Release dated April 19, 2012

U.S General Services Administration (GSA) Implements Cost Saving Ideas, Saves Over $5 Million

On August 22, 2012, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced plans to implement five cost savings ideas that will save the agency an estimated $5.53 million. As part of its ongoing top- to-bottom review, GSA launched The Great Ideas Hunt asking its employees to share their best ideas on how to improve the performance and efficiency of the agency. 
To date, GSA received a total of 632 ideas submitted via the web from employees across the country. GSA staff then voted for their favorite submissions, registering close to twenty thousand votes online. The agency is now taking action on five of the most popular ideas, which are currently being implemented.

These include:
  • Reduce Subscriptions: A GSA employee highlighted the fact that GSA can save money by reducing the number of newspaper and magazine subscriptions and choosing online versions when possible. By doing this the GSA can save up to $630,000 agency-wide.
  • Eliminate Redundant Survey: Three suggestions were submitted urging the agency to retire a costly and redundant employee survey. It turns out that the survey costs $1 million annually and virtually all of its questions are addressed in the Office of Personnel Management Employee Viewpoint Survey, which is free. GSA has now stopped its use of the survey.
  • Create Web-based Surveys: Four GSA employees submitted an idea to replace the paper-based Public Buildings Service (PBS) Tenant Satisfaction Survey with a web-based solution instead. PBS is making this change immediately, which will save about $1.2 million annually.
  • Expand PrintWise policy: Two entries noted that setting the default printing settings to ‘double-sided’ will save money on paper and reduce GSA’s impact on the environment. As a result, GSA will roll out this policy agency-wide, and could realize a savings of $2.7 million.
  • Implement External Great Ideas: GSA received so many helpful ideas through this campaign internally, that three employees suggested the agency create an external website to allow federal partners and vendors to share ideas and feedback on how GSA can better manage our offerings.
The Great Ideas Hunt began May 31 and ended July 6. In addition to these five ideas, the agency is reviewing and researching 40 other ideas submitted through the program, and expects to implement them on a rolling basis.

U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)
August 22, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Impact on Japanese Industry of Alternative Carbon Mitigation Policies

Abstract: To address the climate change issue, developed nations have considered introducing carbon pricing mechanisms in the form of a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme (ETS). Despite the small number of programs actually in operation, these mechanisms remain under active discussion in a number of countries, including Japan. Using an input–output model of the Japanese economy, this paper analyzes the effects of carbon pricing on Japan‘s industrial sector. We also examine the impact of a rebate program of the type proposed for energy intensive trade exposed (EITE) industries in U.S. legislation, the Waxman–Markey bill (H.R. 2454), and in the European Union‘s ETS. We find that a carbon pricing scheme would impose a disproportionate burden on a limited number of sectors—namely, pig iron, crude steel (converters), cement, and other EITE industries. We also find that the determinant of the increase in total cost differs among industries, depending on the relative inputs of directly combusted fossil fuel, electricity, or steam, as well as intermediate goods. Out of 401 industries, 23 would be eligible for rebates if a Waxman–Markey type of program were adopted in Japan. Specifically, the 85 percent rebate provided to eligible industries under H.R. 2454 would significantly reduce the cost of direct and indirect fossil fuel usage. The E.U. criteria identify 120 industries eligible for rebates. However, the E.U. program only covers direct emissions while the U.S. program includes indirect emissions as well. Overall, despite the differences in coverage, we find that the Waxman–Markey and E.U. rebate programs have roughly similar impacts in reducing the average burdens on EITE industries.

by Makoto Sugino, Toshi Arimura, Richard D. Morgenstern
Resources For the Future (RFF)
RFF Discussion Paper 12-17; July, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

New Report: America Trashes Forty Percent of Food Supply Equivalent to $165 Billion withTips to Cut Food Waste from Farm to Table

Americans are throwing away 40 percent of food in the U.S., the equivalent of $165 billion in uneaten food each year, according to a new analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council. In a time of drought and skyrocketing food prices, NRDC outlines opportunities to reduce wasted food and money on the farm, in the grocery store and at home.

“As a country, we’re essentially tossing every other piece of food that crosses our path – that’s money and precious resources down the drain,” said Dana Gunders, NRDC project scientist with the food and agriculture program. “With the price of food continuing to grow, and drought jeopardizing farmers nationwide, now is the time to embrace all the tremendous untapped opportunities to get more out of our food system. We can do better.”

NRDC’s issue brief – Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm To Fork to Landfill – analyzes the latest case studies and government data on the causes and extent of food losses at every level of the U.S. food supply chain. It also provides examples and recommendations for reducing this waste. Key findings include:
  • Americans trash 40 percent of our food supply every year, valued at about $165 billion;
  • The average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food;
  • Food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills;
  • Just a 15 percent reduction in losses in the U.S. food supply would save enough food to feed 25 million Americans annually;
  • There has been a 50 percent jump in U.S. food waste since the 1970s.
The causes of losses in our food system are complex, but there are notable problem areas. At the retail level, grocery stores and other sellers are losing as much as $15 billion annually in unsold fruits and vegetables alone, with about half of the nationwide supply going uneaten. In fact, fresh produce is lost more than any other food product — including seafood, meat, grains and dairy — at nearly every stage in the supply chain. Some of this is avoidable. For instance, retailers can stop the practice of unnecessary abundance in their produce displays, which inherently leads to food spoilage.

But consumers are also a major contributor to the problem, with the majority of food losses occurring in restaurants and household kitchens. A significant reason for this is large portions, as well as uneaten leftovers. Today, portion sizes are two to eight times larger than the government’s standard serving sizes.

Wasted food also translates into wasted natural resources, because of the energy, water and farmland necessary to grow, transport, and store food.  About half of all land in the U.S. goes to agriculture; some 25 percent of all the freshwater consumed in this country, along with 4 percent of the oil, goes into producing food that is never eaten. Moreover, uneaten food accounts for 23 percent of all methane emissions in the U.S. - a potent climate change pollutant.

Increasing the efficiency of our food system is a triple-bottom-line solution that requires collaborative efforts by businesses, governments and consumers. Specifically:
  • The U.S. government should conduct a comprehensive study of losses in our food system and set national goals for waste reduction. This may require steps such as clarifying date labels on food, encouraging food recovery, and improving public awareness about ways to waste less. State and local governments can also lead by setting similar targets.
  • Businesses should seize opportunities to streamline their own operations, reduce food losses and save money. The Stop and Shop grocery chain is already doing this successfully, saving an estimated $100 million annually after an analysis of freshness, loss, and customer satisfaction in their perishables department. Others should follow suit.
  • Consumers can waste less food by shopping wisely, knowing when food goes bad, buying produce that is perfectly edible even if it’s less cosmetically attractive, cooking only the amount of food they need, and eating their leftovers.
Europe is leading the way in reducing food waste. In January 2012, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to reduce food waste 50 percent by 2020, and designated 2014 as the “European year against food waste.” In the U.K., an extensive five-year public awareness campaign called “Love Food Hate Waste” has contributed to an 18 percent reduction in avoidable food waste. And 53 of the leading U.K. food retailers and brands have adopted waste reduction resolutions.

“No matter how sustainably our food is farmed, if it’s not being eaten, it is not a good use of resources,” said Gunders. “Fortunately, there are ways to tackle the food waste problem, and everyone can play a role.”
For more information:
April Fulton of National Public Radio (NPR) listed five things people are doing about the problem at
  1. Coffee Could Be Fuel Times Two: Researchers are teaming up with Starbucks Hong Kong and a nonprofit called The Climate Group to turn used coffee grounds and wasted bakery items into fertilizer, plastics and biofuels, according to Fast Company.
  2. Gents, Start Your Bikes: Caleb Philips founded Boulder Food Rescue, a group that collects produce and packaged goods that grocery stores consider no longer "sellable" and bikes them to shelters, housing projects and at-risk community outlets. Since September 2011, BFR has rescued more than 128,000 pounds of nutritious food and transported most of that to feed those in need, according to NPR's Participation Nation blog.
  3. There's An App For That: Students at Arizona State University are developing a mobile phone app called FlashFood designed to connect restaurants with excess food to community groups in need, according to the blog EarthTechling. And Love Food Hate Waste is a free app for iPhone and Android that offers hints, tips and recipe ideas to keep home cooks from trashing those squishy tomatoes too soon.
  4. Follow That Squash: NPR's Pam Fessler recently brought us this piece on how Wal-Mart and Feeding America have teamed up to get fresh but slightly imperfect fresh foods to the needy. And it's got some pretty cool graphics, too, where you can follow an ear of corn and some yellow squash from farm to table.
  5. Do I Hear $100? Stay tuned tomorrow for a piece right here and on All Things Considered about how grocery stores are unloading food at auction that is discontinued, seasonal or near its expiration date, from
 The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, their lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Follow them on Twitter @NRDC.
Press Release dated August 21, 2012