Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How NIMBYs Can Make the Planet Worse Off

From "How Environmentalism Misses the Forest for the Trees," by Edward L. Glaeser in the NY Times Economix blog:

Homes in coastal California use much less energy than homes in most other places in the country. New building in California, as opposed to Texas, reduces America’s carbon emissions. Yet, instead of fighting to make it easier to build in California, environmentalists have played a significant role stemming the growth of America’s greenest cities.

Why is California so green?

The primary reason is climate. January temperature does a terrific job of explaining carbon emissions from home heating and July temperature does almost as well at explaining electricity usage. California has the most temperate climate in the country and as a result, homes use less heat in the winter and less electricity in the summer. In hot, humid
Houston or frigid Minneapolis, people use plenty of energy to artificially recreate what California has naturally.

Environmentalists should, presumably, be out there lobbying for more homes in coastal California, but instead, for more than four decades, California environmental groups, such as
Save the Bay, have fought new construction in the most temperate, lowest carbon-emission area of the country.

This anti-growth movement has achieved enormous successes, and the growth rate of California has plummeted. In the 20 years that ended in 1970, California’s population increased by 88%. Between 2000 and 2007, the population of California grew by less than 8%, which is slightly more than the growth of the United States population. California’s low growth doesn’t reflect lack of demand (prices remain quite high) or lack of land (densities are low), but instead one of the most regulated building environments in the country.

The local opponents of construction don’t have the ability to stop building in the United States as a whole, which hums along at roughly the rate of new household formation. When California’s anti-growth activists restrict building in California, then construction increases in Atlanta, Dallas and Houston. These three areas are both among the nation’s five most carbon-intensive living areas and among the four fastest-growing metropolitan areas. To be complete, California’s mandated environmental-impact reviews should ask not only about the impact on the local environment if a project proceeds, but also about the impact on global environment if the project gets moved elsewhere.

MP: Charles Krauthammer made a similar point about how the "drill-there-not-here" mentality simply exports environment damage overseas:

Does Nancy Pelosi imagine that with so much of America declared off-limits to oil production, the planet is less injured as drilling shifts to Kazakhstan and Venezuela and Equatorial Guinea? That Russia will be more environmentally scrupulous than we in drilling in its Arctic?

The net environmental effect of Pelosi's no-drilling willfulness is negative. Outsourcing U.S. oil production does nothing to lessen worldwide environmental despoliation. It simply exports it to more corrupt, less efficient, more unstable parts of the world -- thereby increasing net planetary damage.


At 4/21/2009 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yea, screw the ocean and the trees. Who needs 'em? I want pieces of papaer with pictures of dead guys on them instead of air and water.

At 4/21/2009 10:24 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Yeah, screw the ocean and the trees. Who needs 'em?"...

Yeah! Your're right! Who needs electricity to run your computer, medicines and plastics extracted from crude oil, or metal ores to build machinery and buildings with?

At 4/21/2009 10:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you gave 1 ten thousand dollars I bet he would kill a puppy.

At 4/21/2009 10:32 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

To be fair I'm sure the anti-growth groups would prefer we didn't build anywhere, California, Atlanta, or otherwise.

At 4/21/2009 10:33 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"If you gave 1 ten thousand dollars I bet he would kill a puppy"...

I'd kill the whole litter and the owners too...:-)

Save The Whales, Kill The EconomyWith Ahab-like determination, environmentalists have once again blocked oil exploration in the American Arctic. They may just have succeeded in putting the American economy on ice...

At 4/21/2009 10:35 AM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Patrick: You're talking about the BANANA philosophy: "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything (or Anyone)."

At 4/21/2009 10:35 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Anon at 10:16,
What is your alternative then? Let's hear it and maybe we'll agree that you have a great plan for saving the trees and ocean without going back to the stone age.

At 4/21/2009 10:44 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

That's a good one! I've never heard the BANANA acronym before, but yes that seems to be their sentiment.

The NIMBY attitude is fascinating to me. It makes it very easy for us to forget what it really takes to survive. We've outsourced so many of the things needed for survival that we think we could just go back to living without modern conveniences. It's not that modern living is that much cleaner than it was in the past, we've just transferred and concentrated our impact to somewhere else.

At 4/21/2009 11:13 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"It's not that modern living is that much cleaner than it was in the past, we've just transferred and concentrated our impact to somewhere else"...

Good point Patrick...

I would take a small bit, a very small bit of exception with the, 'cleaner' part because not only our are daily lives cleaner but many of our manufacturing and extraction processes have been cleaned up quite a bit...

An example: Latest oil drilling technology can increase productivity, speaker says

At 4/21/2009 11:17 AM, Blogger vakeraj said...

Funny that California grew fastest between 1950-1970, and Ronald Reagan was their governor in the 1960's.

At 4/21/2009 11:26 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Yes you are right, and cleaner manufacturing processes actually makes a good case for the benefit of "centralization of impact". Is it better to have one large plant in Ohio that is close to steel, and coal, and outfitted with the latest pollution control equipment making horseshoes or to have 500 blacksmiths spread out in 48 states using charcoal (or whatever fuel source is nearby) and no pollution controls (they are too expensive for an individual to afford) making those same horseshoes.

Cleaner and better processes are also more capital intensive and require the economies of scale to be economic. This leads to concentrated production since it is too expensive to build more smaller-capacity plants. This just makes the NIMBY effect worse, but is better overall.

At 4/21/2009 11:55 AM, Blogger QT said...

Hard to argue with the logic of Ed Glaeser or Charles Krauthammer. Unfortunately, NIMBY debates often tend to revolve around emotions and perceptions rather than logic.

Informational cascade theory helps to explain how one is influenced by information in the public venue. Cascade theory reconciles herd behavior with the rational-choice approach in the social sciences: it is often rational for an individual to rely on information conveyed by others. The reason is that gathering information is costly, even if only in terms of time. Individuals will (formally or informally) buy information only up to the point where it yields no more net additional benefits than simply using the information conveyed by the behavior or opinions of others. Informational cascades occur when everybody relies on such "public" information.

Some of the most successful environmental actions have involved the creation of information cascades. ie. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. NIMBY and informational cascades result in decisions being based upon incomplete information or a highly politicized climate.

In contrast to a man like Ronald Reagan, there are many individuals and organizations that try to influence public perception without running for political office where their ideas would be subject to public scrutiny.

At 4/21/2009 12:01 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Thank you qt...

Good stuff!

At 4/21/2009 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you gave 1 ten thousand dollars I bet he would kill a puppy."

I'd do it for $1 if it helped improved the life of one person. Treehuggers are so eaten up with guilt and self-loathing, the only thing that assuages their feelings of self hate is the protection of "innocent" creatures at the expense of their fellow man. Because, by their rationale, people are bad...animals are good.

At 4/21/2009 12:49 PM, Blogger QT said...

1, Anon,

Recently read a review of several books which raised some disturbing issues in particular around the history of the population control movement. It is always a good idea to know what tune the devil is playing.It is illuminating to see the extent to which good intentions can trump basic human rights even in a democracy.

At 4/21/2009 12:57 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Just remember if properly prepared a puppie can make a good meal...

And NO puppies don't taste like chicken...:-)

At 4/21/2009 1:15 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...

Offshore drilling rigs are already prohibited from being within eyesight of American beach dwellers. Petrobras' hard work is clear as day on Brazil's beaches. Throngs of crowds, clean fun - no problems. Who's the rising economic/oil power?

For those opposed to offshore drilling off of American coastal areas: is it better to support despotic governments, or an expansion of good, high-paying jobs within the American oil industry?

In related news, shale gas is expected to meet half of North America's gas needs by 2020...

In completely unrelated news... the first true cure for baldness may be rising over the horizon: embryotic stem cells were recently used to regenerate mouse fur (baldness will never be cured!).

At 4/21/2009 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The machine should run on Hydrogen not petrol. We chose poorly from the very beginning. Think of what could be if our means of creating energy had only one side effect: fresh water.

You people should be ashamed of yourselves. You scoff at an economic recovery that sets your children in debt, but you destroy the Earth with pollution and think it is a waste to attempt to slow it down. You claim to be pro-life, but you are also rally around gun support. Idiocy runs wild here, I see.

At 4/21/2009 1:47 PM, Blogger Jack McHugh said...

This explains why the greenies want to depopulate Michigan. (They're doing a heckuva job, too.)

At 4/21/2009 2:02 PM, Blogger Paul said...

That last anonymous comment was a spoof, right?

At 4/21/2009 2:14 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Interesting post on "cascade theory"! I have definitely seen examples of that in action and wondered why it worked that way.

As for the people described in your last paragraph -- isn't that pretty much the entire talk radio community? It's easy to be have all the answers when you will never have to be accountable for their implementation.

At 4/21/2009 2:28 PM, Blogger QT said...


Have to agree with you on Talk Radio. Pundits can and do say anything without having to make it work however, pundits are also responding to incentives. The most popular commentators are the pithy ones and they are compensated accordingly.

At 4/21/2009 3:06 PM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

Yes, the population of CA has grown modestly from 2000, but that's primarily from immigration, both legal and illegal.

But consider California’s net DOMESTIC migration (migration between states). From April, 2000 through June, 2008 (8 years, 2 months) California has lost a NET 1.4 million people. The departures slowed this past year only because people couldn’t sell their homes.

These are not welfare kings and queens departing. They are the young, the productive, the ambitious, the wealthy (such as Tiger Woods), and retirees seeking to make their pensions provide more bang for the buck. The irony is that a disproportionate number of these seniors are retired state and local government employees fleeing the state that provides them with their opulent pensions – in order to avoid the high taxes that these same employees pushed so hard through their unions.

So while the state is growing a bit, we are seeing our tax base reduced by the departure of productive and/or well-heeled people.

Those that are left too often are rethinking our options. I can trade my median priced-home for a 22 house subdivision in Detroit!

At 4/21/2009 4:23 PM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

I want pieces of papaer with pictures of dead guys on them instead of air and water.Once again, this guy didn't even begin to read the article that argued for decreasing energy consumption and pollution by moving everyone into California.

I remember staying in San Fran for a week and none of the hotels even had air conditioning! The weather is just that nice...

Too bad I would never live there because I couldn't own any of my guns and couldn't afford their crazy taxes.

At 4/21/2009 7:29 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

The environmental movement in California is fanatical. I'm sure marginal costs far exceed marginal benefits, which helps explain why the cost of living is so high in California.

In Denver/Boulder Colorado, it's roughly 100 degrees everyday for six weeks in the summer and falls to 50 degrees below zero (with the wind chill factor) some days in the winter. Yet, the cost of electricity is lower in the Denver area than the San Francisco area (in the '90s and '00s many people moved from California to Colorado).

At 4/22/2009 5:02 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> If you gave 1 ten thousand dollars I bet he would kill a puppy.

If you gave anonymous 1 tree I bet he would kill a hundred little brown girls, as long as he didn't have to look their little brown parents in the eyes...

At 4/22/2009 5:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you gave anonymous 1 tree I bet he would kill a hundred little brown girls, as long as he didn't have to look their little brown parents in the eyes"

Damn, OBH...I wish I would have thought of that. Great (and witty, as always) response.

At 4/22/2009 6:25 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Idiocy runs wild here, I see.

Well, it certainly does in your mindless, drooling babble-fest of a comment. Let's see how:

> The machine should run on Hydrogen not petrol. We chose poorly from the very beginning. Think of what could be if our means of creating energy had only one side effect: fresh water.

What you speak of is called "The Hydrogen Economy". We (scientists and engineers) are well on our way to creating it.

No "poor choice" was made. There's a reason for it not being the current situation that is well beyond your ignorant and half-witted grasp of the technologies involved and the limitations on them, both current and historical.

Hydrogen is pretty nasty stuff to store, handle, and transfer. Attempts to deal with it prior to this have had mixed results. Perhaps you're familiar with a rather obvious failure in such?In actual fact, there were also other, less spectacular failures -- that one was just so exceedingly obvious that it forced people to realize it (The Hydrogen Economy) just Wasn't There Yet.

The real fact of the matter is that we STILL can't completely resolve a large number of safety issues regarding use of Hydrogen as a fuel in relatively uncontrolled circumstances.

"Think of what could be if our means of creating energy had only one side effect: fresh water."

How about the other side effect:
"Lots of dead consumers?"

On top of THAT, where were you planning to get the Hydrogen from?The typical source for it is electrolysis of water... which means you need electricity. US power generation is and has been running at an uncomfortably high level of capacity for almost two decades, despite warnings regarding this (the Cali Brownouts that occurred in the last 10 years were a partial result of that).

So, where were you planning to get this hydrogen-making electricity from? Thin air? Have you been openly supporting the building of nuclear power plants, the most obvious source for such electricity? I doubt it.

> ...you destroy the Earth with pollution and think it is a waste to attempt to slow it down.

No, we think it's a waste for YOU to attempt to slow it down. We grasp how poor your understanding of ALL things related to the subject is. You fail at basic technical and math skills, at basic understanding of the economic forces in play, and a host of other very relevant issues which apply to any effort to control or reduce something such as this.

> You claim to be pro-life, but you are also rally around gun support.

Aaaaaand how exactly, in your muddy little excuse for what passes as "thought processes" are these two notions mutually incompatible?

I actually spent the time back in the late 1990s to produce a guesstimate of how many people would have died if the entire world experienced per-capita deaths from gun violence as the USA does/did.

Using per-capita figures, and census data, I estimated that, from 1920 to 2000, there would have been about 12 million people dead if they had all had access to guns as the US does, and had all inflicted on their populace a measure of the same sort of per capita gun violence the USA experiences (in real fact, it should be far less than that -- the USA is, relative to other cultures, a fairly violent place. I'd suspect that comes from all of us being descended from some pretty aggressive and unsavory old coots, while their meeker brethren "stayed home")

Now, contrast this with out of control governments in that same time period -- which are unquestionably related to gun ownership (one of the first moves of any totalitarian government executing a coup or other form of takeover is to confiscate the guns).

Such governments are responsible in the same 1920-2000 time frame for not less than 100 million deaths (not including war-time deaths derived from wresting that out of control government back under control -- hardly a trivial count in itself)

I count that as at least a 6 to 1 improvement.

On this concept, too, you demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the problem.

You attempt, almost certainly, to simplistically view the problem entirely out of context, ignoring a host of relevant details associated with that problem and which any solution or idea applied to it has no business ignoring.

> That last anonymous comment was a spoof, right?

No, Paul, most likely it was not.
There are at least two "anonymous" posters here -- one is a blithering libtard idiot, and the other is a moderately sensible conservative libertarian. It's amazing how easy it is to tell which one is making a post.

The post to which you refer is almost certainly the libtard idiot, though it may be another example of a libtard idiot from our usual one...

At 4/22/2009 6:33 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> It's easy to be have all the answers when you will never have to be accountable for their implementation.

What, you mean like government bureaucrats?

"Can you explain, please, why it is that you haven't accomplished anything?"

"We don't have enough money! If we had another 50 billion dollars, we could do soooooo much more for everyone involved..."
Not sure what the subject of the above discussion was... The War on Drugs, Public Schools, The Post Office, Poverty, "Alternative" Energy, Immigration Reform & Border Control... One of those, or one of another two or three dozen possible subjects...


At 4/22/2009 7:00 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"What, you mean like government bureaucrats?"...

Excellent point OBH!

Let's consider those stalwarts at the IRS and Congress of course: Tax law glitch benefits illegal aliensThe IRS allowed foreign workers -- many of them in the U.S. illegally -- to improperly claim nearly $7 billion in child tax credits from 2004 to 2007, a government investigator said Thursday.

Most of the credits went to workers who didn't make enough money to pay federal income taxes, Russell George, a Treasury Inspector General, said. In those cases, the workers received payments from the Internal Revenue Service after filing income tax returns.

The IRS allowed tax credits even though the workers did not provide Social Security numbers on their tax returns, George said. Instead, the workers used government-issued tax identification numbers, which are available to immigrants for certain tax-filing purposes -- regardless of their legal status -- but are not valid for employment in the U.S. (there's more)

Then again with this new administration (100 days of incompetence and balloning tax bills) I guess its going to be O.K. to pander to the wetbacks: Napolitano: Illegal Immigration NOT a Crime?On Sunday, April 19, 2009, Secretary Napolitano went on CNN’s “State of the Union” and proclaimed that crossing the border illegally is not a crime. This statement left a lot of folks scratching their heads given that U.S. law—the law Napolitano is sworn to uphold—says quite the opposite. Section 8, Title 1325 of the U.S. code clearly states that those who enter the U.S. illegally are committing a crime. (there's a bit more)


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