Bay Worse off than We Thought

Everyone knows the Chesapeake Bay has problems, but it’s a comfort to think that some $3 billion invested in clean up since the 1980s are slowly healing what was one of the world’s most biologically productive estuaries. But maybe not. A University of Maryland professor has issued a downer of a report arguing that the Environmental Protection Agency has overstated progress, relying on formulas that exaggerated improvements in pollution, according to a new scientific review.

The Washington Post reports that Tom Simpson concluded that a computer model of the Chesapeake, used by the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program to gauge improvements in the estuary’s health, tended to inflate the impact of some cleanup measures. Bottom line: We’re further behind than we thought.

Merry Christmas.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


32 responses to “Bay Worse off than We Thought”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    here’s the interesting “back” story to further investigate.

    worse off than they thought and that formulas and model results were “overly optimistic”…

    how would they know that…


    they actually starting getting real water quality data???

    so they are just now getting around to validating their model… and formula…

    and that also explains why they can’t tell you which rivers are better/worse… which river segments… above/below ag land and/or above/below storm water outflows, sewage, etc…

    and if you don’t know that info .. how can you decide WHERE to put the money for bay cleanup that will give you the most bang for the buck?

    we cannot do it ALL .. we must prioritize and in order to do that.. you need accurate data… so that you can actually rank the areas that contribute…

    The paper said that they did not use optimistic data on purpose.


    but they did use bad Science on purpose… same difference in my view…

    anyone who models data for a living will tell you that the model is worthless is it is not validated..,and the Chesapeake Bay folks KNEW that before they started using modeling results to determine policy.

    millions of dollars and man-hours invested… and what are the results?

    Do we have, in hand, a good understanding of what to do next?

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry, what does your thinking about models and validation lead you to conclude about the models forecasting global warming and its effects?

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    If you want a better analogy .. think about folks saying that the problems in the Chesapeake Bay are “cyclical” and it’s not conclusively proven that there is a significant human contribution.

    Would you believe that?

    Would you think that until we have absolute conclusive proof that any money or plans to clean up the bay are “inconclusive” and we should wait until we know.. without a doubt that it is human influence that is causing the decline?

    If you think there is a difference between our processes for determining the danger to the bay verses the danger to the world climate what would they be?

    and then finally.. what is the cost of being wrong about the world climate .. and what is the cost of being “wrong” about cutting back greenhouse gases?

    If we cut back greenhouse gases and we are wrong.. what is the harm?

    if we decide that it is premature to cut back on greenhouse gases and it turns out we are wrong.. what are the consequences?

    The way I see it.. is that wasting money is not the same as having an irretrievable outcome.

    What is the PRUDENT course of action until we know more?

    is the prudent course of action to do nothing?

    see.. with the Chesapeake Bay.. we conclude that we ARE involved but the problem is that we haven’t done the due diligence to see what is the best bang for the buck..

    see if we’re wrong about the bay.. it means what? that it will take longer to clean it up and in the meantime oysters and crabs may be so badly harmed that they won’t come back for decades (like the bald eagles)?

    but if we are wrong about the world climate what are the consequences?

    basically, can we afford to gamble?

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    It’s all phony.

    Untreated sewage from government sewers and treatment plants dumping into the Chesapeake is the real untold story.

    But governments rarely want to admit they are the real problem and have been for decades.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Can we afford to gamble?

    No, and unless we know what we are doing, it’s all a gamble.

    We would be better off putting our money into the serach for knowledge and collecting data thanwe will be sinking the smae money in scammed up preventive cures.


  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m just curious from a pure economic point of view.

    the word we get is that we should not restrict green house gases because it will be expensive and will “harm the economy”.

    so a really dumb question…

    exactly how will the economy be “harmed” if we build more devices to reduce greenhouse gases?

    purely a philosophical question…

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    “the word we get is that we should not restrict green house gases because it will be expensive and will “harm the economy”.

    I don’t know where you get that idea, it didn’t come from me.

    It seems to me there are two ways to reduce greenhouse gases. We can reduce combustion, or we can build devices that remove reenhouse gases, somehow.

    Either way the economic answer is the same. If the cost is more than the demonstrated benefit, then you spent something for which you got little. If there was something else that would have gotten more benefit, even if it was neutral on greenhouse gas, then we are worse off as a result of the greenhouse efforts.

    When you burn one carbon, you get one CO2, plus heat energy. Period. There isn’t any way around that.

    If you burn less you will create less CO2, but you will give up something in the process. If enough people freeeze, die from heatstroke, or starve because we didn’t burn enough carbon to keep them warm, cool, and fed, then At Some Point those losses will outweigh the gains we made from preventing global warming. At Some Point, enough people will crap out, that we won’t have to worry about global warming, for a while.

    If we knew what that point was, then the most expedient and cheapest thing to do might be to go ahead and kill that many people.

    Now, you could build some kind of device that eats CO2, but plants do that for free. Unfortunately, when they die, they re-release the same CO2. The soil in rain forests is very poor, but the forests thrive by re-consuming themselves. A mature forest, left to itself will produce ans much CO2 as it consumes. To sequester the CO2, youneed t harvest the forest and turn it into something valuable, which will be owned and maintained by people for generations.

    If you have the people.

    So you are back to building some device to collect the CO2 and convert it to something else. Sea critters do this by making calcium carbonate for shells. Whatever you do to make something from the CO2 will (probably) take as much energy as the carbon released when it was burned. Uness yu can mimic the sea creatures and do it with no investment and available energy, building such devices will cost more than it saves.

    That’s how you damage the economy. Government mandated devices are no more profitable than government grants. Maybe someone will invent such a device that can turn a profit, but it hasn’t happened yet, to my knowledge.


  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    but isn’t that the same essential argument with cleaning up coal power plants pollution or in this case the Chesapeake Bay?

    How do we know that we’re getting a positive ROI for cleaning it up?

    How clean should it be if we do clean it up?

    The Chesapeake Bay folks use a numeric grade. They’ve said we need to (by 2010) reduce nitrogen and phosphorus by millions of pounds.

    Isn’t cleaning up the bay harming our economy in the same way that cleaning up global warming will?

    bonus question: if people die because of not enough heat or cool.. then why did we not go extinct before we had power plants?

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    “Isn’t cleaning up the bay harming our economy in the same way that cleaning up global warming will?”

    We don’t know the answer to either question.

    It could be that the benefits of cleaning the Bay and the Environment outweigh the costs. It could be that the environmental industry is valuable in its own right, and does create more jobs and income than it destroys. But, like the state budget, there isn’t enough transparency to tell.

    My position is not the cleaning the Bay or the atmosphere is necessarily bad, just that we don’t know what the economic and social results will be. We are taking a gamble and we should try to estimate the risks.

    Had anyone known in advance that we were going to spend $208 billion on air bags (that people can now shut off) to save 6700 lives, would we still have gone ahead?

    It could be that the benefits of cleaning the Bay and the Environment outweigh the costs, eventually. Now you have to figure out what the appropriate discount rate is for values paid for now and transferred to future generations.

    A fundamental problem in all this is figuring out the value of mortality and morbidity. Figuring out the value of our responsibilities as stewards of the earth, and knowing when our responsibilites outweigh our capabilities. What’s the discount rate on preventing mortality and morbidity six generations hence?

    Figuring out the value of human life is an idea that is repulsive to many people, myself included.

    Yet we do it all the time. And not necessarily consistently. Before we ever reach a concensus on whether Bay or Atmospheric or Environmental cleanup is worth while, we have to agree on the value of the outcome.

    For example, we know that some hazardous jobs pay more than other, safer jobs. And we know what the difference in mortality and morbidity is between the jobs. If we are paying a lot more to prevent similar mortality and morbidity through atmospheric cleansing or other safety projects then something is wrong, somewhere.
    Either we are paying too much for environmental services, or people in hazardous jobs aren’t getting paid enough.

    We think it is wrong for a company to profit by by spewing poisons that kill people, so it should be just as wrong and require just as much expenditure to prevent the same number of deaths in other ways. Otherwise the company profits from those deaths, same as it does from pollution deaths.

    “Isn’t cleaning up the bay harming our economy in the same way that cleaning up global warming will?”

    In order to show that the answer to that question is no, we would need to be able to show that those that benefit from Bay cleanup can pay back all those that pay for Bay cleanup, and still come out ahead.

    Otherwise, as a whole we are worse off, except for the externalized value of having a Clean Bay and fulfilling our responsibilities as stewards. Sure we would all like to have more eelgrass, but there are a limitless number of such charities, and we have limited resources to work with.

    If ALL those charities have unlimited value, and we are all required to spend unlimited amounts to preserve/restore them, then we will all be broke. Eventually it comes down to what is sustainable, and when we figure out what that really means, a lot of people won’t like it, and a lot more won’t survive it.

    Now, maybe we reach a breakthrough in generating unlimited renewable power, then we can do a lot more, but there is still a limit on how much crap we can make, sell, and throw away.

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    but how exactly is the economy “harmed” from cleaning up greenhouse gases, or the Chesapeake Bay or air bags?

    what is the nature of the harm?

    in each case, it appears that jobs are created…

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    If you don’t think we could have spent $208 billion some other way and saved more than 6700 people, probably with money left over,then it is your opinion that airbags did no harm.

    But if you are someone who died of something that might have cost less to fix or prevent, then you were not around to contribute to the economy, and you might feel a lot differently about how “public money” was spent.

    If you create a job that eventually saves one person then you no doubt saved two jobs.

    If you create a job, for the same money, that eventually saves 100 lives, then you saved 101 jobs.

    Which one is better for the economy? Which one is better for the environment?

    Yes, in the first case you created a job. So what?


  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    the “so what” is that we are told that cleaning up the Bay and Greenhouse Gases “damages” the economy and I’m asking what specifically is the damage… since it appears at the least.. that jobs are created in the endeavor AND we end up with less pollution…

    so what is the economic downside to reducing greenhouse gases?

    anybody? is there a short concise answer?

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    “we are told that cleaning up the Bay and Greenhouse Gases “damages” the economy”

    No, what I said is that we don’t know, one way or the other. Cleaning up the Bay or atmosphere to an extent that it costs more than it benefits damages the economy, but that’s a different deal entirely.

    But, lets assume we spend $10 billion cleaning up the Bay, and it achieves $1 billion in benefits. Do you think that kind of bargain helps the economy? Yes, you created jobs, yes you cleaned up the environment. If the reverse numbers hold true, THEN it is undoubtedly a good deal. There might still be better ones

    But it still hurts the economy if you could have spent the money to better effect elsewhere. Standing by itself with out any comparison or priorities, it isn’t so clear.

    At some point, of course, the economy and the environment are interchangeable. We can’t get anything out of the economy without doing something to the environment. There is no such thing as zero pollution: it cannot be done. Therefore, anything you do to create jobs, winds up damaging the environment.

    The best way to reduce greenhouse gasses is to reduce combustion but (for now at least) combustion is fundamentally tied to the economy. We can raise the taxes on fuel to encourage people to reduce, but we know that excess taxes damage the economy.

    How much more tax are you willing to pay in order to freeze or swelter in the dark?


  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Following is an economic impact analaysis on by the Virinia Dept of planning concerning the effect of a certain land use taxation regulation. This is an entirely different topic than discussed above, but notice the similarity in discussion compared to what I have said previously.

    “The net economic impact of this proposal is likely to be negative. While some farmersmay benefit from the lower taxes, the regulation creates an incentive to shift land use toward thecultivation of these crops. There is no evidence that shifting resources into the cultivation ofthese crops will provide higher returns and increase overall profitability compared to other uses
    the resources might be put to. In fact, the favorable tax differential will encourage the shifting ofland into the production of these particular crops even though the value of the land may behigher in some other use. The shifting of land in this way reduces the net product of resources in the state. Thus, the proposed regulation is likely to lead to inefficient allocation of resources…. “
    “….even though the eventual impact of the regulation may be small, the net effect on the economy will be negative.”

    It is the same with the Bay or the the greenhouse gas problem. IF the allocation of resources is inefficient, THEN the effect on the economy is negative.


  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    yeah.. I’m really asking a more conventional question… which is the current conventional wisdom that the “cost” of implemented reductions in greenhouse gases is “too high” and will damage the economy.

    and I’m trying to understand why that is…

    folks seem so certain that it is a clear downside.. not tradeoffs .. but a clear downside to dealing with green house gases…

    funny.. we did not have a similar discussion with CFCs… and the Ozone holes,,.

    I mean folks could have said.. that an Ozone hole is not a clear and present danger either.. so “different” from what we are used to.

    so.. can anyone explain what the downside is to the economy of reducing green house gases?

    so far..,there is a resounding silence … on that specific issue,

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    “…the current conventional wisdom that the “cost” of implemented reductions in greenhouse gases is “too high” and will damage the economy.”

    I’m not sure that is the current conventional wisdom, but there are people who think that way.

    CFC’s are a tiny part of the global economy. They don’t mean squat, over all, but combustion gas is a different matter.

    I think we had a discussion about the relationship of road use, VMT’s and the economy. We don’t know which one “causes” the other but the correlation is damn near perfect. Is it the economy that generates the ability to travel, or the ability to travel that stimulates the economy?

    It doesn’t matter because travel is such a large part of the economy that, if we significantly reduce travel we will significantly reduce that part of the economy. It might be replaced with huge new real estate complexes designed to put everything your heart would ever desire within walking distance, or some other new magic, but I doubt it.

    In the same way, greenhouse gases are directly related to combustion and combustion is related to everything: Electricity, transit, manufacturing, cooking, heating, lighting, farming.

    Which one of those do you think you can reduce without affecting the economy?

    We could reduce greenhouse gases to the level of 1750, but we would probably have the economy of 1750 if we did (plus some economies for new technologies).

    I doubt if the economy of 1750 would support a third of today’s population. Which is probably the best way to reduce green house gases. If you can’t build your way out of congestion, then you sure as doo can’t produce your way out of greenhouse gas.

    EMR has said we need fewer people, each using less stuff. That sounds like wrecking the economy to me.

    The first theing that goes, under that scenario, is national security because you can no longer afford $2 billion stealth bombers.

    You need a lot of people making a lot of stuff to buy one of those suckers.

    Of course, the remaining individuals might be just as well off, and as happy as ever.

    Until the Mongol hordes and German savages arrive, as in Roman times.

    People hate uncertainty, and just the uncertainty of what might happen will wreck the economy.

    I don’t think there is the heart for it. The first country that has a real problem feeding people will break the treaty.


  17. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    we would spend more money on more energy efficient “widgets” (which would create jobs) and require less combustion – cars, buildings, appliances, etc

    we could use peak hour pricing to reduce peak hour combustion.

    we could build more nukes which would also create more jobs….

    we could build and use more wind and solar (and create more jobs).

    how would doing these things ‘wreck” the economy?

    we’d all have to switch from buying too many playboys and gas guzzling SUVs and maybe “stack” our errands so we do several things per auto trip instead of one thing per auto trip…

    so .. it might mean we can’t buy all the ‘extras” that we’d like to but no more or less than $4 a gallon gasoline… would cause us to rethink how we do things…

    but I’m still at a loss to see how this would do irreparable damage to the economy…

    the way this issue is portrayed is a Sophie’s Choice between destroying the earth or destroying our economy .. which would be tantamount to destroying the earth.

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    Actually, destroying the economy will probably save the earth, it will just wreck a lot of mankind in the process. When that becomes apparent, it is going to become a political hard sell. A clean environment is a luxury for the wealthy: no one else can afford it.

    If wind and solar cost only 20% more than the alternative, then that is 20% less of everything else. Wind and solar now are more than twidce the alternatives. But say we get to only 20% more through mass production and technology.

    Go talk to all the vendors who sold 20% less and ask them how their economy is doing.

    The recent Bay initiative counts on over $600 million in investments from farmers. After you account for the 8% of of farms that take in 84% of the revenue, that means that every farm will spend over $2000 a year saving the bay instead of farming. Outside of the big 8%, a lot of farms only make a couple of thousand a year.

    What do you suppose that does to their economy?

    So you use peak hour pricing to push combustion to some other time. Dominion still gets a guaranteed return on their investment. You have created inconveneience, and maybe danger, and saved only a little net combustion.

    How is that good for the economy?

    Building more nukes will definitely create jobs. So will building more solar and wind. But solar and wind is not as effcient and costs more. The more you pay for power, the less you have for everythng else, so, go talk to the vendors of everything else, and see how it affects their economy.

    The whole point of this is to deliberately limit mass overconsumption, which is what the economy is all about.

    So, you have some people building wind generators. But they are stuck with the same problem as everyone else: they are paying 20% more of their take home for power, and they have less than they might otherwise for everything else.

    The wind, solar and tidal generation companies will make some money that they could not have made otherwise. They are subsidized by all the vendors that got cut out, through government mandates.

    Money is a good proxy for energy and resources. If you DON’T wreck the economy, you will eventually find out that you also haven’t stemmed the use of energy and resources that cause the pollution pollution, either.

    The reason it is portrayed as Sophies Choice, is because that is what it is, only worse.

    We will still have an economy, sure enough: the question is how many people can it support, and at what level. We are already watching people starve. It will get worse before it gets better: we can see food prices rising now as we feed ethanol to our cars.

    That will bring a lot of marginal producers like myself back to profitability.

    At someone else’s expense.

    The only way we are (communally) really better off is when we have true gains, that don’t come at someone eles expense.

    In the meantime, I’ll take my profits on the forest land and convert it into corn production which will be sold by virtue of a government mandate.

    Hey, I don’t make the rules.


  19. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    by that reasoning… we are wasting money on water and sewage treatment…

    just do away with the plants and let each person do the best they can do.. and if they want to dump their sewage in the streets then that will easily save them 20% on their bills – right?

    so.. water/sewer plants do indeed “damage” the economy – right?

    so we’d be making the problem even worse by trying to clean-up the Chesapeake Bay or Global warming gases… right?

    see I’m trying to understand the underlying philosophical/economic arguments for NOT cleaning up what we all acknowledge is pollution that does have harm…

    and what I’m hearing is that spending money, in general, on cleaning up ANY pollution is a net drag on the economy ..and by extension trying to clean up something as big and widespread as greenhouse gases is even more of a “drain” but what is being said is that the economy will be “ruined” which sounds a lot worse than a “drain”.

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, it is clear that you don’t want to understand, and you have a nasty habit of trying to twist or distort my argument.

    There is no philosophic reason for not cleaning up pollution that we know has harm. But economically it is a different story. The question is how much harm vs how much to fix/prevent?

    I think we have enough evidence to conclude that cholera causes sufficien harm that it makes sewage plants worthwhile. In the case of air pollution, we have pretty good evidence with enough incidents to predict (or look back and measure) what the morbidity and mortality rates will be among various populations. We can do the same in incidents of extreme heat and cold. In those cases we can figure out what the costs will be.

    Next there are three problems. Is the cost of ceaning up or preventing the harm greater than the harm? Even if it isn’t, and this project appears economic by itself, is there some other harm for which you could prevent equal or greater harm for less money? And finally, do you have the money: will spending the money on this mean that you don’t have enough left for other things that we presently mange?

    If any one of those three are true, then you (probably) cannot fix the problem under study without doing more damage than you fix. Environmental doctors must first do no harm.

    See todays WAPO story about the struggle to afford green technology in India.

    If what you are hearing is that spending money, in general, on cleaning up ANY pollution is a net drag on the economy, then you haven’t been listening.

    My argument is the same as yours with respect to road construction: you need to set priorities, and have an agreed upon method for etablishing those priorities. You will never have enough to do it all.

    Some people think that global warming will wipe out 20% of the species on earth. I believe that allowing that to happen would be tantamount to abandoning our responsibilites as stewards of the earth, and it is worth almost any expense to prevent that.

    But that is a philosophical argument, not an economic one. Economically I know that we cannot afford ANY expense. We might have to let some species expire to save others. Economically, we might be better off to create partial artificial habitats than to preserve all of it. We might be better off oxygenating the Bay than filtering and purifying everything that goes into it, natural and otherwise.

    There are some huge adjustments to be made and being recommended if we are to prevent global warming. I don’t think a lot of people realize how many people will wind up dead as a result, direct or indirect. Global warming may cause the same or greater problems.

    Either way you have fewer people and a smaller economy. As long as the economy you have is sufficient for the people you have, it’s not a problem.

    A more likely scenario is that we will set goals, as we did with the Bay, and miss them. We will learn more and point fingers along the way. Certain businesses will get a big political boost and survive where they migh not have on thier own. We will point fingers and ask for more and more money. Evenetually the costs will get so high there will be political repercussions. Like the growth situation or immigration peope will begin to say NO MORE, whether rationally or not.

    In short, we will muddle through.


  21. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    no attempting to “twist” but to restate in real terms ….

    …”I think we have enough evidence to conclude that cholera causes sufficien harm that it makes sewage plants worthwhile.”

    … AFTER the fact – right?

    cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay – AFTER the fact…

    greenhouse gases – AFTER the fact?

    cholera is something you can mount an expensive and 20-30 year fight to bring us back to where we would have been if we have decided ahead of time that sewage treatment WAS important.. right?

    how far wrong can we be with respect to Greenhouse gases and how much time would we have to turn it around?

    is our current approach – given our really bad track record in totally underestimating harm.. and totally convincing ourselves that sewage treatment plants .. looking forward into the future (rather than back after the fact) … are “too expensive” and will “damage the economy”?

    How much confidence do we have that our way of gambling with environmental issues is acceptable?

    It’s easy to say.. that “of course we know about Cholera”.. 20 years after we had initially decided that it was not only not a threat but much too expensive and damaging to the economy to do something about?

    Is that how we “learn”?

    so.. some of us would have been arguing strenuously against sewage treatment plants back when others were advocating the need for them.. right?

    How many times have we “overreacted” to environmental threats .. only to later decide that we really did spend way too much money frivolously on a cleaner environment when we really did not have to?


  22. Anonymous Avatar

    “cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay – AFTER the fact…”

    Weren’t you the one that claimed the problem with the BAy effort was that it was built on models and not fact?

    “Is that how we “learn”?”

    Unfortunately, in many cases, yes.

    We learned the hard way about square windows in airplanes from the Comet tragedies. Then there were the cargo doors, the wiring in the fuel tanks, etc. etc.

    “How many times have we “overreacted” to environmental threats .. only to later decide that we really did spend way too much money frivolously on a cleaner environment when we really did not have to?”

    Well, my environmental economics book was full of exactly such case studies: you should read up on some of them. So was my engineering economics book, but in the engineering field. Same with the engineering geology books.

    Do you actually believe that environmentalists are incapable of making bad economic decisions?

    Suppose you have a choice of saving 20,000 lives in fifty years by spending a billion dollars on global warming, or the chance to ave 20,000 lives in ten years by spending a million dollars on smoke detectors, or birth defects, or body armour for servicemen.

    Which one do you choose, and why?


  23. Anonymous Avatar

    I get dozens of calls. Solicitations for worthy causes. These are a result of previous gifts, Now there are so many that I cannot support them all.

    We have a standard response in our house: it is our policy to never accept socicitations by phone. Put your request in the mail and we will consider it at our convenience. Do not call again or you are off the list of possibles.

    You seem to think that mercury, global warming, chesapeake bay, and other environmental efforts are at the top of the list.

    I don’t, necessarily. I think they should compete on a level playing field with all the other worthy causes, and I have my own way of setting priorities and values.

    You have yours. Let’s leave it at that.

    As a young chemist, in the 1970’s I was involved in a number of alternative enrgy projects. As part of that I conducted a survey of the largest energy users in the U.S. It is a sobering picture.

    Like the farming business, after you look at a few percent of the largest producers/users, everything else is down in the noise.

    Even with my rudimentary knowledge of thermodynamics and atmospheric chemistry (my other projects were atmospheric sulfuric acid and other aerosols), it was enough to raise the idea of global warming, even back then. I never gave it another thought because it wasn’t much on the radar, yet.

    Do I think globasl warming will be a problem? Yes. But I’m not yet convinced that the proposed cures aren’t a) worse than the disease, b) that they will work, or c) that there are not other, better things to spend our money on.

    You seem to be of the opinion that no matter what it costs, environmental efforts are neccessarily worth it. You are welcome to your opinion, and to send your money where you think it will do the most good.

    I, for one, will continue to ask questions. I don’t pretend to have any answers.


  24. Anonymous Avatar

    Just so you don’t think I’m alone in my thinking:

    “The organizers of the environmental movement act as if they are in a panic. The earth is going to end as we know it in ten years Ted Danson said, 12 or 13 years ago, if we don’t make radical changes. Where is the common sense?

    We can deal with these issues without a sense of panic. If we panic, we do things which create other problems which may be worse than the original.

    Poverty is the real crisis in the world and environmentalist solutions will create more of it. It is nice for the rich Europeans and Americans to worry about such things while people suffer in the 10/40 window from their policies. Environmentalism is the new colonialism. It does not have to be that way.

    A sound sustainable ecology benefits all of us. We can have a clean ecology and a growing economy with protections for property rights.

    Here are my top ten economically sound environmental solutions.

    10. More Nuclear power — clean air and cheap power (no net CO2 either)–put the waste back in secure locations in the ground like the site in Nevada.

    9. Make it a national energy priority to find the better battery. The biggest problem with solar, hydro, and wind power is that we can not store huge amount of electricity for long.

    8. Zealously guard our water supply. Give foreign aid credits to poorer countries which must be redeemed for clean water programs. It would save more lives and increase productivity more than anything.”

    Etc. Etc. I may not agree with all he has to say, but at least it shows some original thinking beyond knee jerk.


  25. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    In case you have not noticed.. I’m not signed on with the standard environmental agenda but I don’t give slack to polluters either.

    No I don’t think if the environmental community support something that it makes it right.

    You were around in the 1970’s when the environmental movement accelerated… do you remember things like dixoin, the Love Canal, ddt, PCBs, etc?

    Do you remember that one side kept poo-pooing the harm and would claim that people were not recognizing the “good” points and that the ROI was well “worth” the pollution?

    And what happened?

    How about naming the environmental reactions that “went too far” and this part is important – in the process.. damaged the economy.

    the reason I ask that you demonstrate this is because this is the same exact argument we are getting with regard to Global Warming.

    I have the same skeptisim as a lot of folks as to the scope and scale of Global warming with the following caveats:

    *. – No matter how many scientists you can find that discount it.., you will find 10 times as many who are very concerned – so why do we “believe” the sketpics?

    * – … because.. virtually every time, we’ve had “skeptics” on an environmental concern, it’s turned out not only that they were wrong that they woefully underestimated the harm.., and we ended up not only having to backtrack but spend enormous sums of money cleaning up after the fact – much more than if we had prevented the pollution in the first place.

    This is not amount “good causes”, this is about really dumb logic about stuff that can and does harm People…, health-wise and economically.

    * – if we set up more energy efficient homes, cars and appliances in response to Global Warming.. and it turns out not to be the serious threat we thought it was – what is the downside of doing that?

    – we use less energy
    – it saves us money
    = we need less oil from the middle east
    = we need less power plants and nukes
    = we create more jobs not only for USA widgets but to sell overseas

    the one question I keep asking is HOW the above will cause HARM to our economy.

    Specifics Please.. not generalities… because despite the environmentalists being accused of gloom and doom predictions, in this situations, we have those on the other side claiming gloom & doom for our economy… people dying from a lack of heat or cool,…etc

    so please lay down a list of specific harms that will result…that are seriously enough to make it an imperative NOT to become more energy efficient in response to global warming…

    Remember.. these folks are not saying that it’s a “do good” tradeoff .. one good cause verses another.. these folks are saying that our economy will melt down if we do energy efficiencies.

    so.. we have both sides claiming gloom and doom.

    The environmentalists say that if we are wrong.. that the seas will rise, the climate will change and we’ll have entire continents will people will die from heat or cold and/or lack of food.

    Then we’re having the folks on the other side saying essentially that the same thing will happen – economically…if we try to cut back on greenhouse gases.

    all I am trying to do is understand the specifics of how this will happen…

    I can understand the environmentalists arguments – a separate issues as to whether one believes them or not – but at least in their case it’s a question of whether you think those specific things will happen..

    but with the folks on the other side.. we get …. generalities – not specifics… so we’re not arguing about the actual impacts because we’re not being told what the actual impacts might be in specifics but only generalities.

    from where I sit, it appears to me that the argument is that if we have to spend money on anti-global warming widgets that it will DIVERT spending on other “things”

    and I’m asking.. what other “things” that result in harm beyond say depriving one of the money they would have instead spent on a playboy or fancy SUV.

    so .. what precisely is the harm of forcing folks to buy environmental widgets other than they’d rather not and instead spend it on 2 liter cokes and Redskin game tickets?

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    “- if we set up more energy efficient homes, cars and appliances in response to Global Warming.. “

    You assume that they are, in fact, more energy efficient. I assume tht if they cost more, then they probably are NOT more energy efficient in actual total fact and certainly not more cost efficient.

    Yes, if those of us who are WEALTHY enough to have homes and cars do these things, all it may cost US is some other (unnecesssary, in your opinion) gimcrack.

    But for people who don’t have those things, all the additional requirements mean they will never have them. The requirements protect the wealthy, but they increase the depth of the trap for the poor.

    We have a huge alarmist groundswell that says wwe MUST do all these things to turn back the clock, in order to prevent tragedies that are still only in the models.

    The downside is that we divert money from other tragedies that are here and now. Tragedies that we know how to fix. If it was only cokes and redskins tickets, I’d agree with you.

    I personally know enough people who struggle month to month for necessities to know that is not the case. Personal thrift and investing in the future doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t have enough to get through the month.

    The quote above says it all, even if you choose not to believe it: “Poverty is the real crisis in the world and environmentalist solutions will create more of it.”

    Unfortunately, because money means power and resources, a little more wealth will create more environmental problems. It is going to take a lot more wealth to solve both. The more we spend chasing rainbows now, the less we will have to work with when we are faced with the real problems.


  27. Anonymous Avatar

    If someone chooses to make the choices you suggest, there is no downside. The downside is in FORCING them to do as you suggest.

    Mandates are guaranteed to generate inefficiencies. Inefficiencies result in waste, and waste results in pollution.


  28. Anonymous Avatar

    Your argument is that if we spend money on environmental widgets, then ALL it means is that we are not “wasting” the money on some other “useless and wasteful” stuff.

    My argument is that it MIGHT mean we don’t have that money to spend on other more useful and productive stuff.

    Not knowing the answer does not obviate the need for a reasonable attempt to find out. That means you need to agree on a level playing field where priorites and values can be determined unambiguously and on similar basises.

    The organizers of the environmental movement act as if they are in a panic, and they use that to claim primacy for their goals, emergency rule, and rights they don’t have, to the exclusion of others.

    Call it whatever you want, but at some level, telling people what they must do is slavery, and managing their property is stealing.

    The idea that people should have free choice, as long as we can control the costs of the choices, without recourse, is a sham.


  29. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    so.. charging people with a crime for dumping or burning oil… or pcbs, or kepone is wrong because we are “forcing” them to do something they would not do freely?

    so.. we were WRONG to outlaw DDT, PCBs, dioxon, and all the other ones that we have outlawed because in doing so, we have taken away people’s “free will”?

    I’m trying to follow your logic… and so you need to help me understand the criteria that you use to determine if someone is unfairly “restricted” or not…

    and please keep clear the difference between what some environmentalists advocate (but not made law)… and law.. enforced by the government – not environmentalists.

    I’m specifically asking you what the law should say about people’s “right” to pollute or not.. and what the criteria is for the law to say that people cannot do so.

  30. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t think anyone has the right to demand cleanup that costs significantly more than the damage that not cleaning up would cause.

    No one has the right to demand zero pollution because it isn’t possible.

    I think such a demands are wasteful of energy and resources that could be better spent on worse problems, and I think such demands ire environmentally, economically, and politically unsound.

    I think it damages respect for the environmental movement.


    I spent a number of years working on PCB and Dioxin remediation. I probably have a lot more exposure to these substances than the average person as a result. They may get me yet: the clock hasn’t run out.

    DDT and dioxin are clearly bad news. With PCB’s it isn’t so clear.
    DDT was deliberately broadcast as part of its use. PCB’s were put in cans (transformers), and were used for many other contained uses. Unfortunately, they didn’t stay contained.

    When we have knowledge that a thing is clearly dangerous and has high costs that cannot be mitiagated, as in the case of bioaccumulators, then prohibiting future use is a valid approach. In such cases the costs of not cleaning up are clearly so high that prohibition is not too high a cost.

    But that isn’t always the case. We are going to have a hard time putting CO2 in the same ctegory as dioxin.

    But then to go backwards in time, and demand basically infinite cleanup costs be paid retroactively for things that were legal at the time a problem occurred, that I have a problem with. It would be like declaring abortion to be a capital crime and then going back with the death penalty for anyone who ever had one.

    Particularly when the cleanup itself is problematic. Probably GE is going to be required to spend billions dredging the Hudson river to clean up PCBs that have been buried in the sediment for decades. I don’t think this is a cost effective requirement, and it is probably an environmental mistake, besides. But that situation has long since passed any kind of rational or economic discussion and it is a political football. This is about who “wins” not about what is right, or what makes sense.

    Part of the problem at Love Canal there that dump site property was taken by eminent domain (for a school, I think) and trenches were dug through the site for utilities.

    The companies fought the taking and issued warnings, which were ignored. In the end, there was plenty of blame to go around but whatever companies were left took the heat.

    Asbstos was another sorry case. Thousands were killed or injured by asbestos, and thousands more collected money for nothing. It might have been better for the companies that were bankrupted to be allowed to stay in (their non-asbstos related) businesses so that a stream of cash would continue to be available for necessary restitution.

    In these cases, the lawyers were the only winners.


    If we require a company to clean up their wastes to the best possible level, it raises their cost of doing business. We consumers then pay for the product, and for a cleaner environment.

    I don’t have a problem with that.

    But, if we let a company sell us a product on the cheap for fifty years, without paying them for the cleanup as we go along, and if we then say, hey, you gotta go back and cleanup our environment with the money we never gave you, (and you don’t have) well, that’s not gonna work. Then I think we are stealing becasue we are demanding an (additonal) product that we never paid for.

    Again, the company goes under and no one gets anything, except the lawyers.


    What the law actually says is that all parties get equal standing. No one should bear an undue burden in the costs or benefits of production or pollution. That IS the criteria under the law.

    I believe what actually happens is (sometimes) a lot different and a lot more political than it is scientific or economic. I recently posted an example of a cost benefit analysis from a virginia agency concerning some land use taxation rule.

    I didn’t think the analysis was complete, or very well done, but they at least tried. And I think they came to the right conclusion: the regulation was not efficient.

    I think the critieria for the law is in fact, that no one has a right to demand an inefficient solution to their percieved problem. And I think the reason is obvious: if we are all allowed to demand anything we want for the slightest provocation (the slightest pollution), then no one can do anything.

    What actually happens, is whatever the lawyers can make happen. They don’t have to care about inefficiency.

    In my opinion, there is no such thing as a green lawyer, not on either side of the fence. Lawyering leads to force, and that leads to inefficiencies, which wind up as waste and help wreck the environment.

    That’s why when you start saying we should force this or that, I’m pretty certain in my own mind that you are flat wrong.


  31. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “I think the critieria for the law is in fact, that no one has a right to demand an inefficient solution to their percieved problem. And I think the reason is obvious: if we are all allowed to demand anything we want for the slightest provocation (the slightest pollution), then no one can do anything.”

    how do you know ahead of time that a solution is “efficient” or not?

    Why would you accept the word of someone who would financially benefit from causing the pollution over those who would have to pay for the eventual cleanup?

    Wouldn’t most folks who want to pollute almost always say that it was “worth it” to them?

    why would you believe them?

    How many times have we believed the folks that wanted to pollute and found out afterwards that the clean-up costs far exceeded the profits?

    Isn’t the proper approach, in fact, the way the law actually works right now which is the polluter has to prove that his pollution won’t cost more to clean up than the profit that he makes?

    Are you saying that this law is wrong and that we should allow anyone to pollute based on THEIR OWN ANALYSIS of the trade-offs?

    WHO should DECIDE?

    Should the guy who wants to pollute decide?

  32. Anonymous Avatar

    “how do you know ahead of time that a solution is “efficient” or not?”

    The definition of efficient is if the winners can pay off the losers and still come out ahead. The way you know ahead of time is by making a carefule study of the known facts, not by making an assumption that (for example) “solar power is better in the long term”. Sometimes the cost of making the determination is too high, and you have to make simplifying assumptions.

    Then you follow up and see what actually happned. When you find out (for example) that air bags cost $23 million per life saved, then maybe you go back and re-think.

    “Why would you accept the word of someone who would financially benefit “

    Who said anything about that? My whole contention is that the process bust be indifferent and apolitical. Besides, the whole argument of environmetalists is that “it is worth it”. Therefore you cannot take their word either because they claim to financially benefit.

    It has to be a neutral and fair palying field. That is why the law says that no person or party should be unfairly burdened by environmental regulations or their eneforcement.

    “the way the law actually works right now which is the polluter has to prove that his pollution won’t cost more to clean up than the profit that he makes”

    Which is my whole point. The way the law actually works now and the way the law says it is supposed to work are quite different.

    You have missed the point enetirely with respect to costs and benefits. The issue isn’t whether his pollution won’t cost more to clean up than the profit that he makes, that has nothing to do with it.

    Total costs equals cost of production plus costs of preventing production plus costs of pollution plus costs of preventing pollution. Measured on a level palying field.

    It is whether the total benefit, including the jobs he creates, the product he produces, the taxes he pays, the amount he spends to prevent pollution, and the amount of pollution that occurs despite that expenditure, whatever damage that occurs from those fugitive emissions – the whole entire package- including the jobs from making the environmetal widgets he uses; then, if the total package is “efficient” it should be a go.

    It has nothing to do with who I believe. You either have facts or you don’t. The government has to weigh those facts. Sometimes they do well, and sometimes they allow themselves to be swayed by political facts.

    We should work to prevent that, even if we think the political facts are convenient to “our side”, because such decisions are bound to be wasteful.



Leave a Reply