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The case for farmed fish

Dan Farber, professor of law | April 29, 2016

It’s time to take a second look at fish farms. Environmentalists, not to mention foodies, tend to turn up their noses at fish farms.  It’s true that badly managed fish farms can be a source of water pollution and other environmental problems.  But sustainable fish farming would have major environmental benefits. To begin with, fish … Continue reading »

Why lenders are leaving $72 billion in energy retrofits on the table

Ethan Elkind, associate director, Climate Change and Business Program |

In the fight to save energy and reduce pollution, everyone always says that energy efficiency is the “low-hanging fruit.”  That’s because upgrading appliances and building performance typically saves enough energy and therefore money to pay for itself in just a few years. So why aren’t commercial building owners in particular taking more advantage of the … Continue reading »

Why are the automakers complaining?

Lucas Davis, Professor, Haas School of Business | April 22, 2016

With gasoline prices averaging $2 per gallon, Americans are flocking to gas-guzzling vehicles. Last year was the biggest year ever for the U.S. auto industry with 17.5 million total vehicle sales nationwide. Trucks, SUVs, and crossovers led the charge with a 13 percent increase compared to 2014. The one problem with selling all these gas … Continue reading »

Of sewage spills and citizen suits

Holly Doremus, professor of law | April 12, 2016

(Co-authored with Nell Green Nylen and Michael Kiparsky.) Every day, Californians produce millions of gallons of wastewater. We tend to avoid thinking about what flows down our drains, but how we deal with sewage is a critically important aspect of public and environmental health. Most communities in California rely on an extensive system of interconnected … Continue reading »

Deep in the heart of Texas: green patches in a red state

Dan Farber, professor of law | March 29, 2016

The Texas Attorney General’s office seems to do little else besides battle against EPA, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz is in the vanguard of anti-environmentalism.  Yet even in Texas there are some rays of hope. While Texas is attacking the Clean Power Plan, the city of Houston is leading a coalition of cities defending it. Other … Continue reading »

Canada’s got a good thing going: a tax on carbon

Meredith Fowlie, associate professor, agricultural and resource economics | March 28, 2016

It’s tax season and this makes many Americans pretty grumpy. According to a recent poll/parody, 27 percent of those surveyed indicate they would rather get an IRS tattoo than pay their taxes. Given the deep-seated ire that taxation can inspire in U.S. taxpayers, it’s not altogether surprising that calls for an economy-wide carbon tax do not find … Continue reading »

Creating an exit strategy for our use of natural gas

Steven Weissman, associate director, Center for Law, Energy and the Environment | March 21, 2016

Coal is the climate’s Public Enemy No. 1. The use of natural gas has helped to ensure that the coal problem has not become even worse. Without natural gas, we would use more coal for space heating and for many more industrial processes than is currently the practice. Without natural gas, our reliance on coal for … Continue reading »

Fukushima + 5: Where things stand today

Dan Farber, professor of law | March 11, 2016

Five years ago today, Japan was hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami, resulting in the Fukushima reactor meltdowns. Where do things stand today? Here’s a quick wrap-up: Compensation.  The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the utility operating the reactors, now estimates that it will pay $56 billion in compensation to victims. Clean-up. The plant … Continue reading »

No more Berning of fossil fuels

Maximilian Auffhammer, professor, international sustainable development | March 10, 2016

For the energy sector a lot is at stake with this next election. Of the GOP front runners, only Marco Rubio has an energy or climate plan on his website. A few choice nuggets are doing away with “Obama’s carbon mandates” (whatever that means), approving Keystone XL immediately, rewriting the offshore drilling plan and creating … Continue reading »

A second BART transbay tube? Discuss.

Ethan Elkind, associate director, Climate Change and Business Program |

BART under the San Francisco Bay is crowded and a major choke point for regional transportation. Monday night I guest hosted a discussion on City Visions on KALW radio on the prospects of building a second rail tube. The audio is now available here. Some big picture points that emerged: The exact route is undefined and … Continue reading »

California’s tax code impedes its progress on climate change

Karen Chapple, Professor, City and Regional Planning | March 1, 2016

The California Legislature is renowned for its courage in adopting bold climate and clean-energy initiatives that influence environmental policy around the globe. But it has hesitated to reform the state’s tax code, costing the state an opportunity to better support its climate goals. Current tax policies encourage sprawl, increasing vehicle miles driven and threatening the … Continue reading »

A multi-dimensional approach to affordable housing policy: Learning from climate change policy

Karen Chapple, Professor, City and Regional Planning | February 11, 2016

A consensus is emerging that we have to do everything in our power to slow the course of global warming. The list of tools includes long-term measures such as greater energy efficiencies in buildings, industry, appliances; carbon cap-and-trade systems and taxes; new standards for fuel economy and the reduction of CO2 emissions from new passenger … Continue reading »

High-speed rail likely to abandon SoCal connection

Ethan Elkind, associate director, Climate Change and Business Program | February 10, 2016

It looks like the financial walls are starting to close in on California’s high-speed rail plan. Facing the reality that there’s not enough money to get the system over the Tehachapis to a gerrymandered, ill-advised stop in Palmdale, the California High Speed Rail Authority is now openly considering trying to connect to Silicon Valley instead, per the Fresno … Continue reading »

Gas is too cheap

Maximilian Auffhammer, professor, international sustainable development | February 4, 2016

Readers of this blog are likely aware that oil is really cheap right now. While in July 2008, the U.S. benchmark price peaked at just above $140 a barrel, its price dipped to below $27 in mid-January. The Internet is on fire telling us that a barrel of oil is now cheaper than the equivalent … Continue reading »

The future of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant

Steven Weissman, associate director, Center for Law, Energy and the Environment | February 2, 2016

The role that nuclear power could or should play in helping to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is worthy of serious debate, but the latest nuclear-related front-page story in the San Francisco Chronicle is a head-scratcher. Above the fold, the headline reads “Nuclear plant’s surprise backers,” followed by the following subheading: “Environmentalists push for Diablo Canyon … Continue reading »

Clean technology: Big win in Supreme Court

Ethan Elkind, associate director, Climate Change and Business Program | January 26, 2016

The future of a clean electricity grid will require more decentralization based on clean technology, like solar and energy storage. Large industrial customers are investing in these technologies and also signing up to moderate their electricity demand in response to larger grid needs (i.e. reducing usage when electricity becomes expensive and dirty to produce). Smaller … Continue reading »

On environmental policy, 2016 is the year of living dangerously

Dan Farber, professor of law | January 12, 2016

We are at the start of a year of danger for environmental policy. 2015 saw many accomplishments in environmental law: the Administration issued the “waters of the United States” and Clean Power Plan regulations, a Supreme Court ruling in favor of EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule, and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Much of this progress is … Continue reading »

Heat and happiness

Maximilian Auffhammer, professor, international sustainable development | January 8, 2016

One of the reasons we think we should take action about climate change is that the costs of doing something about the problem are lower than the stream of future damages if we fail to act. Figuring out what damages from climate change will be 100 or more years into the future is difficult. It … Continue reading »

Key environmental developments ahead in 2016

Dan Farber, professor of law | January 2, 2016

The year 2015 was a big one for agency regulations and international negotiations. In 2016, the main focal points will be the political process and the courts. Here are seven major things to watch for. The presidential election. The election will have huge consequences for the environment. A Republican President is almost sure to try to roll … Continue reading »

Training environmental leaders in Nepal, Sandee style

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | December 21, 2015

I had always wanted to visit Nepal and between the 9th and 14th of December I finally made the voyage. I participated in a seminar of Sandee (the South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economists) and spent some time with my colleague and friend Biswo Poudel. The flight to Kathmandu is among the longest as … Continue reading »