June 10, 2015 by Richard Pierce, Jr.

Now Is the Time to Implement Real-time Pricing of Electricity

Editor’s Note: This is the second of two posts. Yesterday’s examined the need for a carbon tax as a way to reduce carbon emissions.

Real-time pricing of electricity is a logical complement to a carbon tax. Economists are fond of saying:  “First, get the price right.” What they mean is, if we can take the actions needed to price a good or service at its full social cost, including externalities, we will have much less need to use crude and blunt instruments, like command and control regulation, to get results that maximize social welfare. By placing an appropriate price on carbon, we will take a major step in the direction of getting the price of electricity right by reflecting the social cost of the GHGs used to generate electricity in the price of electricity. We can complete the process of getting the price of electricity right by encouraging electric utilities to charge prices that reflect the highly variable social cost of electricity at different times.

The demand for electricity varies over a wide range depending on factors like weather. The demand on a hot summer day can be many times the demand on a cool fall day. We …

June 9, 2015 by Richard Pierce, Jr.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two posts on market-based approaches to reducing carbon emissions. Today’s focuses on a carbon tax; tomorrow’s on real-time pricing of electricity.

There is a broad consensus among economists that we will not be able to mitigate climate change efficiently and effectively unless we place a price on carbon. Placing a price on carbon of $40 per ton or more would discourage use of carbon-based fuels. That, in turn, would reduce significantly the quantity of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas (GHG), that is emitted into the atmosphere.

Placing a price on carbon creates powerful incentives of two types. First, it encourages consumers to devise and implement methods of reducing their use of products and services that account for large emissions of GHGs. Second, it encourages tens of thousands of companies to increase significantly their research and …

June 9, 2015 by Evan Isaacson

The State of Maryland released a long overdue report on Monday regarding the state’s plan to finance its implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL) requirements.  The report was prepared by the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland on behalf of the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Department of Natural Resources, and several other agencies in response to a 2014 request by the budget committees of the Maryland General Assembly.

Originating from a request in early 2014 by the joint chairs of the budget committees, the report was supposed to be released along with a companion report on past expenditures associated with restoring the Chesapeake Bay in time for preparation of the fiscal year 2016 budget this past winter.  However, in the preface to the report on historic expenditures, the agencies indicated that the report on future funding needs …

June 9, 2015 by Daniel Farber

A sleeper decision by the D.C. Circuit upholds federal air pollution authority.

The D.C. Circuit’s decision last week in Mississippi Commission on Environmental Quality v. EPA didn’t get a lot of attention, despite having a very significant constitutional ruling.  Since the constitutional discussion doesn’t start until about page seventy, after many pages of scintillating discussion of matters like the reliability of private air pollution monitors and the meaning of the word “nearby”, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that the case has gone beneath the radar.  But the constitutional issue is an important one relating to funding cutoffs. The issue has been in play ever since the Supreme Court held that it was unconstitutionally coercive for Obamacare to cut off funding for Medicaid to states that refused to expand their Medicaid programs.  In this case, the cutoff is to federal …

June 3, 2015 by Bill Funk

Senator Rounds (SD-R) has introduced a proposed concurrent resolution to establish a Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Reform to address the alleged “regulatory overreach that is so prevalent in all sectors of the U.S. economy” by, among other things, conducting a “systematic review” of all rules adopted by federal agencies, supposedly in the name of reducing government expenditure and streamlining business procedures.  Ironically, Congress, if it wishes, can spend its otherwise valuable time having a committee engage in this procedure, while at the same time increasing the costs of government by requiring government agencies to appear at hearings and respond to subpoenas to answer once again why they are doing what members of Congress have by statute told them to do, in order to protect the public health, safety and environment of their constituents. This is political theater, no more, no less.

The other provisions in …

June 3, 2015 by William Buzbee

William W. Buzbee, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, offers his comments here regarding the May 27, 2015 released final rule and accompanying materials regarding what waters are federally protected “waters of the United States.”  Professor Buzbee is also a founding member-scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform.  He has testified repeatedly before congressional committees about these issues and in 2006 served as co-counsel for an unprecedented bipartisan amicus brief of former US EPA Administrators filed with the Supreme Court.  Office phone (202) 661-6536.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers on May 27, 2015 released their much awaited and debated final rule articulating what are federally protected jurisdictional “waters of the United States.”  Before anyone outside the executive branch could have possibly read the 700 plus pages of legal analysis in the new “Waters Rule” (also …

June 2, 2015 by Erin Kesler

This morning CPR Scholar and George Washington University Law School professor Emily Hammond will testify at a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power entitled, "Quadrennial Energy Review."

According to Professor Hammond's testimony:

A critical challenge for energy policy in the United States is that it has evolved in a piecemeal fashion, focusing on specific energy resources through source-specific federal and state agencies. Creating an Interagency Task Force, as this Section does, is an important step in bridging the gaps between the enumerated agencies’ particular statutory mandates. Indeed, agencies stand to be more successful—in achieving stakeholder support and in avoiding litigation—when they coordinate their efforts and ensure that their diverse perspectives are brought to bear on major policy matters.

But the composition of the Task Force has significant gaps that will hinder—not help— the development of comprehensive energy policy. Most critical …

June 1, 2015 by

In April, the Chesapeake Bay Program – a federal-state partnership dedicated to restoring the Bay – unveiled data tracking nutrient and sediment reductions since 2009, the year when the seven Bay watershed jurisdictions committed to new multiyear “milestone” goals in preparation to comply with the impending Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).  With two years remaining until the midpoint assessment for the Bay TMDL, the data show mixed results. 

Before delving in to those results, it is important to note that there are several ways of measuring progress toward compliance with the Bay TMDL.  One must consider (1) the actions and resources committed by state and local governments and other regulated entities; (2) the Bay Program model’s estimated reductions generated by these actions and resources; and (3) the actual improvements in water quality measured through sampling.  While this last measure of progress is ultimately the most important …

June 1, 2015 by Katie Tracy

A new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concludes that contingent workers earn lower pay, receive fewer benefits, have less job security, and may be at greater risk of on-the-job injuries compared to standard employees. 

While there is no official definition of “contingent workers,” according to GAO, labor experts generally agree that it includes workers with variable schedules and without job security, such as temporary workers, day laborers, and on-call workers.  Although some in the labor movement would define contingent workers more broadly to include self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and part-time employees, GAO chose to base its findings on the narrower group, which it describes as the “core contingent workforce.” 

GAO found that, in 2010, core contingent workers made up 7.9 percent of all employed workers.  Applying the broadest definition, GAO’s estimate grew to 40.4 percent.  Regardless of the definition applied, when compared …

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