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Special guest lecture: ‘Is a sustainable global economy possible?’

Malcolm Potts, professor of population and family planning | August 27, 2015

Like every university, UC Berkeley is home to an intellectual chasm that makes the Grand Canyon look like Strawberry Creek. Classical economists teach a world where economic growth is sacred, perpetual and always good. Those in the life sciences and some physical sciences, such as energy and astronomy, understand that our world is small and finite. Faculty … Continue reading »

What the market is telling us about coal

Dan Farber, professor of law | August 13, 2015

The market’s message is simple: coal’s day is ending. Three major coal companies (Alpha Natural Resources, Walter Energy, and Patriot Coal) have gone into bankruptcy. The two largest publicly traded  companies (Peabody and Arch) are now trading for a dollar a share, down from $16 and $33 within the past year. They, too, may well … Continue reading »

Mountaintop mining rule evokes protest firestorm. #getagrip

Dan Farber, professor of law | July 23, 2015

Political polarization has gotten to the point where there would be immediate denunciations if the President issued a proclamation honoring apple pie. Another intrusion into consumer choice, besmirching those who prefer cherry and pumpkin! Another blatant overreach by an out-of-control, incipient tyrant! Not only is every executive action accompanied by loud resistance, but the same explosion of … Continue reading »

Environmental leadership: Lessons learned from Beahrs program

Robin Marsh, resident researcher, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues | July 17, 2015

When we created the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program 15 years ago, it was with the conviction that UC Berkeley would be a perfect place for a residential training of global environmentalists. The combination of Berkeley faculty pioneering a range of environmental fields, and the surrounding Bay Area innovation culture would be stimulating and help launch … Continue reading »

On the origins of the Beahrs ELP

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | July 14, 2015

The Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program [ELP] is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Every summer, we bring about 40 up-and-coming leaders from mostly developing countries to a 3 week intensive training and exchange program. We cover topics such as environmental policy, conflict resolution, management of climate change, impact assessment, and the participants also take tours of California. The … Continue reading »

Mercury Rising: The Court reverses EPA’s regulation

Dan Farber, professor of law | June 29, 2015

The Court has just now decided the Michigan case, involving EPA’s mercury regulation. As Ann Carlson explained in an earlier post, a lot was at stake in the case. The Court ruled 5-4 against EPA. This passage seems to be key to the Court’s reasoning: One would not say that it is even rational, never mind “appropriate,” … Continue reading »

Jeb, the Pope and climate change

Dan Farber, professor of law | June 10, 2015

Jeb Bush’s environmental views seem to be evolving. In a recent speech at Liberty University, he had this to say about environmental protection: “America’s environmental debates, likewise, can be too coldly economical, too sterile of life . . . Christians see in nature and all God’s creatures designs grander than any of man’s own devising, the … Continue reading »

The UnBushes and the environment

Dan Farber, professor of law | May 13, 2015

My post last week discussed Jeb Bush’s environmental record. At this point, there’s something of a free-for-all among candidates hoping to emerge as the Bush alternative – the UnBushes. Five of the remaining candidates announced or likely candidates have served in Congress, so they have scores from the League of Conservation Voters. Some of them are considered … Continue reading »

Is residential solar really the future of electricity generation?

Severin Borenstein, professor of business | May 8, 2015

Renewable energy technologies have made outstanding progress in the last decade.  The cost of solar panels has plummeted.  Wind turbines have become massively more efficient.  In many places some forms of renewable energy are cost competitive.  And yet…just as these exciting changes are taking place, the renewables movement seems to be shifting its focus to … Continue reading »

Is Jeb too green? GOP primary voters may think so

Dan Farber, professor of law | May 6, 2015

At this point, the GOP Presidential field looks like Jeb Bush versus Everyone Else. (Of course, there’s a big fight over who get’s to play Everyone Else when this particular play opens in Iowa and New Hampshire.) It’s an open question whether Jeb will turn out to be too green for the average GOP primary voter. … Continue reading »

Climate-change gag rules and the First Amendment

Dan Farber, professor of law | April 17, 2015

There have been recent reports about state agencies that forbid employees from discussing climate change. Since this is obviously a restriction on speech, it’s natural to wonder what the First Amendment has to say on the subject. The answer depends in large part on the kind of employee speech at issue. Let’s being with a ban … Continue reading »

News from a warming world

Dan Farber, professor of law | April 2, 2015

There’s been a lot of interesting environmental news recently, much of which seems to have gotten little notice. The topics range from U.S. wind power (growing) to U.S. coal power and Arctic sea ice (both shrinking), with a bit of Ted Cruz to spice things up. Here’s the round-up: Out with coal, in with wind. The Energy … Continue reading »

Guess who’s coming to dinner? Feeding our billions without plowing the entire planet

Dan Farber, professor of law | March 18, 2015

Who’s coming for dinner? The answer, in case you’re wondering, is “two billion more people.”  That’s the population increase predicted for 2050.  How are we going to feed those people? One method is to cut down a lot of the world’s remaining forests and plow the world’s remaining grasslands. That’s a bad approach environmentally: it will … Continue reading »

Keystone Pipeline and the Carbon Tax: A shotgun marriage that can work

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | January 26, 2015

We recently learned that Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) suggested amending a bill that approves the building of the Keystone pipeline and abolishes the corn ethanol mandate. This is a very unwise proposal. If Congress needs a face-saving way to approve the Keystone pipeline, it should be done in a way that … Continue reading »

Happy endings and promising starts on the environment

Dan Farber, professor of law | January 2, 2015

In most ways, 2014 was a good year for environmental protection, with progress on several fronts. True, there are warning signs for 2015 — primarily the Republican sweep of the mid-terms and the Supreme Court’s puzzling decision to review toxics regulations for coal-fired power plants. And of course, there were losses as well as victories, … Continue reading »

This challenge to the Endangered Species Act is a case to watch

Eric Biber, professor of law | November 21, 2014

The federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) is widely known for being the primary law in the United States that focuses on protecting biodiversity, and also for being a “pit bull” of environmental laws that has few exceptions and broad sweep. (For instance, the ESA was a major component of the litigation strategy by environmental groups … Continue reading »

Reaching across the aisle?

Dan Farber, professor of law | November 18, 2014

The safest prediction is that our Democratic President and Republican Congress will not in fact be able to work together.  Their present gestures toward cooperation may mean nothing more than a willingness to accept the other side’s surrender. But hope springs eternal.  Are there areas where common ground exists?  That seems nearly impossible on some … Continue reading »

Should environmental news coverage be in the science section?

Eric Biber, professor of law | October 16, 2014

A while back I wrote about how the New York Times’ environmental coverage had been in decline. The public editor at the Times has a new article stating that environmental coverage has recently increased substantially. I think that is a great thing. But I want to focus on another element of the public editor’s article. … Continue reading »

A common energy-saving device I’ve never seen in the U.S.

Catherine Wolfram, faculty co-director, Energy Institute at Haas | October 8, 2014

I tend to think of the U.S. as ahead of most of the rest of the world when it comes to energy efficiency. Maybe not in the Germany or Japan league, but at least above the median. After all, our utilities are spending billions of dollars per year encouraging energy efficiency and our policy makers talk about … Continue reading »