Adam Snyder's Environmental Economics

Environmental Economics

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Are motorcycles good for the environment?

Surprisingly, there is a debate going on about the effects of riding a motorcycle on the environment. To me the logic seems clear, smaller engines equals less gas consumption and motorcycles are smaller creating less manufacturing pollution, all suggesting that they would help in the fight against pollution. So why would it even be a debate?

Although there are more reasons why motorcycles would be good for the environment than what I listed, lets look at some negative effects. First and foremost, like any product that is “environmentally friendly”, you have to look at the means in which its distributed. Motorcycles are shipped throughout the US and some even shipped overseas, which can create a lot of pollution.

Also, according to “US Green Technology” some big Harley Davidson motorcycles consume up to 42 miles per gallon, good, but as the article says that most environmentally friendly cars can attain number.

I also didn’t consider the lack of carpooling abilities a motorcycle has. Although it has no problem letting your ol’ lady ride spider, a motorcycle only has one seat, whereas a car might be able to transport more than one person substantially decreasing pollution per person. (Now think about a school buses carbon footprint per person, wild!).

There are possibly many more reasons on top of these why motorcycles are bad for mother earth I’m sure, but what I noticed throughout reading these is that most of these problems are present in most cars.

1) Carpooling doesn’t happen as much as people would like it to happen so all things held constant, a single motorcycle rider may not that bad.

2) Keeping that Idea in mind, 42mpg for a motorcycle with on rider is better for the environment than a single driver, driving most common cars in 2013 with a gas mileage of 24.8mpg according to green car reports.

3) Also, lets not forget that cars are distributed as well, a whopping 253 million of them. Saying that motorcycles are bad for the environment because of distributional externalities is kind of a stretch (there are about 7 million registered motorcycles in the US).

From all this, my conclusion is that the issue around motorcycles is the same for all topics, there are solid reasons for and against every environmental issue, and I am concerned about the legitimacy of arguments when you narrow your scope. It’s really easy to find reasons to say motorcycles are bad for the environment if you are only looking for them. You are only limited to your creativity to come up with new reasons. This represents the difficulty of measuring costs, benefits and externalities because they theoretically could go on forever, which defeats the purpose of even measuring them.


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The Difficulties of Assigning Values to non market values

In class on Wednesday we discussed three different types of Non-market benefits; use value, option value, and passive use value. Each of these is a way to establish a dollar cost for things that do not actually a market value for them. Use value is when we come to a dollar value based on the value of its use. Option value is the dollar cost comes from the option of having that thing in the future. Passive value is coming to a dollar value based on having the good even if they never use it. These prices can actually be measured using polling and asking people for real values.

However I believe that these definitions lead to some grey areas. For instance, what about national parks? National parks have value in all three categories. Use value could be the economic benefits from the park rangers having jobs. The option value could be having the future benefits of cleaner air that trees make for your children in the future. The passive use value could be just being proud that your country has created a national park system, and that you’d be upset if they were all demolished. This goes to show that although polling might work, it could never cover all of the values, and that could lead to a juristically different value because there is so much grey area when measuring values

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I went to International Colloquium on Global Environmental sustainability at CSU and attended “Economic Insights on Climate Policy: Global to domestic”. One of the speakers mentioned various public policies for climate sustainability and his argument for such policies interesting.

A topic he brought up was cap and trade. In this policy, the government would set a pollution goal and set up tradable permits to pollute while never exceeding that standard, expecting the magical ways of the market to work it out. The firms who can pollute efficiently will not need permits, so they can sell their excess permits to less efficient firms.

Another one was a tradable Performance standards in which the firms that are polluting at less than the Goal rate of pollution earn credit and those who do not pay taxes for polluting. Essentially the goal was to make it so that the “good” firms wouldn’t have to pay.

Cap and trade policies require payment of both the “good” and the “bad“ firms. Tradable performance standards, he warned, might actually cause an increase in pollution, because good firms are being paid to pollute at a rate, so he was concerned that they wouldn’t stop producing pollution, even if it were at the low rate. So my biggest comment is maybe create a combination of both cap and trade policy and performance standard. These two policies tend to fix each other’s problems. The credit system might help the firms who pollute efficiently, not have to endure the cost of permits and the “cap” part of cap and trade would fix the problem of firms milking the credit system. I believe that a combination of these two policies might actually prove helpful in the environmental sustainably conversation in regards to policy.

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Steve Howard’s “Lets go all in on selling sustainability”

Steve Howard’s “Lets go all in on selling sustainability” is a Ted Talk regarding businesses making the transition to sustainable products that are actually appealing to the customer. Since populations are growing and the environment continues to get polluted it is crucial that the population starts taking the initiative towards sustainability. Steve argues that businesses can help; they can lead the way for consumers using LED light bulbs as an example. LED bulbs are extremely more efficient than the old halogen and florescent bulbs, so business need to completely stop selling the old inefficient bulbs. They need to go “all in” when selling the new products so people will purchase them, hence the title of the program.

He also talks about IKEA’s work to become sustainable, by putting turbines and solar panels on the big buildings he is able to saying money, and typically break even with electricity costs. Free electricity, he says, looks good for the CFO and for the environment people. Howard’s bottom line is that we can’t wait for change to happen; we must act on it now and lead the way.

When watching this video, I very much agreed with what he is saying. The video started to sound like an IKEA commercial but nonetheless his message was clear. We can sell sustainably if we take the plunge and lead the way for people.