Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Archive for the ‘Water Resources’ Category

Some links

Posted by Rich Sweeney on November 11, 2008

1. EPRI has announced two new projects to evaluate adding solar thermal energy to existing coal and natural gas plants. These hybrid plants could prove to be the cheapest way to get large scale solar energy on the grid. Not only do these solar installations take advantage of existing capital and transmission, but subsidizing their installation at dirty sites might reduce political opposition from incumbents.

2. I’ve written about the potential water resource constraints on the electricity industry before. Power plants, especially nuclear plants, use a lot of water, and drought or increased temperatures could pose a big problem for utilities in many parts of the country. This weekend Green Inc. had a post on the possibility of using treated wastewater in power generation. The piece cites C’s adviser, Dr. Michael Webber of UT Austin, who has a great article on the relationship between energy and water in Scientific American.

3. Over on the World Bank’s Doing Business Blog, Simeon Djankov links to a new paper which concludes that the adoption of potatoes in the Old World explains 17% of the post-1700 increase in population growth and 37% of the increase in urbanization growth.

4. Finally, GCC reports that coal is still the fastest growing fuel in the world. Great.

Posted in Electricity, Random, Water Resources | 1 Comment »

How much should water cost?

Posted by Daniel Hall on September 30, 2008

Water rates should be designed to fully recover the costs of providing water by charging customers in accordance with how they contribute to the costs. Schedules of water rates that charge customers in accordance with the cost of service would be efficient from the economic point of view, in that the price of a unit of water would be equal to the cost of the resources used to obtain and deliver that water. Further, they would be equitable in that no customer would be required to subsidise any other customer. To sum it up, the dictates of efficiency are clear: water should be allocated so that the marginal net benefit is equalised for all users. If marginal net benefits are not equalised, it is possible to increase net benefits by transferring water from those uses with low net marginal benefits to those with higher net marginal benefits. Again, the pricing of water at the ‘market’ value is the only way to make these determinations.

Stephen J. Hoffman

We need to focus our thinking on water cycles rather than water markets, on human rights to water rather than profits to be made from commoditising a scarce resource. It is our relationship with the ecology of water that has the capacity to sustain water supplies for us and other species. Trade in water can help water markets grow in the short term, but unregulated markets will make our scarce and fast-disappearing water resources disappear ever faster. It is the discipline of ecology and hydrology that we need to guide our efforts at conservation, not the ecological indiscipline of markets.

Vandana Shiva

These are from the opening statements of the debate on pricing water over at Economist.com.  The debate continues with contributions from several other participants over the next 10 days.

Here is David Zetland’s excellent (and very active!) blog Aguanomics about water economics and policy.  I have added it to the blogroll.

Posted in Water Resources | Leave a Comment »

Assorted links

Posted by Daniel Hall on April 8, 2008

1.  New York City’s congestion pricing plan dies in Albany.  Felix Salmon and Ryan Avent are depressed and disappointed, respectively.  Disgust comes to mind as well.

2.  Tyler Cowen has been providing a thought-provoking discussion on Jeff Sachs’ new book Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet.  The first three installments are on climate change, water policy, and biodiversity.

3.  Someone was listening to Rich’s complaint about the lack of coverage of escalating food prices: Paul Krugman discusses it on the New York Times Op-Ed page.  Plus the blogosphere is on the case – Energy Outlook examines the food-energy nexus, Free Exchange questions whether grain markets are behaving rationally, while this guy just wants to know he’ll still be able to afford his craft beer.

4.  David Zetland is blogging on the economics of water.

5.  Tim Haab issues a green jobs analysis challenge.

6.  And speaking of Env-Econ, UCLA couldn’t push me past Tim on Saturday night, so he edged me out in the Env-Econ NCAA tournament pool. But the combination of the Memphis win and UNC loss actually put Evan in front of both of us and gave CT bragging rights in the EE-CT showdown.  I think I’m now supposed to thank Evan for providing me cover when my “mouth starting writing checks my ass couldn’t cash.”  Or something like that.

Posted in Agriculture, Biofuels, Climate Change, Green Collar Jobs, Random, Transportation, Water Resources | Leave a Comment »

The water resource implications of PHEVs

Posted by Rich Sweeney on March 19, 2008

Today’s NYTimes has a piece on an interesting new paper from Carey W. King and Michael E. Webber of UT Austin. The authors point out that converting our auto fleet from gasoline power to electric power would put substantial strain on our nation’s water resources. Water is used to both mine and process fuels and to cool power plants during the generation process. The study estimates that “For every mile driven by a gas-powered vehicle that is displaced by one driven by an electric vehicle, about three times as much water is consumed (that is, lost to evaporation) and about 17 times as much is withdrawn (used and returned to its source).” However, far from arguing against PHEVs, the authors lay out a series of steps that policymakers should begin taking now in order to prepare for the shift to plug-ins.

Though the paper doesn’t mention how climate change will affect things, it seems obvious to me that things could get even worse. Hotter temperatures mean more cooling for generators, and warmer water to cool with. Several nuclear plants were shut down during the droughts in the southeast last year. The NYTimes also had a long much talked about article on how climate change could affect water supplies.

Finally, the authors do point out that renewable resources like wind and solar use no water, which is yet another reason why we should encourage their development.

Posted in Auto, Electricity, Water Resources | Leave a Comment »

Sentence of the day

Posted by Evan Herrnstadt on November 12, 2007

“The amount of water needed to grow the corn, process the fuel and dispose of the waste at a small ethanol plant is about equal to the water needs of a town of about 10,000, according to an Environmental Defense Fund report.”

Wall Street Journal (subscription req’d, sorry)

Posted in Biofuels, Water Resources | Leave a Comment »

The Law(lessness) of the Sea

Posted by Rich Sweeney on November 6, 2007

Much has been written of late about the Law of the Sea Treaty (MR, CS Monitor, Matthew Yglesias, NYTimes). These commentaries have tended to focus on the potential navigational and natural resource discovery implications, which are probably the main issues of contention. The New Yorker, however, ran an odd but fascinating piece on a different sort of conflict that has resulted from the current suboptimal governance of our planet’s waters: the rise of vigilante environmental pirates.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Government Policy, International, Public Goods, Water Resources | 1 Comment »

Spillover

Posted by Rich Sweeney on October 23, 2007

In the world of hydroelectric power, “spillover” is a term used to describe water that flows over or around a dam, as opposed to through the turbines. More commonly, of course, “spillover” is a term used by many to describe a side effect or unanticipated consequence. This weekend the New York Times published a very long but very good piece on how global warming could significantly impact the United States’ fresh water supplies. While the article was focussed primarily on the consumptive water demands of the nation, it’s also clear that one of the spillover effects of a warmer world could be an end to the phenomenon of spillover at dams across the country.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Climate Change, Electricity, Water Resources | 1 Comment »

Benefit-cost analysis of crap in my surf

Posted by Daniel Hall on September 25, 2007

A California town is trying to clean up the water at Rincon Point, out near my old graduate school stomping grounds. What I found interesting about the article was the implied recreational value — and elasticity of demand — among surfers for use of one of the best point breaks in the country:

In Southern California, it is common practice for people to stay out of the water for days after rain because of runoff pollution. But surfers often opt to take their chances in places like Rincon Point and Malibu, which has problems similar to Rincon Point’s. …
Wayne Babcock, a cofounder of Clean Up Rincon Effluent, said that the beach at Rincon Point was “notorious” for making surfers sick and that the homeowners should be forced to stop using septic tanks. When asked why they continue surfing here, Mr. Babcock and other surfers waxed poetic. “You don’t have a choice,” Mr. Babcock said. “It’s Rincon. There’s nothing like it.”

You don’t have a choice.” I never really was able to get into surfing, but this sounds like a pretty high use value to me. Of course, given the median income of the surfers I knew, it is perhaps reasonable to question an effectively infinite stated use value.

Posted in Pollution, Water Resources | Leave a Comment »

 
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