CPR Archive for Daniel Farber

Promoting Energy Innovation

by Daniel Farber | April 13, 2018

An MIT professor has a great idea for a molten metal battery that could outperform lithium batteries. Of course, like many great ideas, this one might not pan out. But even if it does pan out technically, Grist explains one reason why it might never get to the commercial stage:

Ultimately, the thing that makes lithium-ion so tough to topple is something called the "experience curve." The curve maps how, over time, in many different sectors, increases in scale lead to a reliable and predictable decrease in price. It works for solar panels and semiconductors, even contact lenses and motorcycles, and it definitely works for lithium-ion batteries, says Chris Shelton, chief technical officer at energy company AES. In other words, every time you double the volume of lithium-ion battery production, you reduce the cost by more than 15 percent.

A 2017 paper by Liscow and Karpilow explains the problem more fully. As they explain, there are two other reasons why the innovation process tends to snowball, making it harder for newer technologies to take hold. The first is that an established technology has already been the subject of a lot of research and invention, so a new inventor has a lot of ingredients needed for taking another step forward. Inventions often involve taking existing ideas and putting them together in a novel way, rather than creating something new out of whole cloth. The second ...

Climate Change in the Courts

by Daniel Farber | April 02, 2018
There are three important climate lawsuits pending in federal court. Here's the state of play and what to expect next. In the first case, Oakland and San Francisco sued leading oil companies. They claim that the companies' production and sale of fossil fuels is a public nuisance under California state law. They seek an abatement fund to pay for sea walls and other infrastructure needed to address rising sea levels. This lawsuit was originally filed in California state court, but ...

Trump, EPA, and the Anti-Regulatory State

by Daniel Farber | January 25, 2018
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a central instrument of the modern regulatory state. Whether from the perspective of environmental protection or regulatory economics, 2017 has not been a good year. Experience to date under the Trump Administration is suggestive of industry capture or reflexive ideological opposition to regulation—or both. A multitude of deregulatory actions have occurred. Unfortunately, nearly all of the traditional sources of checks on political leadership—centralized regulatory ...

The Off-Switch Is Inside the Fenceline

by Daniel Farber | December 27, 2017
The Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan would require utilities to improve efficiency at coal-fired power plants and reduce the use of those plants in favor of generators using natural gas or renewables. Head of EPA Scott Pruitt claims EPA can only require CO2 cuts that can be accomplished by utilities “inside the fenceline” of a power plant. Under his interpretation, EPA could require a utility to increase the efficiency of a coal-fired plant. But, he assumes, his interpretation would rule ...

Looking Back on Lucas

by Daniel Farber | December 11, 2017
Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Commission was the high-water mark of the Supreme Court's expansion of the takings clause, which makes it unconstitutional for the government to take private property without compensation. Lucas epitomized the late Justice Scalia's crusade to limit government regulation of property. The decision left environmentalists and regulators quaking in their boots, especially because of its possible impact on protection for wetlands and habitat for endangered species. Ultimately, however, Scalia failed to make a compelling case for ...

Foreseeable Yet Lamentable: Pruitt's Attack on Carbon Restrictions

by Daniel Farber | October 10, 2017
An earlier version of this post appeared on Legal Planet. Few things were more foreseeable than the Trump administration's repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The administration was never going to leave in place a regulation that disfavored coal and promoted the use of renewable energy in electricity generation. The only real questions were when and how. Today, the administration is taking the first step with the release of a proposed rule repealing the CPP. EPA is relying wholly ...

Under the Radar: What States Are Doing about Energy and Climate

by Daniel Farber | October 04, 2017
What happens in Washington gets a lot of attention. You probably also follow what's going on in your own state. But it's very hard to know what's happening in states across the country. In an effort to get a better sense of that, I've explored state activity on climate change and energy in a series of posts. This wasn't a fifty-state survey, or even a statistically valid random sample. But it does indicate what's happening in a range of states, ...

200 Days and Counting: Pollution and Climate Change

by Daniel Farber | August 11, 2017
Rolling back EPA regulations is one of the Trump administration's priorities. The most notable example is Obama's Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut CO2 emissions from power plants. The other rule that has gotten considerable attention is the so-called WOTUS rule, which defines federal jurisdiction to regulate wetlands and watersheds. But these are not the only rules in the crosshairs. EPA has announced plans to reconsider a rule limiting emission of toxic substances from power plants, rules dealing with ...

Slowly and Grudgingly, Change Is Coming to Coal Country

by Daniel Farber | May 30, 2017
A sign of the times: Fox News has reported, without comment, that the Kentucky Coal Museum is installing solar panels to save money. This is part of a larger trend. On Saturday, the New York Times reported on shifts in power production in states like West Virginia and Kentucky. For instance, Appalachian Power has “closed three coal-fired plants and converted two others to gas, reducing its dependence on coal to 61 percent last year, down from 74 percent in 2012.” In response to an ...

Whither WOTUS?

by Daniel Farber | May 24, 2017
President Trump ordered EPA and the Army Corps to review the Obama Administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which sets expansive bounds on federal jurisdiction over water bodies and wetlands. The agencies have sent the White House a proposal to rescind the WOTUS rule and revert to earlier rules until they can come up with a replacement. In my view, either the agencies will have to dive deep into the scientific thicket in the hope of justifying a new ...

Thinking Globally, Acting Transnationally

by Daniel Farber | May 12, 2017
The U.S. government obviously isn't going to be taking a global leadership role regarding climate change, not for the next four years. At one time, that would have been the end of the story: the only way to accomplish anything internationally was through national governments. But we live in a different world today, and there are other channels for international action against climate change. Today, transnational networks of state and local governments, private firms, and NGOs are actively addressing climate ...

Is Texas Cleaning Up Its Act?

by Daniel Farber | February 21, 2017
At a national meeting of state utility regulators, the head of the group recently said that the Clean Power Plan was basically dead, but this might not matter because "arguably, you're seeing market-based decarbonization" due to technological changes. Case in point: Texas. Market trends are pushing Republican stronghold Texas toward a cleaner grid. ERCOT, which operates nearly all of the state's grid, recently projected that in the next fifteen years, Texas will add almost 20 gigawatts of solar, equivalent to 15-20 ...

The Owls in the Vineyard

by Daniel Farber | January 19, 2017
It's smart to take precautions against climate change. More can be done, even in the Trump era. At night, you can hear the hooting of owls in the vineyard. The owners have deployed owls and falcons to control the pests that threaten the Kendall Jackson vineyards due to milder winters. But birds of prey aren't the only things flying above the vineyard. There are also drones, which are used to observe small differences in the color of the vines that ...

A Win-Win Energy Law in Illinois

by Daniel Farber | January 11, 2017
It went pretty much unheralded by the national media, but in December, Illinois adopted a major new energy law – and with strong bipartisan support. Each side had some things to celebrate. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner touted the impact of the law on utility bills. According to the governor, the law "contains a guaranteed cap that energy prices cannot increase more than 25 cents on the average residential home, and cannot increase more than 1.3 percent on commercial and industrial ...

GOP Mayor: Let's Talk About the Octopus in the Room

by Daniel Farber | December 19, 2016
Jim Cason, the GOP mayor of Coral Gables, Florida, wants us to talk about climate change: "'We're looking to a future where we're going to be underwater, a great portion of South Florida,' Cason said. 'For all of us down here, this is really not a partisan issue. We see it. We see the octopus in the room, not the elephant.'" (E&E News) An octopus in the room? It's a striking image. If you're wondering what prompted that unusual metaphor, Rob Verchick ...

The New NEPA Guidance

by Daniel Farber | August 04, 2016
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued new guidance this week on considering climate change in environmental impact statements (EIS). Here are the key points: Quantification. The guidance recommends that agencies quantify projected direct and indirect emissions, using the amount of emissions as a proxy for the eventual impact on climate change. The EIS should also discuss the impacts of climate change, referring to government reports on the subject for conclusions. A formal cost-benefit analysis is not required ...

Statutory Standing After the Spokeo Decision

by Daniel Farber | June 21, 2016
One of the recurring questions in standing law is the extent to which Congress can change the application of the standing doctrine. A recent Supreme Court opinion in a non-environmental case sheds some light – not a lot, but some – on this recurring question. The Court has made it clear that there is a constitutional core of the doctrine with three elements: a concrete injury in fact, a causal link between the injury and the defendant's conduct, and a ...

The Road to Improved Compliance

by Daniel Farber | June 09, 2016
As I wrote earlier this week, environmental enforcement is not nearly as effective as it should be. EPA and others have been working on finding creative ways of obtaining compliance, often with the help of new technology. One aspect of enforcement that has become clear is the need to focus on small, dispersed sources that may cumulatively cause major problems. EPA has focused its past efforts on the largest non-complying facilities. But EPA has found serious noncompliance in terms of ...

Also from Daniel Farber

Daniel A. Farber is the Sho Sato Professor of Law, Director of the California Center for Environmental Law and Policy, and Chair, Energy & Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley.

Promoting Energy Innovation

Farber | Apr 13, 2018 | Energy

Climate Change in the Courts

Farber | Apr 02, 2018 | Climate Change

Trump, EPA, and the Anti-Regulatory State

Farber | Jan 25, 2018 | Environmental Policy

The Off-Switch Is Inside the Fenceline

Farber | Dec 27, 2017 | Energy

Looking Back on Lucas

Farber | Dec 11, 2017 | Regulatory Policy

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