Thursday, April 2, 2009

Water News from Water Advocates

New Congressional Legislation: Strong support for drinking water and
sanitation continues on Capitol Hill, where legislation introduced in
the Senate would put the U.S. in the lead among governments in
responding to the Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation.
Companion legislation is expected soon in the House. Titled "The Senator
Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009" (S624), the bipartisan bill
introduced by Senators Durbin, Corker and Murray on March 17 seeks to
reach 100 million people with safe water and sanitation by 2015 and to
strengthen the capacity of USAID and the State Department to carry out
the landmark Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005.

USAID: Dozens of USAID missions, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa and
Southeast Asia, are gearing up to utilize increased appropriations to
implement the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, after years of
lacking the tools to help extend safe, sustainable water, sanitation and
hygiene. USAID this past month announced a number of initiatives
including: new strategic partnerships to extend water and sanitation
access to the urban poor in Africa and the Middle East (with
International Water Association), new multilateral revolving funds (in
the Philippines), new collaborations (with Rotary International) and a
new USAID Water Site

Appropriations: Through the recently passed Omnibus legislation,
Congress appropriated $300 million for Fiscal Year 2009, for "water and
sanitation supply projects pursuant to the Senator Paul Simon Water for
the Poor Act of 2005." As with last year's appropriations, forty percent
of the funds are targeted for Sub-Saharan Africa. Priority will remain
on drinking water and sanitation in the countries of greatest need.
Report language suggests increased hiring of Mission staff with
expertise in water and sanitation. It also recommends that $20 million
of the appropriation be available to USAID's Global Development Alliance
to increase its partnerships for water and sanitation, particularly with

In Fiscal Year 2010, a broad spectrum of U.S. nonprofit organizations,
corporations and religious organizations are urging $500 million to
implement the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, as part of an
overall increase of foreign development assistance, a level also called
for by InterAction and the "Transition to Green" Report.

For more water news, visit Drink Water for Life.

April 2, 2009 in Africa, Asia, Economics, EU, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, North America, Physical Science, Science, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Waxman-Markey Discussion Draft on Energy and Global Warming: the AMERICAN CLEAN ENERGY and SECURITY ACT

Reps. Waxman and Markeyhave released a discussion draft bill on clean energy and global warming.  Here is a Summary of the Discussion Draft and here is a copy of the Bill  The global warming title establishes a cap and trade with a cap of 83% reduction from 2005 emissions by 2050.  Obviously this falls far short of what is needed to reach 350 ppm.  It also provides for the US to enter into international agreements to reforest, which is expected to reduce an additional 10% by 2050.  The discussion draft ducks the highly political question of allocation.

The bill contains three other titles:

Creating Clean Energy Jobs: A clean energy title that promotes renewable sources of energy, carbon capture and sequestration technologies, low-carbon fuels, clean electric vehicles, and the smart grid and electricity transmission;

Cutting Waste, Saving Money: An energy efficiency title that increases energy efficiency across all sectors of the economy, including buildings, appliances, transportation, and industry;

Protecting Consumers: A transitioning title that protects U.S. consumers and industry and promotes green jobs during the transition to a clean energy economy.

The time table for action calls for the House Energy and Commerce Committee to complete consideration of the legislation by Memorial Day. The preliminary schedule follows:

·       Week of April 20: Energy and Environment Subcommittee Hearings

·       Week of April 27: Energy and Environment Subcommittee Markup Period Begins

·       Week of May 11: Full Energy and Commerce Committee Markup Period Begins

April 1, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Current Affairs, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 30, 2009

World Seeks Major Changes in International and National Economic Systems

The G-20 group of industrialized and developing country leaders meets April 2 to address the global economic crisis.  One thing is clear, we're ready for some change! 

Major reform of the international economic system is needed in order to solve the current economic crisis, according to a new global poll of over 29,000 people in 24 countries carried out by GlobalScan / PIPA at the University of Maryland.  70% believe major changes are required to the way the global economy is run. 4 per cent think no significant changes are needed.  Majorities in most countries - on average 68 per cent - also see the need for major changes to their own country’s economy.  Fifteen of the 24 countries are part of the G20.  Among G20 countries, 65% believe major changes are required to the international economic system, while 62% believe major changes are needed in their nation's economic system.  World Public Opinion For a country by country breakdown of the results, see the following graphic:
Breakdown of World Opinion as to the Need for Major Changes in the Economic System

The question of course is what sort of change.  I received two new publications from GDAE’s Globalization and Sustainable Development Program highlighting changes in both the trade and financial system advocated by Kevin Gallagher of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts.  I have found their analyses to be very interesting:

“Global Crisis in Need of Global Solutions”
by Kevin P. Gallagher, in Latin American Trade Network LATN Nexos 7, March 2009.
In this short essay for a special issue from the Latin American Trade Network on the challenges facing the upcoming G-20 meetings, Kevin P. Gallagher highlights the urgent need for a global response to the economic crisis that recognizes that expansionary government stimulus policies cannot be just for the wealthy countries. He points out that the IMF in its emergency assistance plans for developing countries is still imposing harsh conditionalities that limit rather than expand government spending.  If the IMF is to receive significantly higher lending authority, it should be forced to abandon its draconian austerity policies, which are more inappropriate than ever in the current crisis.Link to IMF Essay

“Trading our way out of the financial crisis: The need for WTO reform”
By Kevin P. Gallagher and Timothy A. Wise
in Rebuilding Global Trade: Toward a Fairer, More Sustainable Future, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the Global Economic Governance Programme (GEG), University College, Oxford.
In the context of the deepening global crisis that is pushing millions more into poverty in developing countries, development should be the centerpiece of reforming the global financial architecture. Pressing to conclude a World Trade Organization (WTO) deal based on the current proposals in Geneva would be counterproductive. This essay offers five policies toward reforming global trade that will enable economic development and stimulate global demand during the crisis.Link to WTO Reform Essay

For more analyses like these check out GDAE's Globalization and Sustainable Development Program

March 30, 2009 in Economics | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Where has all our money gone?

Remember that old folk song Where Have All the Flowers Gone?  If you don't, go listen:it was a classic back in its day.Financial Sector Wages

Well, I've got a new version:

Where has all our money gone,
Long time passing,
Where has all our money gone,
Long time ago,
Where has all our money gone,
Gone to the bankers, everyone
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Obviously, the financial sector didn't do too bad while they foreclosed on houses through the Depression.  But life's been really good for the bankers since about 1995.  Even better than foreclosing on farms and homes during the Depression days.  But all good things must come to an end.

March 27, 2009 in Current Affairs, Economics, Governance/Management, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Who's (or what's) on first

Above you'll find the image of where the $819 billion stimulus money is going.  Below is the CBO's analysis, with graphics by the Washington Post.  Clicking on either image will pop-up a full-size image.
Wash post recovery

March 23, 2009 in Current Affairs, Economics, Law, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Let them sue!

They still don't get it.  AIG's CEO who was brought in after the government took over an 80% stake in AIG is continuing to pay bonuses and "retention pay" to people who have virtually destroyed the global economy -- almost single-handedly.  AIG will pay its executives, including the folks at Financial Products who created the mess that would have killed the world's largest insurance company, over $720 million dollars in bonuses and "retention pay."  Lawyers have concluded that the firm would risk a lawsuit if AIG reneged on the agreed upon retention payments of about $600 million, only $400 million of which was agreed upon before the government started bailing out AIG in September. 

AIG has agreed to eliminate bonuses to the top 7 executives and defer 1/2 of the bonuses to another 42 top executives with the other 1/2 to be paid based on performance.  Nonetheless 4,700 people in AIG's global insurance units are receiving $600 million in retention pay and $121 million in corporate bonuses will go to more than 6,400 people.  That means, on top of salaries, the 4700 people are getting an average of $127,000 worth of retention pay + those people and others are also getting $19,000 worth of bonuses.

All of that for these.....people on top of what I'm sure are handsome salaries to begin with.  Let's see.  I'm in the 95-99th percentile of taxpayers.  These four million taxpayers pay something in excess of 20% of all federal income taxes.  So, folks in my group will be paying each be paying just a small amount of bonus (about $ 40 each) to AIG employees who have probably cost each of us on the order of $100,000 - $ 250,000 this year.   I'd rather be able to sue them for the money than pay them a dime of bonus!

Continue reading

March 15, 2009 in Economics | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 2, 2009

The New Subsistence Society

Sometimes its a good idea to stand back and contemplate the universe.  Today's early news that the Dow Jones Industrial Index took another header because of AIG's $60+ billion loss prompts me to do that. 
What is the vector of our society?  What will it look like after all the dust has settled?  It is not just the financial crisis that prompts me to contemplate this.  Although the phrase is over-used, we are in the midst of a perfect storm -- a global economy that creates and distributes goods and services through the internet, computerized machines and cheap labor virtual collapse of the financial system, the advent of peak oil, and the climate crisis.  How will all of these things cumulatively affect our future?

We've lived with the first problem for decades now -- what do people do as they  become less and less important to production of goods and services.  The science fiction of our times: what happens when people and their primary asset, labor, becomes virtually superfluous.  Certainly countries with high labor costs relative to Asia and South America already are beginning to experience the problem.  Computerized machines can plant, water, and harvest the fields; robots can make the cars and prefabricated housing; department stores, bank branches, car dealers, even retail grocery stores can be replaced by internet marketing; 100 law professors lecturing to law students and 1000 college professors lecturing to college students is more than enough -- creating the prospect of a British or continental education system, with those professors raised to unseemly heights and the remainder left to do the grunge work of tutors; even more radically, 100 K-12 teachers can teach a nation of students with computer graded exams, if we believe that convergent answers are the goal of education; priests and ministers can be replaced by TV showmen and megachurch performers. 

So what do the other 6.95 billion of us do?  Now, we consume.  Voraciously.  If we don't, then the basics can be provided by a very few and the rest of us become unwanted baggage.  A non-consumer is a drag on the system.  We depend on the velocity of money, excess consumption, and inefficiency to provide each of us with a job and to maintain the current economy.

And what happens when money moves at a crawl, when people stop consuming, when production becomes life-threatening to the planet, and when a key resource for production, oil, reaches the point of no return???  The answer is a new subsistence economy.  A new world where a few are need to produce, a few more can consume, and the remainder have no economic role and are left to subsist as best they can.

Admittedly, it will be subsistence at a higher level -- through the internet, computerization, and technology, each of us will have the capacity to do things for ourselves that are beyond the imagination of today's impoverished subsistence farmers.  But, relative to those who own all of the means of production, a few entertainers (be they basketball players, lecturers, moviestars, or mega-church leaders), and a few laborers (building the machines, computers, the information infrastructure and doing basic and applied research), we will all be poor.  Perhaps only relatively and perhaps only in material terms.  But poor, living at a subsistence level, consuming food from our own gardens, building our own houses, wearing clothes for function not fashion, educating our own children through the internet, capturing essential power through distributed energy, and buying very little of goods that are bound to be too expensive for most -- probably just computers.  It won't necessarily be bad.  Perhaps we can refocus on relationships, family, community, art, music, literature, and life, rather than define ourselves in terms of our job and our things.  Perhaps we can refocus on spirituality instead of materialism. Who knows?  Maybe the new society won't be such a bad thing after all -- at least if we insist that the few who have the privilege of production have a responsibility to share the wealth with the many.

March 2, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Outstanding environmental law professors join the green team

Wow.  Obama's talent is awesome!

Professor Jody Freeman LL.M. '91 S.J.D. '95


Harvard Law School Professor Jody Freeman is serving as a senior advisor to Carol Browner, the White House energy and climate “czar,” as Counselor for Energy and Climate Change.  Freeman was chosen by Harvard to serve as the founding director of the HLS Environmental Law Program and has taught at Harvard since 2005.

Freeman authored an amicus brief on behalf of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in Massachusetts v. EPA, the global warming case decided by the Supreme Court in 2007. Her analysis of the implications of the case, Massachusetts v. EPA: From Politics to Expertise appears in the 2007 Supreme Court Review.



Georgetown Law Professor Lisa Heinzerling has joined Lisa Jackson's team at EPA.  She was lead author of the plaintiffs' briefs in Massachusetts v. EPA, the court case settled by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

Heinzerling is author of a number of outstanding law review articles critiquing the cost-benefit analysis work of John Morrell and John Graham.  She is also the co-author with Frank Ackerman of Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing, which rejects the idea that government policy should be based on exclusively on cost-benefit analysis.

Last May Grist published dueling comments by Richard Resverz and Heinzerling on cost-benefit analysis. Heinzerling wrote: "Cost-benefit analysis also produces results that are kin to neither reason nor compassion. Scientists around the world now urge us to act quickly to prevent catastrophic effects from climate change…Many economists soberly advise us to do nothing, or very little, because their calculations demonstrate that the future is worth very little, that people prefer warm weather to cold, and that humans in poor countries are not worth as much as humans in rich ones. These calculations are not the work of the radical fringe in economics; they come from highly regarded cost-benefit practitioners. But they are unreasonable and uncompassionate all the same."

Continue reading

February 26, 2009 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Saga of Snowbasin - Book Review

Here's a book review I published in American Scientist about Stephen Trimble's recent book.  AmSci link

BARGAINING FOR EDEN: The Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America. Stephen Trimble. xiv + 319 pp. University of California Press, 2008. $29.95.


The strikingly beautiful Utah landscapes Stephen Trimble writes about in Bargaining for Eden—the craggy Wasatch mountain range, the desolate desert mesas—change subtly in appearance with each passing moment, as light and shadow dance over them. The same could be said of the book’s evolving perspective—every time I thought I understood Trimble’s position regarding the battles being waged over the precious wild lands that remain in the western United States, his point of view subtly shifted.

The first part of the book, aptly named “Bedrock,” sets the stage and sketches the main characters. The citizens of Ogden, Utah, are fighting billionaire oil magnate Earl Holding, who wants to transform Snowbasin, a community ski area on Mount Ogden, into a posh resort in time for the 2004 Winter Olympics. Trimble avoids the temptation to make this starkly partisan struggle into a morality play, perhaps because the story doesn’t end happily. Although the local environmentalists win a few battles, they lose the war, and the majesty of Mount Ogden is marred by development.

Rather than framing the Snowbasin saga as a tragedy, Trimble deftly uses it as a device for exploring a far more complicated theme, addressing himself directly to those who treasure wild land out West. They yearn for the romance, simplicity, community and connection they draw from open space and wilderness. Yet they also benefit from the roads, rural retreat homes and high-tech ski lifts that development provides. The poles of maximum development and maximum preservation are extremes at the ends of a continuum. Attaching oneself unthinkingly to either extreme creates destructive antagonism that severs ties to people and values on “the other side of the moral mountain.” A better, more sustainable approach to managing the lands of the West is needed.

Continue reading

February 25, 2009 in Biodiversity, Economics, Environmental Assessment, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Land Use, Law, Legislation, North America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

President Obama's "State of the Union" Speech

The White House has published the "Remarks of President Barack Obama -- Address to Joint Session of Congress" as prepared for delivery on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009. White House link   The President called for Congress to send him a cap and trade bill to address climate change and stressed investments in clean energy as the path to America's future.  What a difference from last year!

As the President says about the long term investments that are absolutely critical to our economic future:

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century.  And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient.  We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it.  New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years.  We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country.  And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.  So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.  And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink.  We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices.  But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win.  Millions of jobs depend on it.  Scores of communities depend on it.  And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy.  But this is America.  We don’t do what’s easy.  We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

Continue reading

February 25, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition

Congratulations to all of the participants in the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition held at Pace University during the last few days.  Roughly 70 law schools participated in the competition, which featured a difficult and oft-times confusing problem about salvage of a Spanish shipwreck.  The law covered by the problem included admiralty law, administrative law, international law such as the UNESCO treaty and the Law of the Sea, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Rivers and Harbors Act, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and for good measure, the Submerged Military Craft Act.  Just typing that list makes me tired!

The learning is in participating, but the honors for Best Briefs go to University of Houston, Georgetown, and University of California at Davis, with Houston winning overall Best Brief.  The Best Oralist Honor goes to Louisiana State University.  The final round of the competition featured Lewis & Clark law school, University of Utah, and Louisiana State. Lewis & Clark prevailed, winning the overall competition for the 2d time in a row.  If I recall correctly, that may be the first back to back win.  Congratulations to everyone!

The students of Pace University deserve special mention for sacrificing their ability to compete and for running a flawless competition.  More details can be found at the NELMCC site.

February 25, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Will Obama say "NO" to tar sands?

The environmental community is mobilizing to get Obama to reject imports of oil produced from tar sands.  While the campaign primarily focuses on the climate change impacts, the most pernicious effects of tar sands production are on water, both in terms of water quality and water allocation.  Tar sands production requires huge amounts of water and the water becomes polluted to the point where it is largely uneconomic to clean it: essentially permanently polluting freshwater resources, which are already limited.  On these grounds alone, we should not encourage development of tar sands.  In addition, tar sands and other "secondary" forms of oil production, all contribute more to global warming than conventional oil.  We must be prepared for Canada's response: the U.S. is being hypocritical unless it also discourages production of oil shale in the Mountain West -- another secondary recovery source of oil.  And the answer to that needs to be -- yes, we need to get our own house in order and develop a marketable carbon rights program or carbon tax that forces energy corporations to realize that development of such resources is both socially undesirable and economically infeasible.

February 16, 2009
By Earth's Newsdesk, a project of Ecological Internet
CONTACT: Dr. Glen Barry,

(Seattle, WA) -- On February 19, President Barack Obama
travels to Canada on his first international trip as
President, where he will face pressure from the
Government of Canada to support production of Alberta's
filthy tar sands oil. An international network of
environmental groups has launched the "Obama2Canada"
campaign[1] urging President Obama to stand strong on his
new energy economy agenda and reject entreaties from
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to shelter the
dirtiest oil on earth from global warming regulation.

"Tar sands oil is the dirtiest form of energy in the
world. It has no place in President Obama's plans for a
clean energy economy," said Sierra Club Dirty Fuels
Campaign Coordinator Pat Gallagher. "Tar sands oil
accelerates global warming. It destroys forests. It
endangers public health. Instead of importing this
expensive, dirty oil, we can invest in clean energy that
will create millions of much-needed, sustainable jobs."

Called oil sands by proponents, tar sands are the very
dirtiest of fossil fuels. Producing oil from tar sands
emits three times the global warming pollution as
conventional oil, requires excessive amounts of energy
and fresh water, and destroys huge swaths of ancient
boreal forest. Given its massive carbon footprint, tar
sands would almost certainly prove unviable under any
reasonable climate change regulations. Along with ending
the use of coal and old growth forest destruction,
stopping tar sands is essential global climate policy
required to maintain an operable atmosphere.

Continue reading

February 16, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (2)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chartering Sustainable Transnational Corporations

This link connects to a paper I just posted on SSRN.  I presented the paper at the 6th Colloquium of the IUCN International Academy of Environmental Law in Mexico City in November 2008.  I am submitting a short version of the paper for possible publication in a book incorporating papers presented at the conference on the theme of Alleviating Poverty and Environmental Protection.  And I am preparing a more complete and elaborate version for possible law review publication.  I would deeply appreciate your comments on the subject of how we ensure that transnational corporations act in a sustainable manner and the obstacles or concerns with the approach I suggest.  SSRN link

Using a recent innovative Oregon sustainable corporation law as a springboard, this article argues for requiring all transnational corporations to be chartered as sustainable corporations. Given the far-reaching effects of their operations and their uniquely powerful role, the global wealth that has been accumulated in these organizations must be fundamentally redirected toward creating a sustainable world. As a privilege of doing transnational business, transnational corporations should be required to incorporate environmental and social responsibility into their corporate charters-the document that sets forth the prime mission of the corporation and its directors, essentially baking sustainability into the corporate DNA of transnational corporations.

To be both effective and to harness the entrepreneurial creativity of these organizations, the sustainable corporation charter must be implemented per provisions that require transnational corporations to develop corporate sustainability strategies in accordance with the guidance provided by the implementing provisions. The implementing provisions should also require that the transnational corporations monitor and report in a standardized manner compliance with the corporate sustainability strategy, with sustainability-related laws, and with nonbinding environmental, labor, human rights, corruption, and other sustainability-related standards.

The sustainable corporation charter requirement should be imposed as a matter of international law, through an international convention and administered by an international commission. The requirements should be directly applicable to transnational corporations as a condition of doing transnational business. The commission should be authorized to take enforcement action directly against the corporation. In addition, both home and host nations to transnational corporations should agree to compel the corporations - either incorporated in that nation or doing business in that nation-to comply with the sustainable corporation charter requirement as a condition of doing any business. Nations that fail to join the international convention, or that fail to enforce the international convention, should be subject to mandatory trade and other economic sanctions by all signatories to the international agreement.

We can no longer allow transnational corporations to aggregate the bulk of societal wealth and then operate in an environmentally and socially irresponsible manner. The proposals in this article are one step toward turning transnational corporations into sustainable corporations.

Keywords: transnational corporations, corporate charters, multi-national corporations, sustainability, environmental, international convention, environmental assessment, voluntary compliance, environmental standards, alien tort, corporate social responsibility, human rights, international law, enforcement

February 1, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Credit Picture's Still Grim

Creditcrisis_indicatorsA picture is worth a thousand words.  Here are charts from the New York Times Economix Blog, circulated by Visualizing economics, showing five indicators of the dimensions of the credit crisis that began last year.  Certainly some of the measures are improving due to the actions of the Federal Reserve in reducing the cost of money to banks.  Others look pretty grim still -- the decline in the T bill rates, which reflects flight from stocks, bonds, and money market account, and the enormous difference between the T bill rate and the rate charged between banks for short-term money, which reflects distrust and stress in the financial markets.  Remember: all of these measures at the beginning of the year were worse than usual, so the dramatic changes in the 4th quarter of last year were even more dramatic given a longer-term perspective.  I'm looking forward to the end of the year -- and hoping that all of this looks much better -- and that AMEX will restore me to having no ceiling on the amount that I put on my green card (yes, I still have a green card -- they've tried to seduce me with platinum, gold, silver, blue and every other color -- but I like the card that gets paid off at the end of the month).

February 1, 2009 in Economics | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama: Energy and Environment Directives

Here's a source for primary information about Obama's Energy and Environment Directives on the California waiver and the CAFE standards.  I searched for this yesterday and couldn't find it -- maybe some of you had the same problem.

Today, January 27, we posted a lengthy summary of various reactions to President Obama's Climate Change and Energy Presidential Memos on our eNewsUSA blog at: The summaries include links to the full text of the releases. The posting includes both positive and negative reactions from U.S. Congressional leaders, industry, environment and government organizations. The posting also includes links to the full text of the President Obama Memos. Also included, on the January 26 posting, are a summary of President Obama statement on the Memos and links to the full text and video of the speech and related information. The posting also includes some clarifications of some misleading reporting and statements that have been made regarding the President's announcement and the Memos.

January 27, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Oregon's Measure 37: The Paralyzing Effect of Takings Legislation and its Treatment

One of my students just published an article on Oregon's battle with takings legislation: David Boulanger, The Battle over Property Rights in Oregon: Measures 37 and 49 and the Need for Sustainable Land Use Planning, 45 Willamette L Rev 313 (2008). 

If you have any interest in land use law, how takings law affects the environment or in takings legislation, this article is worth a read.

January 27, 2009 in Agriculture, Cases, Constitutional Law, Economics, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Choose the Best Answer: Organizing Climate Change Negotiation in the Obama Administration

Northwestern University Law Review has published an interesting essay on who should lead the US negotiating team on climate change.  Professor Zasloff suggests the US Trade Representative.  My immediate reaction to the question is Carol Browner or Hillary Clinton, but.... see what you think.  NWU L Rev Zasloff on climate change negotiations Here's the introduction:

Jonathan Zasloff[*]

[download pdf]

Bureaucratic reorganization may well constitute the most dismal swamp of policy analysis. Agencies are restructured, responsibilities reassigned, bureaus renamed, boxes are moved around—yet all too often, nothing happens. This failure, of course, leads to yet another fruitless round of thrashing about.

But organizational choices matter. At the start of the War on Terror, President Bush made two crucial decisions: he gave the CIA (rather than the FBI) control over the interrogations of high-value terror suspects[1] and he gave the Defense Department (rather than State) control of postwar Iraqi reconstruction.[2] These choices carried disastrous results. Bush’s earlier decision to grant Vice President Dick Cheney essentially free rein throughout the executive branch also had critical consequences for the substantive outcomes of his administration.[3]

So it is with international climate change negotiations. Which American agency or entity would be the most capable choice to design effective international climate change architecture? This Essay examines the usual suspects—the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Council on Environmental Quality, a “Climate Czar,” and a special climate change representative—and considers the advantages and pitfalls of each.

I conclude, however, that the (tentatively) best choice is one never mentioned by commentators: the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Although USTR does not perfectly fit the task, it has fewer shortcomings than other available agencies. While hardly without problems, the USTR represents the best maximization of advantages and minimization of problems.

January 27, 2009 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Energy and Environment Investments in Obama's Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

Here are the items in Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that directly affect energy and environment: renewable energy; smart electricity grid; weatherizing homes; clean energy private sector finance; highway and bridge infrastructure replacement projects and mass transit projects; water supply, water treatment, wastewater treatment and sewage system projects. Energy and environment projects in recovery plan  I wonder how Obama plans to deal with NEPA and permitting issues.

From the report on specifics:

  • Doubling renewable energy generating capacity over three years. It took 30 years for our nation to reach its current level of renewable generating capacity – the recovery and reinvestment plan will double that level over the next three years. That increase in capacity is enough to power 6 million American homes.
  • Jump-starting the transformation to a bigger, better, smarter grid. The upfront investments and reforms in modernizing our nation’s electricity grid will result in more than 3,000 miles of new or modernized transmission lines and 40 million “Smart Meters” in American homes.
  • Weatherizing at least two million homes to save low-income families on average $350 per year and modernizing more than 75% of federal building space, saving taxpayers $2 billion per year in lower federal energy bills. Today, the federal government is the world’s largest consumer of energy. The recovery and reinvestment plan will make an historic investment in upgrading the federal building stock that will save taxpayer dollars and help catalyze a green building industry.
  • Launching a Clean Energy Finance Initiative to leverage $100 billion in private sector clean energy investments over three years. The finance authority will provide loan guarantees and other financial support to help ease credit constraints for renewable energy investors and catalyze new private sector investment over the next three years.
  • Enacting the largest investment increase in our nation’s roads, bridges and mass transits systems since the creation of the national highway system in the 1950s. The plan will repair and modernize thousands of miles of roadways in the U.S. and providing new mass transit options for millions of Americans.
  • Modernizing our nation’s water systems with funding to support 1,300 new wastewater projects, 380 new drinking water projects and construction of 1000 rural water and sewer systems, ensuring that 1.5 million people have new or improved service.

January 24, 2009 in Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, Sustainability, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Obama Administration's Energy and Environment Agenda


The energy challenges our country faces are severe and have gone unaddressed for far too long. Our addiction to foreign oil doesn't just undermine our national security and wreak havoc on our environment -- it cripples our economy and strains the budgets of working families all across America. President Obama and Vice President Biden have a comprehensive plan to invest in alternative and renewable energy, end our addiction to foreign oil, address the global climate crisis and create millions of new jobs.

The Obama-Biden comprehensive New Energy for America plan will:

  • Help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future.
  • Within 10 years save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined.
  • Put 1 million Plug-In Hybrid cars -- cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon -- on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America.
  • Ensure 10 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025.
  • Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Energy Plan Overview

Provide Short-term Relief to American Families

  • Crack Down on Excessive Energy Speculation.
  • Swap Oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to Cut Prices.

Eliminate Our Current Imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 Years

  • Increase Fuel Economy Standards.
  • Get 1 Million Plug-In Hybrid Cars on the Road by 2015.
  • Create a New $7,000 Tax Credit for Purchasing Advanced Vehicles.
  • Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard.
  • A “Use it or Lose It” Approach to Existing Oil and Gas Leases.
  • Promote the Responsible Domestic Production of Oil and Natural Gas.

Create Millions of New Green Jobs

  • Ensure 10 percent of Our Electricity Comes from Renewable Sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025.
  • Deploy the Cheapest, Cleanest, Fastest Energy Source – Energy Efficiency.
  • Weatherize One Million Homes Annually.
  • Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology.
  • Prioritize the Construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline.

Reduce our Greenhouse Gas Emissions 80 Percent by 2050

  • Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
  • Make the U.S. a Leader on Climate Change.

January 23, 2009 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Let Clean Water Flow

Here's my church's video to launch our 2009 Drink Water for Life lenten challenge.  If you benefit from the work I do on this blog, please, please, please......take the challenge or find another way to contribute to organizations that do community-based water projects.  Church World Service or Global Ministries are great faith-based organizations.  Water for Life and Water for People are great secular groups. Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water borne disease like cholera or dysentery from lack of clean water and sanitation.  Together, we can change this.  Village by village. 

Let Clean Water Flow 

January 23, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)