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How Good Intentions Backfire: Negative Effects of Federal Environmental Policies

landscape-mountains-nature-rocksOctober 1, 2016

Introduction

Federal policymakers have been enacting environmental laws for decades to preserve environmental quality and promote human health, but some outcomes from these laws have been economically or environmentally harmful. This report examines how and why negative consequences arise from seemingly good environmental laws.

The report examines the political process of creating environmental policies. Case studies included in the report include:

  • The Wilderness Act
  • The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
  • The Clean Air Act
  • The Clean Water Act
  • The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)
  • The Energy Policy Act of 2005

 

The report also includes a section on how market-based approaches to environmental problem-solving could prevent or eliminate the problems resulting from these laws.

Read the Full Report here.

Read the Condensed Report here.


How Good Intentions Backfire: Negative Effects of Federal Environmental Policies

YELLOWSTONE (9 of 45)August 4, 2016

Introduction

Yellowstone National Park, a beloved icon to Americans and visitors from across the globe, is managed by the National Park Service (NPS). In 2016, the NPS will celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of its formation under the Organic Act.

Yellowstone has served as the model of park management throughout the world since the NPS began managing in 1916, but current management practices may be producing undesirable outcomes in Yellowstone. Current management practices may be harming ecological and wildlife health, especially the northern range of the park. The National Park Service Organic Act of 1916 charged the NPS to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife” within the national parks to “leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Over the past century, the NPS has experimented with multiple management schemes in Yellowstone in response to political and public pressures resulting from the vague wording of the Organic Act. These management regimes have affected the physical landscape and wildlife within the park. Under the current hands-off management scheme, called “natural regulation” or “ecological process management,” the NPS may not be fulfilling its mandate to preserve the park unimpaired for future generations.

This report explores Yellowstone using a public choice analysis of the institutions and incentives that have caused the NPS to change management strategies over time. Public choice theory is a field of political economy that explains why and how politicians and bureaucrats make decisions. This report draws on the work of Dr. Charles Kay, a professor at Utah State University, who has spent many years documenting the landscape changes in Yellowstone National Park. Kay and other researchers have documented the ecological changes in great detail, but few researchers have studied the political and bureaucratic roots of these changes.

Download Full Report here.

Download Condensed Report here.

 


How Good Intentions Backfire: Negative Effects of Federal Environmental Policies

Modern energy plant

April 20, 2016

“In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.” —Frederic Bastiat, 1848

Introduction:

These reports explore both explicit and implicit factors that influence the cost of producing electricity from four different types of energy: coal, natural gas, wind, and solar. The explicit, or seen costs of electricity generated from these sources, include cost components such as power plant development and construction, operation & maintenance, and transmission infrastructure costs. Often overlooked, however, are the implicit costs of energy, caused by government subsidies, mandates, and regulations that distort the electricity market. These reports do not estimate an actual value for the cost of producing electricity , rather, they identify and analyze those factors that policymakers should consider.

Rather than creating a new cost estimate for each of these energy types, we analyze the findings of prominent cost studies by experts in the energy field. Each study includes different factors in its estimate of the cost of power produced from coal, natural gas, wind, and solar. We break down each of these factors and explain their significance within the reports. These factors include: capital costs, operation and maintenance costs, capacity factor, transmission costs, baseload cycling, social and environmental costs, and the cost of government subsidies. Other factors are more difficult to quantify, but nevertheless add to the cost of producing electricity using these sources. Such factors include: opportunity cost of taxpayer dollars, reduced reliability of the grid, and higher electricity prices. We conclude that, when estimating the cost of producing electricity, all of these factors should be included.

The Unseen Costs of Coal Powered Electricity:

Download Full Report here.

Download Condensed Report here.

The Unseen Costs of Natural Gas Powered Electricity:

Download Full Report here.

Download Condensed Report here.

The Unseen Costs of Wind Powered Electricity:

Download Full Report here.

Download Condensed Report here.

The Unseen Costs of Solar Powered Electricity:

Download Full Report here.

Download Condensed Report here.


How Good Intentions Backfire: Negative Effects of Federal Environmental Policies

Tall Row of Field CornJanuary 31, 2016

This report examines the history and impact of government subsidies for the corn ethanol industry on the U.S. economy as a whole and also on specific “corn belt” counties. We are primarily concerned with the impact of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) following its implementation in 2005. By looking at both local and national economies before and after implementation of the RFS we found that not only is the RFS bad for the overall U.S. economy, but also for the very counties expected to benefit most. Understanding the true costs and benefits of ethanol subsidies like the RFS will allow policy makers to better evaluate the structure and necessity of these policies moving forward.

Download Full Report here.