Category Archives: Environment

The Market Responds… with Sheep

This is ingenious.

IN this verdant lawn-filled college town [Oberlin, OH], most people keep their lawn mowers tuned up by oiling the motor and sharpening the blades. Eddie Miller keeps his in shape with salt licks and shearing scissors.

Mr. Miller, 23, is the founder of Heritage Lawn Mowing, a company that rents out sheep — yes, sheep — as a landscaping aid. For a small fee, Mr. Miller, whose official job title is “shepherd,” brings his ovine squad to the yards of area homeowners, where the sheep spend anywhere from three hours to several days grazing on grass, weeds and dandelions.

The results, he said, are a win-win: the sheep eat free, saving him hundreds of dollars a month in food costs, and his clients get a freshly cut lawn, with none of the carbon emissions of a conventional gas-powered mower. (There are, of course, other emissions, which Mr. Miller said make for “all-natural fertilizer.”)

This is win-win-win. Let us not forget that such an idea puts no costs on others. The government is not taxing us to make us more green, nor are they banning something that we consume, such as fluorescent light bulbs. Rather, an entrepreneur with an idea is responding to the green desires of individuals, and makes a profit in doing so. Good for him. Good for them.

Customers pay $1 per sheep per day, but Mr. Miller also accepts barter payments, which have so far included karate lessons, jugs of maple syrup and the use of one homeowner’s truck. He has done around 20 homes so far, and has so many requests he can’t keep up with them.

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Filed under Energy, Environment

They Stole What?

A historic church in downtown Washington lost part of its protection against lightning late last month as a result of a type of crime that has been widely reported in recent months in the Washington area and around the nation. The crime is copper theft.

In one hard-hit area, Prince William County, two copper thefts were reported to police last week. Someone had taken apart an air-conditioning unit outside a house in Dumfries and stolen copper components, police were told Oct. 5. In the same county, police received a report Oct. 3 of the theft of piping from a water heater and washing machine from a house in the Woodbridge/Dale City area.

Those incidents followed eight reports of copper piping stolen from houses in the county last month and 13 thefts or attempted thefts of copper piping from houses in the county in August.

Authorities have linked the crimes to the price paid for scrap copper, which, according to charts available online, was more than $4 a pound at times during the summer. It has since fallen closer to $3. Even so, copper remains an attractive target for would-be burglars, thieves and vandals who have sawed off pipes, snipped electrical wires and, in at least one case, removed a statue from a cemetery.

The thieves are in business, but are the miners? It is worth us asking how many potential jobs are prevented, and how much wealth we are forgoing, because of EPA regulations and environmental lawsuits. We see again this trade-off: job creation vs. environmental protection.

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Filed under Economy, Environment

A Case for Exploration and Drilling

From The Economist:

Commodity prices are acting as regulators of global growth. The emerging markets are first in the queue for supplies because they are often able to use each extra barrel of oil or shipload of ore more gainfully. Their demand raises prices and lowers real incomes in the rich world, which gets crowded out. Rich countries had become used to unlimited access to cheap raw materials: prices had been falling for a century or more. Now there is competition for primary resources. Producers are benefiting and rich-world consumers are suffering, at precisely the time when they are also increasingly anxious about job security as China and India rise and rise.

True, but there is no reason why we can’t be both a producer and a rich-world consumer. We need an energy policy that encourages exploration and extraction of all commodities available, including oil. “Drill, baby, drill!” might be a cheap campaign slogan, and the belief that we can drill our way out of the problem is naive, but we are choosing to transfer our wealth to producers of commodities by choosing not join them. We could create both jobs and wealth quite easily with the correct incentives and regulations. Instead we choose Solyndra.

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Filed under Economics, Energy, Environment

“We Need Jobs, It’s That Simple”

A “rancorous” public debate over a $7 billion oil pipeline from Canada through the US highlights a more common debate among policy-makers: assessing the value of trade-offs.

“We need the jobs, it’s that simple,” said Bret Marshall, 53, a laborer’s union worker who said he hoped to get work on the line and drove more than 700 miles across Montana to be here for Tuesday night’s hearing.

The State Department concluded last month that the project, Keystone XL, would cause minimal environmental impact if it was operated according to regulations, and the operator, TransCanada, has said the nearly 2,000-mile line would create 20,000 jobs in the United States. Opposition groups around the country, though, said the federal study did not consider the effects of a major spill, while supporters said the nation’s economy had continued to worsen, making Keystone XL all the more crucial.

This is a classic trade-off: jobs versus environmental protection. Ideally there would not be a conflict, but we don’t live in that ideal, win-win world. Environmentalists have a strong case to make, but it is hard to make it when one-sixth of the American workforce is either unemployed or discouraged from looking. The priority now must be on job creation. When we again have full employment we can discuss such environmental impacts. For the time being, unless that impact is quite significant, it must wait. Obama was correct when, earlier this month, he asked the EPA to withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

On that decision, the LA Times reported:

Environmental groups swiftly criticized the decision as the most recent surrender by the administration to the business lobby. “The Obama administration is caving to big polluters at the expense of protecting the air we breathe,” said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski. “This is a huge win for corporate polluters and huge loss for public health.”

It wasn’t just a political move, it was an economic decision. If he was “caving” to something, it was to the priority of job creation. It is a well-understood trade-off, whether the environmental groups choose to acknowledge it or not.

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Filed under Domestic Politics, Economics, Energy, Environment