Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Biofuels mandate: a renewable road to ruin

“A decade ago, the U.S. mandated the use of vegetable oil in biofuels, leading to industrial-scale deforestation — and a huge spike in carbon emissions.” A New York Times/ProPublica investigation by Abrahm Lustgarten. Excerpt:

In the mid-2000s, Western nations, led by the United States, began drafting environmental laws that encouraged the use of vegetable oil in fuels — an ambitious move to reduce carbon dioxide and curb global warming. But these laws were drawn up based on an incomplete accounting of the true environmental costs. Despite warnings that the policies could have the opposite of their intended effect, they were implemented anyway, producing what now appears to be a calamity with global consequences.

The tropical rain forests of Indonesia, and in particular the peatland regions of Borneo, have large amounts of carbon trapped within their trees and soil. Slashing and burning the existing forests to make way for oil-palm cultivation had a perverse effect: It released more carbon. A lot more carbon.

Environment roundup

State AGs for hire on environmental activism

My new Cato post looks at a low-profile program in which a nonprofit backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg places lawyers in state attorney generals’ offices, paying their keep, on the condition that they pursue environmental causes. We know much about this and other AG entanglements thanks to two reports by Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) based on public records requests that had been strenuously resisted by the state AGs. (CEI was itself the target of a notorious subpoena engineered by AG offices.) The New York Post also takes a critical view of the program.

Environment roundup

Environment roundup

Environment roundup

  • End of the road at last for Steven Donziger, impresario of Chevron/Ecuador litigation? [Joe Nocera, Bloomberg]
  • Building expensive housing improves housing availability at every income level [Sonja Trauss, Market Urbanism Report]
  • “Ms. Durst did what any law-abiding citizen would do: She demolished the structure and tossed the twigs, moss and shells into the woods…. The fairy house wasn’t up to code.” [Ellen Byron, WSJ, courtesy Regulatory Transparency Project]
  • Last month’s judicial rejection of NYC climate suit came after plenty of foreshadowing [Daniel Fisher (“persuasive authorities” were two overturned court decisions); New York Daily News and New York Post editorials]
  • Ban on smoking in public housing reflects truism that unless you own property, your home isn’t really your castle [Shane Ferro, Above the Law]
  • Obama-era Waters of the U.S. regulations are a power grab asserting EPA control over farmers’ ditches, seasonal moist depressions, and watering holes; one federal court has now reinstated the rules, but the issue is headed to SCOTUS and Congress in any case ought to kill them [Jonathan Adler; Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News; earlier]

Environment roundup

  • “San Francisco Bans Straws, Cocktail Swords” [Christian Britschgi; more (funny memes proliferate)]
  • Sharper distinction between legal treatment of “threatened” and “endangered” species would help species recovery efforts and line up with Congress’s intent [Jonathan Wood, PERC Reports]
  • “It’s really interesting to me that the conversation around vegetarianism and the environment is so strongly centered on an assumption that every place in the world is on the limited land/surplus water plan.” [Sarah Taber Twitter thread]
  • New podcast from Cato’s Libertarianism.org on eminent domain and civil forfeiture, with Tess Terrible and Trevor Burrus. More/background at Cato Daily Podcast;
  • “OMG cellphone cancer coverup” piece in Guardian’s Observer “strewn with rudimentary errors and dubious inferences” [David Robert Grimes; David Gorski, Science-Based Medicine corrects piece by same authors, Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie, that ran in The Nation]
  • Oh, that pro bono: despite talk of donated time, trial lawyers stand to gain 20% of proceeds should Boulder climate suit reach payday [John O’Brien, Legal NewsLine, earlier]

“Judge Throws Out New York Climate Lawsuit”

“Judge John F. Keenan of United States District Court for the Southern District of New York wrote that climate change must be addressed by the executive branch and Congress, not by the courts. While climate change ‘is a fact of life,’ Judge Keenan wrote, ‘the serious problems caused thereby are not for the judiciary to ameliorate. Global warming and solutions thereto must be addressed by the two other branches of government.'” Not only was Mayor De Blasio’s widely publicized suit pre-empted by the Clean Air Act, but demands for transnational change are the province of U.S. foreign policy rather than courts [John Schwartz, New York Times] Less than a month ago federal judge William Alsup threw out climate suits by San Francisco and Oakland. Suits of this sort, based on theories of public nuisance law, “have generally been considered long shots.”

I wish some people who ought to know better would stop trying to dress up this sort of legal action as somehow in the historical mainstream of Hayekian common law vindication of private rights. It isn’t, not by a long stretch. It’s an exercise in attempted legislation through the courts.

Environment roundup

  • California state agency in charge of Prop 65 enforcement seeks to effectively reverse judge’s recent ruling and exempt naturally occurring acrylamide levels in coffee from need for warning [Cal Biz Lit] Prop 65 listing mechanism requires listing of substances designated by a strictly private organization, spot the problem with that [WLF brief in Monsanto Co. v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment]
  • Yes, those proposals to ban plastic straws are a test run for broader plastic prohibitions [Christian Britschgi, Honolulu Star-Advertiser] Impact on disabled users, for whom metal, bamboo, and paper substitutes often don’t work as well [Allison Shoemaker, The Takeout] Surprising facts about fishing nets [Adam Minter, Bloomberg, earlier]
  • “A closely watched climate case is dismissed; Will the others survive?” [Daniel Fisher on dismissal of San Francisco, Oakland cases] Rhode Island files first state lawsuit, cheered by mass tort veteran Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) [Spencer Walrath/Energy in Depth, Mike Bastasch/Daily Caller]
  • Meanwhile back in Colorado: Denver Post, Gale Norton, other voices criticize Boulder, other municipal climate suits [Rebecca Simons, Energy in Depth, earlier here and here]
  • Waters of the United States: time to repeal and replace this unconstitutional rule [Jonathan Wood, The Hill, earlier on WOTUS]
  • “What you’re talking about is law enforcement for hire”: at least nine state AG offices “are looking to hire privately funded lawyers to work on environmental litigation through a foundation founded by” nationally ambitious billionaire and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg [Mike Bastasch]

Judge Alsup rules against Oakland, San Francisco climate suits

“A federal court in California dismissed climate change lawsuits by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland against five oil companies, saying the complaints required foreign and domestic policy decisions that were outside its purview.” [Reuters; opinion in Oakland v. BP] Judge William Alsup of the federal district court in San Francisco had gathered extensive evidence before granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

Andrew Grossman has a thread (courtesy ThreadReaderApp) quoting high points from the ruling, including the “breathtaking” scope of plaintiffs’ theory (“It would reach the sale of fossil fuels anywhere in the world”), the circumstance that all of us, as distinct from some defendant class only, have benefited from the use of energy, the suitability of the problem for a legislative or international solution rather than judicial invention of new law, and the flagship status of the case (The San Francisco and Oakland suits were the most high-profile so far, and Judge Alsup is well known and respected).

More: Tristan R. Brown, Real Clear Energy; Federalist Society written debate on climate change as mass tort, with Dan Lungren, Donald Kochan, Pat Parenteau, and Rick Faulk; earlier here, here, here, here, here, here, and generally]