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Sharing Renewable Energy Payments: HR 596

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Sharing Renewable Energy Payments: HR 596


Energy in National Monuments.

By Randy T Simmons and Ryan M. Yonk, 2013.

Under the Antiquities Act and through their respective management plans, national monuments fall under strict protection. Because of this, development of potential energy resources is often impossible. This study shows the opportunity cost of designating national monuments by illustrating how much of our potential energy is locked up in these protected public lands. In exploring the natural resources in each national monument we considered both conventional, fossil fuel-based energy potential as well as renewable energy potential. We found that five out of the twelve monuments explored in detail had significant potential for oil and coal development. We also examined solar, geothermal, and wind energy potential in national monuments. Ten monuments had the potential for at least one type of renewable energy development with the majority of these examples being solar potential. Four monuments had the potential for more than one of these types of renewable energy development.


Politics, Economics, and Federal Land Designation: Assessing the Economic Impact of Land Protection—Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

By Ryan M. Yonk, Randy T. Simmons, and Brian Steed, 2013

This paper seeks to investigate the conflicting belief regarding the economic impacts of federally designated Wilderness through empirical statistical analysis of the economic conditions present in Wilderness and Non-Wilderness Counties over time. Using U.S. Census Data for all counties across the United States we study the impact of Wilderness by examining whether there is an identifiable difference within the economies of Wilderness and Non-Wilderness Counties over time. Our statistical analysis of economic conditions shows that once federal transfers are controlled for neither total tax receipts nor total payroll appears to be affected by the presence of federally designated wilderness. In other words, Wilderness does not have a positive, monetary affect on the counties in which it resides.


Boon or Bust; Wilderness Designation and Regional Economies: An Overtime Analysis of Wilderness Designation

By Ryan M. Yonk, Brian C. Steed, and Randy T Simmons, 2013

Wilderness designations are often praised by conservationists and bemoaned by local government officials. This study uses a quasi-experimental, time series design to evaluate the economic impact of the designation of Wilderness on regional economies. Using census data, we test claims made by many in the environmental community of economic boon resulting from the change in land status and countervailing claims by local political elites of economic disaster. We find a significant negative relationship between the presence of Wilderness and total payroll, tax receipts, and average household income. Thus, there may be some justification for local political elites and residents to be concerned about new Wilderness designations.




Conservation and Economic Growth.

 By Randy Simmons and Ryan Yonk, 2012.

In an attempt to reconcile, or at least to understand the reasons for differences between competing claims about public lands management, we conducted an analysis of relationships between different public land management regimes and economic conditions in rural counties. For our analysis we use data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census data for each county in the U.S. dating back twenty-five years. In general, we find that counties with federal lands (especially Wilderness lands) do not have higher per capital income or higher tax receipts. The presence of federally designated Wilderness is associated with a decrease of $679,456.70 per year in total business activity. This finding is both statistically significant and substantive enough to have serious implications for a county’s economic growth. These results are in sharp contrast to claims that Wilderness designations are a draw for visitors and significantly increase economic growth.




Treasured Landscapes and Energy Resources

By Ryan M. Yonk, Randy T Simmons, and Brian C. Steed, 2011

Establishing national monuments generates a great deal of controversy over the size, formation of boundary lines, restrictions on the use of extractive resources, and other specifics of protection. These controversies have often pitted local officials and residents against broader environmental concerns. The most recent example of controversy over designating national monuments occurred in 2010 over a Department of the Interior (DOI) memorandum titled “Treasured Landscapes.” This internal memorandum from the Department of the Interior highlighted fifteen potential areas that the DOI believed were worthy of increased protection, protection that would most likely come in the form of national monument status.

In conducting the inventory of energy potential for each site we focused on both traditional fossil fuel energies, and the renewable potential of each site. We found that relatively few of the sites identified as candidates by the DOI had significant fossil fuel reserves, although many had the potential for shale extraction, including oil shale. We also evaluated the possibility of renewable energy development in each of these potential monuments and found that most of the potential monuments have significant renewable energy possibilities that would be foreclosed by support both the preservation of landscapes like those proposed in the “Treasured Landscapes” memorandum, and who also support increased production of renewable energy. The most significant lesson we draw from these data is that conflicts between priorities, including environmental priorities, will inevitably require trade-offs. Indeed the potential monuments pose significant costs to renewable energy production if the preservationist impulse is followed.

The Local Impact of Wilderness: An Overtime Analysis of Wilderness Designations on Local Economies

By Ryan M. Yonk, Brian C. Steed, and Randy T Simmons, 2011

This paper seeks to investigate the conflicting belief regarding the economic impacts of federally designated Wilderness through empirical statistical analysis of the economic conditions present in Wilderness and Non-Wilderness counties over time. Using U.S. Census Data for all counties across the United States we study the impact of Wilderness by examining whether there is an identifiable difference within the economies of Wilderness and Non-Wilderness Counties over time. Our statistical analysis of economic conditions shows that once federal transfers are controlled for neither total tax receipts nor total payroll appear affected by the presence of federally designated wilderness.



Something Different? Local Government Revenue, Expenditures and Wilderness

By Sarah Reale, Randy T Simmons, Ryan M. Yonk, and Brian C. Steed, 2012

Each of the 3,141 counties in the United States is unique, with varying physical characteristics. Among them approximately 287 have areas designated as Wilderness within their boundaries. Arguments about the costs and benefits of having these designated lands within a county have been consistent and often acrimonious. Explorations of the impacts of Wilderness protection on local economies, quality of life, and the tourism industry have been explored in the scholarly literature. Despite these explorations to date no research has been completed in regards to the effects Wilderness Lands on local government tax revenue or spending patterns that are core contentions in the academic and policy literatures.



The Economic Costs of Wilderness.

By Brian C. Steed, Ryan M. Yonk, and Randy T Simmons. 2011.

Wilderness is one of the most contentious issues in American public lands management. Local officials often bemoan Wilderness designations as creating economic hardships by limiting extractive industries, outdoor recreation, and the siting of transportation corridors, water and power lines, and telecommunication facilities. In direct contrast, many environmentalists allege that Wilderness creates economic benefits for local communities through increasing property values and from benefitting the tourism industry. This study explores the economic claims by examining empirical evidence of identifiable differences in the economic conditions of Wilderness and Non-Wilderness Counties. Some Wilderness can have positive economic impacts but our findings indicate that this is not the general rule. We find that when controlling for other types of federally held land and additional factors impacting economic conditions, federally designated Wilderness negatively impacts local economic conditions. Specifically, we find a significant negative relationship between the presence of Wilderness and county total payroll, county tax receipts, and county average household income. By working together with local communities to address their concerns, environmentalists can help develop balanced policy that genuinely acknowledges the local economic costs associated with Wilderness.


Download a summary of the projects we have completed by clicking here.

Sharing Renewable Energy Payments: HR 596

Cato Policy Analysis No. 739, “Antitrust Enforcement in the Obama administration’s First Term: A Regulatory Approach,” was released today and posted on the Cato Institute’s website (www.cato.org). Diana Thomas and I worked on this “white paper” for well over a year and a few times last summer I wondered if it would be out before the end of Obama’s second term.

In any case, the paper makes two key points: First, with considerable data-gathering help from former USU undergraduate student Ike Bennion, who took my law & economics class in spring 2011, we undermine the claim that antitrust enforcement was less active under George W. Bush than it had been under Bill Clinton and cast doubt on the Obama antitrust team’s wild claim that the financial crisis and the “Great Recession” was caused in part by Bush being asleep at the antitrust policy switch. Second, by summarizing some of the antitrust cases (we focus on mergers) brought during the Obama administration’s first three years, we document a disturbing (to us) shift toward difficult-to-enforce behavioral (“conduct”) remedies and away from “structural” relief to resolve concerns about the effects of proposed mergers on competitive market conditions. That shift, in our view, continues to transform the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission into acting more like regulatory agencies than law enforcers.

Antitrust policy is somewhat arcane, but has major impacts on what private businesses are permitted to do. The paper by Diana and me will help you understand how the enforcement of the antitrust laws is carried out in actual practice and how what seems to be a straightforward, well-intentioned policy frequently is susceptible to political influence.

Sharing Renewable Energy Payments: HR 596


Sixty years ago this December, President Dwight D. Eisenhower turned a dangerous situation around. In an address to the U.N. General Assembly at the height of the Cold War, he made a commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

That commitment is now being threatened: by activists who oppose building a storage depository for nuclear waste and by energy policies that favor any alternative to fossil fuels except a nuclear one.

The goal of Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” vision should be evident. Currently, 68 nuclear power plants are being built around the world, according to the World Nuclear Association. An additional 150 are in the planning stage, and an additional 340 have been proposed.


All of this is in addition to the 437 nuclear plants currently in operation, including 104 in the United States. Overall, nuclear power supplies 12.3 percent of the world’s electricity and it’s the largest source of carbon-free energy.

Since Eisenhower’s historic address to the United Nations, the United States and Russia reached an agreement to dispose of surplus fissionable materials – weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. In one of history’s greatest disarmament successes, 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium have been removed from Russian warheads once aimed at U.S. cities.

The U.S.-Russia agreement also called for each country to eliminate 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium, another material used in nuclear warheads, to keep it out of the hands of terrorists. Just a few grams of plutonium are all that it would take to make a crude nuclear weapon that could render a city the size of Chicago or Los Angeles uninhabitable for decades.

But will weapons-grade plutonium really be eliminated?

The technology for destroying plutonium has been available for many years. Plutonium is blended with uranium into a so-called mixed-oxide fuel, known as MOX, which can then be used in nuclear power plants to produce electricity. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Security Administration has been building a facility for this purpose at its Savannah River site in South Carolina.

The facility is more than 60 percent complete, and $4 billion already has been spent on its construction. But its future is in doubt.

President Obama, in his fiscal 2014 budget, just proposed slashing $132.7 million – more than 29 percent – from the project’s appropriation. “This current plutonium disposition approach may be unaffordable,” the White House budget summary said, promising that the administration will now “assess the feasibility of alternative … strategies.”

This is the same way the administration killed the planned nuclear waste burial site, which had been under construction at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Although scientists had approved the Nevada site, and $10 billion had been spent on it, Obama pulled the plug in 2011. Consequently, the United States still doesn’t have an underground repository for the tons of radioactive waste now being stored at nuclear power plants around the country, or for the nuclear waste generated by our defense program.

The solution to this dilemma is fairly clear: policymakers have to provide the necessary funds to complete the Savannah River facility intended to convert weapons-grade plutonium into MOX, and they need to establish an interim site for storing nuclear waste until a permanent repository can be built.

There’s a lot at stake. If the United States abandons the South Carolina project and fails to eliminate its surplus weapons-grade plutonium, Russia has said that it will stop converting plutonium into MOX. That, unfortunately, could expose Russia’s plutonium stockpiles to the possibility of theft.

Can the MOX project be saved? Yes, it probably can. Should it be saved? Absolutely, despite the fact that repeated delays have helped drive up the cost to $6.8 billion, a $2 billion increase. Will it be saved? That’s very much in doubt.

The truth is: Failure of the MOX project wouldn’t just be foolish and reckless energy policy, it would be giant blow to anti-terrorism and disarmament.

President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” legacy hangs in the balance. Let’s hope Washington has the courage to do what’s right.


William F. Shughart II is a senior fellow with the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif., and the J. Fish Smith professor in public choice at Utah State University. Readers may write him at Jon Huntsman School of Business, 3500 Ol Main Hill, Logan, Utah 84322-8500; email: william.shughart@usu.edu.

This essay is available to McClatchy-Tribune News Service subscribers. McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.


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