Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Amazing Resource of BioGas

Last summer, I went to Germany on a farmer-to-farmer exchange and saw first hand the numerous investments in biogas going on. Whether it is taking manure from livestock and adding in corn silage or capturing biogas from de-composing biomass/plant matter -- the Germans are doing a lot to create this terrific, clean, low-carbon form of fuel -- in large part because they have a market that rewards it.

As the costs of energy continue to go up around the world -- its worth thinking about resources like these that can diversify our energy production WHILE solving environmental problems.

The old way of thinking about "waste" is over -- now, everything is a resource -- when there is a market that rewards it!

Below is some info on Germany's biogas industry . . .

From the website of the German Energy Agency

The German biogas industry

Power generation from gaseous biomass has greatly expanded in Germany in recent years to become an independent sector within the fast-growing bioenergy industry.

Applications and technologies

Medium to large-scale biogas plant

When organic material is fermented under anaerobic conditions, a gas mixture containing methane is produced. This biogas can be used for energy generation. Today, on many farms in Germany, biogas is being produced from agricultural waste products, commercial waste or specially grown energy crops. Here, knowledge of process engineering and process control is needed. Because the productivity of biogas plants depends crucially on microbiological processes during fermentation, knowledge of biotechnology for plant optimisation is required in addition to technical expertise. German companies are carrying out pioneering work in the development and design of such systems.

Medium to large-scale biogas plant

When the conditions are right, biogas is used to generate electricity and heat in decentralised combined heat and power plants (CHPs). After being specially treated, biogas can also be fed into the existing natural gas network. Transport via the natural gas network means that biogas can also be used in larger power plants for electricity and heat production. Biogas can then be used in the transport sector in the same way as natural gas.

German companies are leaders in the field of biogas technology. Their range of products and services spans the entire value-added chain: from designing and building biogas systems to operating and maintaining them. Many years of experience in operation management, process biology and related laboratory services guarantee successful plant operation. Technically mature products are additionally available for storage and tank systems, for specialised combined heat and power plants, and for biogas analysis technology.

Market trend

Source: German Biogas Association (FvB)

2006 has been the most successful year for the German biogas industry so far: A total of around 650 systems were newly installed, representing an increase in the number of plants to 3,500 in 2006, with the volume of installed electrical capacity totalling around 1,100 megawatts. These systems produced approximately 5.4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity from biogas in 2006. Another sharp increase in production is anticipated in 2007.

The German biogas industry has increased its exports (see graph above). The German Biogas Association expects to attain a share of nearly 30 per cent of exports by 2020.
Source: German Biogas Association (FvB)

The development in the plant size shows a clear trend towards larger, high-capacity systems. Whereas in the past farmers often built and operated the systems themselves, an increasing involvement on the part of energy suppliers and professional energy service providers can be observed in the course of this development. Thus larger systems are often created with the cooperation of parties from both agriculture and the energy industry. In both cases, positive structural developments in agricultural regions are linked with the creation of new jobs.

An important stage in the development of feeding treated biogas into the natural gas network was completed in 2006: two pilot projects were successfully put into operation. Further systems for biogas grid feeding are currently in the planning stage in Germany.

Regulatory framework

Biogas plant for feed-in to the gas network

In Germany, electricity generation using biogas is subsidised under the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG). Depending on the system’s output, the biogas-produced electricity fed into the grid is purchased at a tariff that will remain fixed for 20 years. Additionally, bonuses are paid for using renewable raw materials, for innovative energy technologies and for extracting the heat produced during electricity generation.
The regulatory framework created by the EEG has proved to be a particularly effective driving force for the growth of this young industry.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Oil Industry Seeing the Light on Climate

OIL: Geologists to shed more light and less heat on climate change
ClimateWire (04/25/2008)

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists, one of the last major scientific organizations that does not fully support the theory of anthropogenic climate change, has softened its stance on the issue.

The organization, which held a forum on climate change Wednesday in San Antonio as part of its annual convention, now supports "research to narrow probabilistic ranges on the effect of anthropogenic carbon dioxide on global climate" and endorses "reducing climate emissions from fossil fuel use as a worthy goal."

Association member Jeff Levine said that internal disagreement remained vitriolic. "I think it's fair to say that many of us view this topic with a great deal more passion and emotion than is healthy in scientific inquiry."

But Texas State Geologist Scott Tinker, the association's incoming president, said he was pleased with the serious and professional tone of the discussion. "I think the industry is indicating it is ready to step up and be part of the solution," he said. "We're often considered bad oil folks and attacked, but the work we do still provides about two-thirds of the world's energy today" (Anton Caputo, San Antonio Express-News, April 23). -- PR

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blame It All on Biofuels

I for one am SICK TO DEATH of all the worlds ills suddenly being blamed on biofuels. When people say that food prices are being driven up by ethanol, they are simply unaware of what drives commodity prices. HIGH OIL PRICES are driving up food prices FAR MORE than anything ethanol could ever do to cause price spikes. That's because just about EVERYTHING we eat, drink, etc . . . comes from somewhere else -- usually, somewhere far away -- and it takes oil, gasoline, diesel to get it to us.

Its really a neat spin trick when you think about it, oil is now at $117/barrel -- and what are people talking about? The "trouble" with biofuels? Are you kidding?

This would be funny if it weren't tragic. We need biofuels to move beyond oil. Its that simple. If you want to end fledgling biofuels markets, YOU MUST THEN TAKE ON THE SOCIAL, FINANCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS OF A WORLD DRIVEN BY THE SEARCH FOR MORE OIL.

Funding terrorism? That's just a nasty side-effect of the only "perfect" environmentally-friendly fuel . . . oil!

Wake up! The more this line goes unchallenged, the more average people in the U.S. and abroad will start to become brainwashed into thinking that biofuels are bad and to be abandoned -- rather than fixed and improved.

I was very happy to see the story below noting that the Europeans are sticking with their biofuels plan despite the growing criticism. Hopefully, America will stay the course as well.

On this Earth Day, how about people taking a minute to think about all the damage that oil has and continues to do -- to the Earth AND TO ITS PEOPLE.

Biofuels are a tool to get us out of the very economic instability that they are now being blamed for causing. Only when we have a diversity of transportation fuels to pick from, will the world be able to avoid these high price spikes in world energy.


Europe to stick with plan, though it fuels controversy (04/22/2008)

Special to ClimateWire

AMSTERDAM -- Criticism of the biofuel requirements in the European Commission's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is unfair and not based on facts, a high-ranking commission official said yesterday.

"Biofuels are essential to tackle both climate change and security of supply," said Hans van Steen, the head of unit for the European Commission's Directorate General for Energy and Transport. "We feel we have a very clear set of criteria that make sure we can benefit from introducing renewables also in the transport sector. Every year, CO2 emissions from the transport sector go up, and we haven't found the answer to how to stop this," he said at the Renewable Energy PowerGen 2008 conference in Amsterdam.

Energy Harvest: Power From the Farm -- An E&E Special Report

Van Steen was closely involved in designing the European Commission's ambitious plan to fight climate change, unveiled in January, which pledges to cut carbon emissions in the European Union by 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. It also requires biofuels to make up at least 10 percent of transportation fuels by 2020.

This demand has come under increasing attack from some scientists and environmentalists who argue that biofuels may not actually deliver significant reductions in greenhouse gases but will lead to higher food prices and deforestation as producers clear land to plant crops used to make biofuels.

Van Steen acknowledged the risk but said the commission's proposal guarded against it with stringent requirements.

"There is a risk of contributing to some of the bad things related to biofuels, like deforestation or producing biofuels that actually release more greenhouse gases," van Steen said. "But we require these biofuels to have a greenhouse gas savings of at least 35 percent. We are protecting certain types of land, like rainforest, certain types of savannah, wetlands, continuously forested area and nature protection areas. There can be no conversion of these types of land."

Taking up half of Europe's crop land for energy?

Van Steen added that biofuels produced in violation of these rules will not count toward national targets and will not receive tax breaks.

But another conference speaker warned that if all biofuels needed to meet the 10 percent requirement were produced from crops grown in Europe, these crops would take up half the agricultural land on the continent. "Obviously, this is not possible, so we need to have a lot of discussion where this will come from in the future," said Christian Schonbauer, head of renewable energy at E-Control, the regulator in charge of the liberalization of the Austrian power and natural gas markets.

Van Steen responded that his figures were much smaller, at around 10 percent to 15 percent of Europe's arable land. "If we decided to, we could meet the entire target with production inside the E.U., but it's not likely to happen because it's cheaper to produce it elsewhere," he said. "It's up to the market, but they have to comply with these criteria to count toward the target."

He said that biofuels were unfairly blamed for the rise in food prices, which he argued had more to do with more people in China and India changing their diet and eating more meat, combined with some poor harvests in Australia and the United States.

"We know that the impact on developing countries is very controversial, but we are creating new opportunities for economic development in these countries," he said. "Of course, it depends on how they use these opportunities."

Van Steen said the second generation biofuels will silence the debate, as they will not be produced from feedstock for food. "For now, they are experimental and too expensive, but we're convinced that they will come on-stream before 2020," he said. Activists would also be appeased if incipient ideas to create incentives for the growth of biofuel crops on desert land in Africa or India succeed, he said.

Either way, the biofuel requirement will stay in the European Commission directive, and van Steen expects it to be formally adopted in the European Parliament before spring of 2009, with the whole package entering into force in March 2010.

Roots of Pragmatism & Its Application to the Environment

I found this article very interesting for the history and context it provides about pragmatism and how pragmatism can be applied to environmental problems. There was not a full cite on the webpage I found it on -- but this is from the Boston College Law Review. Click here for the link to the article on the web.

In this post, I've enclosed excerpts from the article . . . and I've highlighted some of the passages I think are very interesting and true to the eco-pragmatism goal as I know it.

One of the things this article made me think about is the total dedication to flexibility that a "true pragmatic" approach involves. I don't know that eco-pragmatism has to mean that -- or that any pragmatism has to be the purist form of the parent philosophy. To me, being an eco-pragmatist doesn't mean that there is no objective reality (i.e. doubting the science of climate change) but instead it means being willing to work with those who do -- and find a way to move forward, albeit imperfectly.

Happy Earth Day!



Joel A. Mintz*

Abstract: Pragmatism, a philosophical movement that had considerable influence in the United States in the early twentieth century, has recently undergone an intellectual revival. In the 1980s, its precepts were applied to legal analysis and commentary by a diverse group of scholars who refer to themselves as “legal pragmatists.” Moreover, a number of philosophers and legal scholars have attempted to apply pragmatic thought to ethical aspects of protecting the non-human natural world. This Article surveys and evaluates selected aspects of that varied, provocative body of scholarship. After summarizing the fundamental principles espoused by pragmatic thinkers, the Article focuses on the writings of two neo-pragmatic scholars, Keith Hirokawa and Daniel Farber, whose works provide useful illustrations of pragmatic approaches to environmental laws and policies. It also assays the overall benefits and shortcomings of pragmatic analysis, both as a tool for environmental policymaking and as an aid to advocates of needed improvements in environmental laws.


Pragmatism, a philosophy that emphasizes action, experimentation, and a concern with what “works” in human experience, has undergone a revival in recent years. First conceived in the final decade of the nineteenth century, philosophic pragmatism was initially intended to provide an alternative to foundationalism, i.e., the view that there are innate and indubitable beliefs upon which knowledge must be based.1 Traditional pragmatists, such as William James, Charles Pierce, John Dewey, Josiah Royce, and George Herbert Mead, viewed all human understanding as intrinsically fallible; they saw knowing as [*PG2]an open-ended quest for greater certainty, grounded in practical experience, and motivated by a desire for successful actions.2

Traditional pragmatism had considerable influence in the first several decades of the twentieth century. Its intellectual significance waned in the 1930s and thereafter. However, beginning in the 1960s, pragmatism was revived by Richard Rorty and other “neo-pragmatists” and later, in the 1980s, by a diverse group of legal scholars who viewed themselves as “legal pragmatists.” More recently, a number of philosophers and legal scholars have attempted to apply the precepts of pragmatic thought to the ethical aspects of protecting the non-human natural world and also, in at least a few instances, to the network of laws and policies intended to conserve the environment.3

In this Article, I shall attempt to survey and then evaluate selected aspects of that varied and provocative body of scholarship. In Part I, I will discuss, in greater detail, the fundamental principles espoused by pragmatic thinkers, including leading philosophical pragmatists, environmental pragmatists, and jurisprudential pragmatic scholars. Part II will include a discussion of relatively recent efforts to apply pragmatic analysis to environmental decisionmaking and the articulation of public policy. In that Part, I will focus on the writings of two neo-pragmatic scholars, Keith Hirokawa and Daniel Farber, whose works provide thoughtful, helpful illustrations of efforts to approach environmental laws and policies in pragmatic ways. Finally, in Part III, I shall assay the benefits and shortcomings of pragmatic analysis as both a tool for environmental policymaking and an aid to environmental proponents as they advocate needed improvements in environmental laws.

I. The Types, Methods, and Principles of Pragmatism: An Overview

As it has evolved, pragmatism has taken many forms and attracted a highly diverse set of supporters. In this section, I shall summarize, in brief form, the salient precepts of three distinct and significant types of pragmatic thought: philosophical pragmatism, environmental pragmatism, and legal pragmatism. Although, as we shall see, the precise dimensions of each of these partially overlapping schools of thought are controversial, this summary will focus on those core values and principles to which pragmatic thinkers seem most likely to subscribe.

A. Philosophical Pragmatism

Philosophical pragmatism, as initially articulated by William James and other early twentieth century academics, is, in one sense, an attitude or method of thought.4 It emphasizes a focus on facts and consequences, as opposed to theories and principles.5 As James explained it, pragmatism

stands for no particular results. It has no dogmas, and no doctrines save for its method. . . . [I]t lies in the midst of our theories, like a corridor in a hotel. Innumerable chambers open out of it. In one you may find a man writing an atheistic volume; in the next some one on his knees praying for faith and strength; in a third a chemist investigating a body’s properties. In a fourth a system of idealistic metaphysics is being excogitated; in a fifth the impossibility of metaphysics is being shown. But they all own the corridor, and all must pass through it if they want a practicable way of getting into or out of their respective rooms.6

In addition to being a method of thought—with sufficient flexibility to appeal to individuals who have divergent views in many respects, as noted above—philosophical pragmatism is also distinguished by its experiential, provisional, and pluralistic notion of truth.7 In William James’s words:

Pragmatism . . . asks its usual question. “Grant an idea or belief to be true,” it says, “what concrete difference will its being true make in any one’s actual life? How will the truth be realized? What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth’s cash-value in experiential terms?”The moment pragmatism asks this question, it sees the answer: True ideas are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate, and verify. False ideas are those that we can not. That is the practical difference it makes to us to have true ideas; that, therefore, is the meaning of truth, for it is all that truth is known as.8

Another closely related common feature of philosophical pragmatism is its firm rejection of rigid canons and dogmatic beliefs.16 As James put it, as an intellectual approach pragmatism is “a mediator and a reconciler. . . . She has, in fact, no prejudices whatever, no obstructive dogmas, no rigid canons of what shall count as proof. She is completely genial. She will entertain any hypothesis, she will consider any evidence.”17

B. Environmental Pragmatism

Environmental pragmatism is a relatively new direction in modern philosophy.34 A product of the late 1980s and 1990s, it attempts to connect the precepts and methods of philosophical pragmatism to the solution of real environmental issues.35

The most comprehensive collection of essays by environmental pragmatists may be found in Environmental Pragmatism, edited by Andrew Light and Eric Katz.36 In their introduction to this work, Light and Katz accurately observe that environmental pragmatism refers to “a cluster of related and overlapping concepts,” as opposed to a single view.37 They note that it may take at least four distinct forms:

(1) examinations into the connection between classical American philosophical pragmatism and environmental issues; (2) the articulation of practical strategies for bridging gaps between environmental theorists, policy analysts, activists, and the public; (3) theoretical investigations into the overlapping normative bases of specific environmental organizations and movements in order to provide grounds for the convergence of activists on policy choices; and (4) general arguments for theoretical and meta-theoretical moral pluralism in environmental normative theory.38

What all of the environmental pragmatist approaches share, however, is a rejection of the view that “adequate and workable environmental ethics must embrace non-anthropocentrism, holism, moral monism, and, perhaps, a commitment to some form of intrinsic value.”39

. . .

As Light sees it, “environmental pragmatists are not wedded to any particular theoretical framework from which to evaluate specific problems, but [they] can choose the avenue which best protects the long-term health and stability of the environment, regardless of its theoretical origin.60 For Light and other environmental pragmatists, the “truth” of various environmental theories is thus not always important in environmental practice.61 Instead, “the appropriateness of any one theory in a particular case is contingent on historical, cultural, social and resource conditions.”62

[Pragmatism & the Law section -- omitted in this post -- can be viewed by clicking the link to the full article at the top of this post]

II. The Application of Pragmatism to Environmental Law and Policy: Two Recent Examples

Given the renewal of interest in both philosophical and legal pragmatism, as well as the recent effort to focus pragmatic principles on environmental issues, it was, perhaps, inevitable that attempts would also be made to consider—and reconsider—environmental laws and policies in the light of pragmatic methods and precepts. This section of this paper considers two such attempts. The first, Daniel A. [*PG14]Farber’s book, Eco-Pragmatism,100 applies pragmatic notions to questions of environmental policy-making in the face of scientific uncertainty concerning the scope of environmental problems, and to conflicts between environmental goals and economic costs. The second, a law review article by Keith Hirokawa,101 employs environmental pragmatism for a wholly different purpose, i.e., challenging the effectiveness of radical criticism as a strategy for reforming environmental law.

A. Farber’s Eco-Pragmatism

In Eco-Pragmatism, Daniel Farber attempts to come to grips with several often-asked, highly significant, and intrinsically difficult questions of environmental law and policy. He focuses squarely on: when environmental values should be sacrificed in the interest of other pressing social concerns, such as economic needs; how we should decide whether imposing an environmental rule is worthwhile; how much people should be expected to sacrifice today for a better environment in future years; and when, in a context of scientific uncertainty as to the extent of environmental risk, we should wait for more information before taking regulatory action.102

To answer those questions, Farber draws upon a number of pragmatic approaches and insights.103 Contrasting the extreme viewpoints of cost-benefit advocates and environmental zealots, both of whom believe that environmental decisions should be based on single overriding values—either of economics or environmentalism—Farber proposes a pragmatic middle-way in which “economic analysis is useful but not controlling.104

In the pragmatic tradition, Farber focuses on a concrete example of the kinds of policy problems he has chosen to confront: the well- known case of Reserve Mining Co. v. United States.105 There, the Eighth Circuit was faced with a case involving a massive discharge of asbestos in Lake Superior.106 Although asbestos was known to be carcinogenic when airborne, it was then unclear whether it posed any health risk in [*PG15]drinking water.107 On the other hand, a judicial decision to close the industrial source of the discharge, and eliminate any further possible risks, would have resulted in an immediate loss of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars.108 After a close analysis of this case and its broader implications, Farber notes that both economic and environmental values have something to contribute to the sound resolution of environmental policy questions.109 For much of the remainder of his book, he assays the respective roles which they should play.

In Farber’s view, we need to draw on both democratic public values and private economic interests in formulating environmental policies.110 In his words:

Without appealing to public values environmental regulations could not long enjoy general support based purely on the calculus of competing private interests. But without recognizing private interests as legitimate, environmental regulations may provoke unmanageable resistance from those paying the price and are likely to be seen by society as a whole as too draconian to be acceptable.111

Farber argues for the inclusion of an environmental “baseline” in policymaking, i.e., a rebuttable presumption in favor of environmental protection.112 He advocates a “feasibility approach” to regulation, noting that:

Although feasible in some sense of the word, achievement of an environmental goal may sometimes involve costs that are grossly disproportionate to any plausible benefit. Thus, cost-benefit analysis may serve as a useful backstop for feasibility analysis to handle these situations. We should always begin, however, with a presumption in favor of protecting the environment except when infeasible or grossly disproportionate to benefit.113

As Farber sees it, cost-benefit analysis should aid, not control, regulatory decisions by functioning as a resource to prevent misguided decisions.114 He proposes that “when even an environmentally sensitive analysis—using a high value of life, conservative risk estimates, and a low discount rate for further benefits—shows that regulation is clearly unwarranted, we ought to think very carefully about whether a regulation really is a feasible response to a significant risk.”115 Outside of these situations, however, we should avoid making “hard social decisions on spreadsheets.”116

Daniel Farber repeatedly stresses the importance of creating environmental policies and institutions that can “endure over the long haul.”117 He declares that “my goal is not to undermine environmental values, but to implement them in a way that we can expect to endure, as opposed to heroic efforts that are likely to fade after a few years. Environmental protection is a marathon, not a sprint.”118

Finally, in summarizing his contentions, Farber proposes four “guidelines for environmental policy” that, in his view, derive from eco-pragmatism:

When a reasonably ascertainable risk reaches a significant level, take all feasible steps to abate it except when costs would clearly overwhelm any potential benefits. Meanwhile, take prudent precautions against uncharted, but potentially serious, risks.

Take a long-range view. Use low discount rates, maintain the responsibility of the current generation to ensure a liveable future, and treat the preservation of nature as an opportunity for long-term social saving.

Keep in mind the uncertainty surrounding many environmental problems. Adopt coping strategies such as burden-shifting rules, postponement of irreversible decisions, and (when appropriate because of new information) deregulation.

Overall, keep a sense of balance, while maintaining a firm commitment to environmentalism. Don’t put economists in charge of the regulatory process, but take their views seriously as a reality check on overzealous regulation.119

B. Hirokawa’s Rejection of Radical Environmentalism

In contrast with Daniel Farber, who employs pragmatism as a means of harmonizing environmental protection with other societal needs, Keith Hirokawa attempts to put pragmatism to an entirely different use. He views environmental pragmatism as a distinct and entirely desirable antidote to radical critiques of the current regime of environmental law.120 To Hirokawa, the conceptual scheme that underlies radical environmental theories undercuts their normative force. Moreover, he asserts, deeply held views alone are “ill-equipped to achieve progress in environmental law.”121

To make his case, Hirokawa describes four distinct paradigms of environmental theory: John Locke’s traditional anthropocentric theory of property, Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic,” ecofeminism, and deep ecology.122 As Hirokawa describes it, Locke’s property theory rests on the notion that one could acquire an ownership interest in land and other natural resources by making use of that land. Socially beneficial goods are to be produced by altering the land in some fashion. Moreover, in an unused state, land has little or no intrinsic value.123

Even though Locke’s property theory does not specifically support environmental law, Hirokawa contends that “environmental law nonetheless operates in the context of, and subject to, the pervasiveness of the property paradigm.”124 In sharp contrast with Locke’s view, Hirokawa suggests, are “alternative environmental theories” that include humans, but within ethical systems that exclude human values.125

Leopold’s land ethic, for example, is bottomed on the normative notion that “‘[a] thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.’”126 Ecofeminists contend that human dominance over nature stems from a “patriarchal insistence” on “property rights that institutionalize harsh, oppressive treatment.”127 They favor a reconsideration of our treatment of nature and a rejection of the logic of [*PG18]domination of the nonhuman world.128 Similarly, proponents of deep ecology dispute the premises of Locke’s property paradigm.129 Instead, they take the view that the life and well-being of all entities have intrinsic value, and believe that the view of humans as separate from, and superior to, the rest of nature is culturally based, erroneous, and misguided.130

For Hirokawa, each of these alternative paradigms is too sweeping and impractical to provide a sound normative basis for environmental laws. He states: “[u]nfortunately, in attacking the accepted tenets of ownership, proponents of radical environmental critiques may argue themselves off the negotiating table and render their insights ineffective.”131

In lieu of these defective radical paradigms, Hirokawa proposes a pragmatic approach based upon “a little flexibility toward what might be termed ‘truth,’” and “persuasion, not stubborn dogmatism.”132 Arguing that “revolutionary ideals can be presented in light of dominant beliefs, rather than in spite of them,”133 Hirokawa states that “pragmatism offers a means by which paradigm opponents can find common ground and potentially agree on environmental policies and laws.”134 In conclusion, he claims:

The challenge is to continue the progress and find better environmental solutions that both effect a change in the way we treat the environment and are practical enough to be adopted by our legal system. In taking up this challenge, it is imperative that loyalties to the goals of environmental protection include a willingness to modify, or even discard, radical environmental theories in an effort to secure far-reaching results.135

III. Does Pragmatism “Work” for Environmental Law?

Can pragmatism serve as a sound and workable theoretical basis for environmental law? To what extent do its methods and precepts [*PG19]provide reliable, predictable guidance to environmental policymakers? How successful have environmental legal pragmatists been thus far in applying pragmatic approaches to the resolution of actual environmental problems?

This section of this article is concerned with these questions. I shall begin to respond to them by setting forth what I see as the unique advantages and limitations of a pragmatic approach to environmental law. I will then assay the work of Daniel Farber and Keith Hirokawa, outlined in the preceding sections, as examples of the ways in which legal pragmatism does—and does not—provide workable and satisfying solutions to environmental legal and policy dilemmas.

A. The Pros and Cons of Environmental Legal Pragmatism

To this observer, pragmatism—and more specifically the methods and attitudes of pragmatic thought—has a good deal to recommend it as a theoretical underpinning for public environmental decision making. As much as any problems that arise in the arena of public policy, environmental problems tend to be factually complex.136 They often involve technically complicated issues of science and engineering, a multiplicity of institutional actors and commitments, rapid-paced changes in technologies and knowledge regarding their consequences, and far-reaching economic, social, and political consequences.137 In the face of this, pragmatism’s insistent focus on particular facts, consequences, and workable solutions, along with its skepticism as to grand theories and fixed, dogmatic notions, appears to be a good environmental fit.

Of equal use and benefit—at least potentially—is the role of pragmatic thinking as what William James referred to as “a mediator and reconciler” of conflicting notions regarding environmental theories, priorities, and tactics.138 Environmental advocates often find themselves in sharp disagreement with respect to these matters. Regrettably, they often expend scarce resources pursuing disputes with one another.139 With its intrinsic ideological flexibility, its pluralism, and its non-dogmatic focus on the overall “consequences” of environmental decisions, pragmatism does indeed have the potential of providing a “middle-ground” on which disagreeing environmentalists may choose to stand in the interest of achieving agreed-upon, environmentally-protective ends.140 To the extent that its methods are adopted, those who value environmental protection may well be encouraged to put aside, or at least deemphasize, their disagreements, and “keep their eyes on the [environmental] prize.”141 Moreover, they may approach their decision making with regard to organizational political tactics in terms of the realistic consequences of those tactics in furthering environmental values and favorable results.

Another potential environmental benefit of pragmatism—with its insistence on social justice and the accomplishment of social ends—is that judicial adherence to its methods appears likely to increase the likelihood that environmental statutes will be afforded pro-environmental interpretations in the courts. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s legal pragmatic idea of the judge as interstitial legislator, shaping the law consistent with prevalent moral and political theories,142 is certainly consistent with this interpretative possibility, as is Benjamin Cardozo’s notion of the judge as the guardian of morality, reason, good conscience, and social justice.143 Richard Posner’s staunch insistence on the superiority of practical reasoning over the rigidity of legal formalism144 also appears to have this same benefit for environmental proponents.145

[*PG21] Moreover, pragmatism places a high value on experimentation and innovative problem solving. In view of the inherent complexity of environmental problems, as well as the legislative “gridlock” that has characterized environmental law since the early 1990s—particularly at the federal level—these aspects of pragmatic theory seem especially well suited to contemporary environmental policymaking. Although environmental law contains notable examples of bold, large-scale innovations—from technology-forcing requirements to emissions trading regimes146—it is relatively devoid of small-scale pilot projects carefully designed to test the efficacy of particular technologies or regulatory techniques under controlled conditions. Those relatively inexpensive experiments, which hold the promise of eventual environmental improvements on a broader scale, are very much consistent with the pragmatic method.147

Finally, one of the clear lessons of the past several decades of environmental policymaking is that a great many environmental problems tend to be long-lasting and persistent.148 There is a genuine need for the solutions to those dilemmas—and the institutions that foster and accomplish such solutions—to be equally stubborn and long-lasting.149 In the pragmatic writings of Daniel Farber, institutional solutions of precisely that sort are emphatically—and appropriately—favored.150 Regrettably, such long-range solutions are all too rarely contended for by environmental legal writers.

Notwithstanding these significant actual or potential benefits for environmental protection, however, pragmatism is not necessarily a panacea for the environmental cause. Despite its apparent virtues, [*PG22]pragmatic theory also has several limitations as a possible guide to environmental policymaking. One such limit has been well-expressed, albeit in a more generalized fashion, by Thomas Grey:

Theories that make their mark in the world tend to be bold, sweeping and dramatic—it is their drama that wins them an audience. . . . Over the clatter and squeak of practical affairs, a theory will be better heard if it offers either the bang-bang of intellectual entertainment or the trumpet call of spiritual uplift. . . . Accordingly, pragmatist theory, that modest theory of the middle way, will often be rejected.151

For all its practicality, its sensitivity to facts, and its recognition of both the need for innovation and the importance of social needs, pragmatism lacks a certain marquee value, at least in the sense noted by Grey.152 While workable and forthright, pragmatic methods seem destined never to hold appeal for those environmental supporters who seek a more emotionally stirring, intellectually flamboyant, normative theory.153

Moreover, as a result of its self-conscious focus on experiential learning and experimentation, as well as its tendency toward a pluralistic, tentative notion of “truth,” pragmatism alone seems unlikely to provide “right answers” to a good many disputed environmental questions. “Social justice” and “social needs” are abstract, malleable concepts that may give little concrete guidance to participants in certain environmental disputes. Similarly, pragmatism’s rejection of fixed, abstract notions of right and wrong, while flexible and useful in some contexts, may also risk falling into what the editors of the Renaissance Symposium call “the quicksand of relativism.”154

Finally, as Richard Rorty and other pragmatists have themselves observed, pragmatic thought has been the subject of other attacks as well. As Rorty notes and discusses in Consequences of Pragmatism, in the early twentieth century, traditional pragmatism was criticized on the one hand by Platonists and transcendentalists—who argued that there was more to the notion of “truth” than pragmatists accepted—and, on the other hand, by “empiricists” and “positivists,” who argued that the [*PG23]results of natural science—“facts about how spatio-temporal things worked”—was all the “truth” there was.155 More recently, according to Rorty, “neo-pragmatism” has been dismissed as: (1) at odds with modern notions of language; (2) insensitive to the importance of traditional problems of ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology; and/or (3) tending to the removal of philosophy, as an autonomous discipline, from Western intellectual culture.156 Not surprisingly, philosophical pragmatists have attempted to defend pragmatic thought against each of these charges.157 They may well have succeeded in doing so. Nonetheless, environmentalists and environmental lawyers who seek security and comfort from a jurisprudential approach built on universally accepted philosophical foundations will surely find less than they hope for in environmental legal pragmatism.

B. Farber, Hirokawa, and the Pragmatic Tradition

In light of these intrinsic strengths and weaknesses of pragmatism as an environmental legal theory, how should the neo-pragmatic writings of Daniel Farber and Keith Hirokawa be assayed? In my view, by integrating pragmatic principles with a good deal of common sense and sound judgment, both authors have contributed in a useful manner to the literature of environmental law.

Daniel Farber’s ambitious, articulate, and successful book, Eco-Pragmatism, illustrates many of the strengths, as well as, perhaps, a few of the drawbacks, of a pragmatic approach to environmental law and policy. His synthesis of economic and environmental approaches is careful, sensitive, innovative, and well-grounded in specific “real world” examples.158 Similarly, Farber’s ideas for balancing the duty of presently living persons towards future generations are subtle, thoughtful, and well-taken.159

Eco-Pragmatism breaks new ground by focusing on the importance of providing a permanent foundation for environmental preservation, and on building institutions with a genuine capability for making wise decisions. Those conclusions are too rarely advanced.

[*PG24] Moreover, Farber’s strategies for coping with scientific uncertainty seem sensible and workable.160 Their adoption would certainly go a long way towards allaying the political concern, among elected officials and others, that no matter what they do, environmentalists are never satisfied.

In reading Farber’s book, one is struck by the difficulty of determining how much of its success is a result of its author’s periodic invocation of pragmatic notions, and how much Eco-Pragmatism “works” because of Daniel Farber’s extraordinary abilities as a legal scholar. As noted previously, as a result of its intrinsic flexibility, its experimentalism, and its pluralism, pragmatic analysis sometimes fails to yield specific, predictable, and unavoidable solutions to policy disputes. Thus, for example, Farber’s incisive discussion of the appropriate secondary role of cost-benefit analysis in environmental policy-making161 seems more a matter of his own creativity and analytical skill than a uniquely “pragmatic approach.”

Nonetheless, Eco-Pragmatism is clearly a work that was inspired by—and improved as a result of—pragmatic thinking. Farber’s skillful invocation of pragmatic methods and options, as well as his careful adherence to pragmatism’s admittedly general and non-specific principles and attitudes, serves to focus and advance his measured and persuasive contentions regarding environmental policies. His book adds much to environmental legal thought.

Although much narrower in scope than Eco-Pragmatism, Keith Hirokawa’s essay on radical critiques in environmental law is, in some respects, no less ambitious. As discussed above, under the banner of pragmatism, and for the purpose of achieving “far-reaching results,” Hirokawa attempts to synthesize environmental moral theories. He criticizes several such theories, which he terms “radical critiques,” as being insufficiently persuasive to foster progress in environmental law.162

More in spite of its pragmatic orientation than because of it, in my view, Hirokawa’s article succeeds in part, yet falls short in other respects. Hirokawa is quite correct that pragmatic thought has the potential to be what William James referred to as a “reconciler” of disparate normative theories.163 Indeed, as Andrew Light demonstrated in his interesting essay on compatabilism, pragmatism has the [*PG25]potential to play a valuable mediative role in disputes between environmental materialists and ontologists.164

In his discussion of radical environmentalism, however, Hirokawa appears to abandon this insight. Rather than calling upon radical environmentalists to coalesce with environmental pragmatists and others to achieve agreed-upon ends, Hirokawa asks them to “modify, or even discard” their theories.165 In doing so, he appears to place environmental pragmatists in the role of the opponents to ecofeminists, deep ecologists, and followers of Leopold and Delgado, rather than as their potential allies in a broad, metaphilosophical coalition in pursuit of environmental goals.

Hirokawa’s invocation of pragmatism seems sound and well-intended. Some of his ideas about the limited practical appeal of alternative environmental theories may also have merit. Nonetheless, his rather sharp and startling rhetorical dismissal of those environmental theorists with whom he disagrees tends to weaken his own arguments. Though Hirokawa may have been right in choosing pragmatism as the framework for stating his contentions, his dismissive, divisive conclusions represent a disappointingly unfruitful use of pragmatic methods and traditions.


Even though it is not a normative “theory for all seasons,” pragmatic thought has much to add to contemporary discourse regarding environmental laws and policies. Pragmatism’s stress on concrete facts, flexibility, experimentation, and practical, workable solutions to real-world problems, combined with its clear preference for democratic consensus-building and social justice, appears to provide a sensible intellectual framework for innovation and reform in environmental decision-making at all levels.

Undoubtedly, pragmatism lacks universal intellectual appeal. Some will believe that it is too cautious and modest a theory to be helpful in the rough and tumble of environmental debate. Others are troubled by its non-dogmatic approach to “truth” and “ethics,” and/or its perceived insensitivity to the importance of metaphysical issues and grand philosophical conversations. Nonetheless, as Farber’s Eco-Pragmatism so marvelously illustrates, pragmatism has the potential to furnish a durable and useful set of intellectual tools for analyzing [*PG26]knotty environmental policy issues. In the hands of a gifted legal scholar—like Daniel Farber—those tools have already crafted a powerful, balanced, wise, and far-sighted set of proposed environmental policies. Their potential for further good use, to similar laudable ends, is vast indeed

Monday, April 21, 2008

China Pushing for Better Mileage

As oil appetite soars, China pushes mileage

Published Monday, April 21, 2008 at 4:30 a.m.

BEIJING — The Chinese government is putting pressure on automakers to improve energy efficiency, but consumers are increasingly interested in large sport utility vehicles and full-size luxury cars, auto executives said Sunday at the opening of the Beijing auto show.

The shift of the Chinese market toward larger vehicles will probably push up the country's already voracious demand for imported oil and make China an even bigger emitter of greenhouse gases.

The trend toward big vehicles is being driven by rising incomes for China's elite as well as government price controls on gasoline and diesel fuel that are keeping fuel prices below world levels as a way to limit broader inflation in the economy.

The chairman of Daimler, Dieter Zetsche, announced on Sunday that his company's Mercedes-Benz division would begin shipping GLK midsize luxury SUVs soon to China, and said that sales of Mercedes SUVs in China had doubled in the last year.

For the first two months of 2008, sales of sport utility vehicles in China were up 38 percent and sales of luxury cars climbed 30 percent compared with the corresponding period a year ago. By contrast, overall sales of cars, SUVs and minivans rose 16 percent.

The Chinese government has been demanding that automakers produce electric cars and gasoline-electric hybrid cars, and the manufacturers are complying.

Automakers like BYD of China, Daimler of Germany and General Motors unveiled prototypes of electric cars and hybrids at the auto show, and promised limited production of some hybrids, like the Buick LaCrosse, by the end of the year.

GM's chairman, Rick Wagoner, said that China's ability to enact government decisions made it a top place to introduce technologies like hydrogen-burning cars or plug-in electric cars.

But many auto executives are skeptical that Chinese consumers will be willing to pay considerably more for cars with hybrid engines and other alternative propulsion technologies while hybrids still account for less than 1 percent of the far more affluent American market.

So, unless the government heavily subsidizes vehicles with new technologies, their sales may be limited along with their effect on oil imports and emissions of global warming gases.

"Hybrids are only going to be a small, rarefied section of the automotive population," said John Parker, executive vice president of Ford Motor for Asia, the Pacific and Africa.

Ford announced instead a series of less glamorous improvements in fuel-injection technology and transmission design that are intended to improve the gas mileage of many existing models.

SUVs in China tend to be smaller than those in America and frequently use car-based designs, which are lighter and require less gasoline than truck-based designs.

But large SUVs are increasingly popular -- GM showed two Cadillac Escalade full-sized SUVs while Dongfeng, a Chinese automaker, displayed a very large, military-style vehicle that resembled a Hummer H1 but with a different grille.

Soaring demand for automobiles, with sales rising nearly 20 percent a year, has already turned China into the world's second-largest oil consumer.

China has been transformed from an oil exporter as recently as 1994 into a nation dependent on imports, mainly from the volatile Mideast and Africa, for half its oil needs.

China is holding gasoline and diesel fuel prices below $3 a gallon through heavy subsidies to companies like Sinopec involved in refining and distributing fuel.

This has helped China restrain inflation in consumer prices, which accelerated this spring to an annual pace of more than 8 percent.

But price controls on fuel have had the effect of stimulating sales of big vehicles, despite other government policies intended to discourage such sales.

Liu Shijin, a vice minister for the powerful State Council Development and Research Center, acknowledged Thursday that the government had missed a chance to raise fuel taxes earlier in this decade and now faced a difficult decision on what to do in the face of inflation.

"If the fuel is priced right, consumers will use energy more carefully," Liu said at the conference.

The government has already taken two critical steps to encourage fuel efficiency. One has been to impose vehicle taxes, ranging from 1 to 20 percent, based on engine size.

The other measure has been to require vehicles to meet stringent standards for fuel efficiency, with additional taxes of 5 to 15 percent on models that fail.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Time for a Reality Check on Ethanol

From The Times &
A kernel of truth
Saturday, April 05, 2008

The recent opinion article by Calvin Hoy, "No Subsidies" (March 24), regarding ethanol cries out not for a response, but for a simple statement of the facts.

The sky is not falling because of ethanol. It is time for a reality check.
Although the ethanol industry has only recently attracted significant media attention, the fuel has been part of the American landscape for more than a century. Henry Ford's first automobile in the late 1880s was manufactured to run on either pure ethanol or gasoline. His vision was "to build a vehicle affordable to the working family and powered by a fuel (ethanol) that would boost the rural economy." But the ethanol industry did not begin its rapid expansion until ethanol began to be used as an oxygenate in gasoline in the late 1980s.

From a performance standpoint, ethanol is an unqualified success. Every car sold in the U.S. for the last 20-plus years has performed exceptionally on 10 percent ethanol/90 percent gasoline. We are now producing hundreds of thousands of "flex-fuel" vehicles per year that can use either gasoline or mixtures of ethanol and gasoline up to 85 percent ethanol.

Regarding subsidies, the ethanol blenders credit of 51 cents per gallon cost taxpayers about $3 billion last year, but it reduced crop price supports by about $6 billion and our oil import bill by another $15 billion. Some of that $15 billion for oil would surely end up in the bank accounts of America's enemies.

There has been significant media attention in the last year given to the food-versus-fuel debate. Ethanol production has been linked to a rise in the price of everything from tortillas to gummy bears. Unfortunately, this argument is very nearly ridiculous. The fact is that very little U.S. corn (about 10 percent) is fed directly to people; most of it is fed to animals. About one-third of the corn converted to ethanol remains behind as a high-protein animal feed called distillers grains.

Many factors contribute to rising grain prices: rising wealth and grain demand in China and India, drought in Australia, increased ethanol demand and especially rising energy prices all play a role. But that $3 box of corn flakes on your shelf contains about 10 cents' worth of corn. Even if corn prices double, the price of grain has a small impact on food prices. Rising energy prices have a much greater impact on food prices. Oil prices have nearly tripled in the last five years and are a key part of the increased cost of many goods and services. If there is a single reason for the rapidly rising price of nearly everything, look to the cost of energy, not corn, as the major culprit.

Over time, we will be producing more and more ethanol from cellulosic materials (grasses, straws, wood chips and wood wastes, etc.). "Cellulosic ethanol" does not participate in the food chain at all, and will be produced in sufficient volume and at low enough costs to really compete with gasoline.

There seems to be a collective rush to judgment over two recent reports on the projected carbon emissions of biofuels production. A careful analysis of the facts would have ensured a far more balanced and measured response.

One of the many flaws in those reports is that biofuels are not compared to any appropriate alternatives. We do not have a choice between biofuels and a perfect, imaginary fuel, as the papers seem to believe. In the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), Congress established an annual corn ethanol production cap of 15 billion gallons by 2015. Congress established this cap to help guard against dramatic land- use changes. But the authors of one of these reports based their projections on a model in which U.S. corn ethanol production increased from about 7 billion gallons a year now to 30 billion gallons a year by 2015. Thus, the findings are irrelevant to current and future renewable energy policy.

The facts are clear. Ethanol is a renewable fuel produced from abundant American lands, it generates American jobs, and it is far better for the environment and national security than gasoline. Ethanol is just one element, but a very important one, in our drive to reduce our dependence on ever more expensive imported oil. The ethanol industry, as with many businesses, is evolving and the focus is more and more on efficiency and environmental improvements. New technology allows plants to operate cleaner, and design improvements make them easier to maintain. Ethanol from corn and later the cellulosic ethanol that will come in much larger volumes will help end our oil addiction, give us cheaper and cleaner fuels and provide freer and more stable energy markets.

Bruce E. Dale, Ph.D., is a Distinguished University Professor in the department of chemical engineering and materials science at Michigan State University.

Pushing Back Against the Fringe

Boxer, NRDC, ED Attack Friends of the Earth Campaign: "Defeatist", "Small", "Isolated" 1

Posted by The Cunctator on Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Last Thursday, Darren Samuelson of E&E News interviewed Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and an NRDC representative in response to the Friends of the Earth campaign to “fix or ditch” the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill (S. 2191). In its campaign, Friends of the Earth challenged Boxer for supporting Lieberman-Warner’s high degree of emitter giveaways and subsidies and its target of 60% reductions from 1990 levels of greenhouses by 2050, although the Democratic presidential candidates are calling for 100% auction and 80% by 2050.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.):
Their logic doesn’t hold up. What we need to do is not waste time. If we can get a strong bill signed into law, we should get it. And if we can’t, we shouldn’t. . . . They’re sort of the defeatist group out there. They’ve been defeatists from day one. And it’s unfortunate. They’re isolated among the environmental groups.
Boxer went on to emphasize the importance of holding senators accountable on global warming through test votes.

Julia Bovey, NRDC:

We do not agree with Friends of the Earth. We are not willing to give up the fight. We believe the Lieberman-Warner bill as passed out of committee is a very strong start. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

NRDC had previously described the bill as “a strong start”.

Brent Blackwelder, Friends of the Earth president, responded:

Far from being defeatists, we’re being realists. We’re focusing on what the scientists tell us has to be done to solve global warming. It’s not acceptable to pass a bill that falls short of the science. It’s not acceptable to pass a bill that gives $1 trillion to polluters.

On Monday, Environmental Defense Climate & Air director Mark McLeod sent an email to several Senate offices excoriating Friends of the Earth for placing L-W and Boxer “under attack”, claiming that opposition in the “liberal blogosphere” to Lieberman-Warner or the passage of any climate bill in this session “will become orthodoxy if we do not present a counterview from respected pro-environment voices.”

He characterized Friends of the Earth as “small and fairly isolated” in contrast to ED and “many other major environmental groups” who “are in favor of moving forward to get a strong bill like Lieberman-Warner,” saying also that Friends of the Earth is calling for “unrealistic dramatic changes.”

The full text of McLeod’s email is after the jump.

Text of the email (verified by various sources, see also Energy Smart, the blog of the “major DailyKos contributor” named below):
From: Mark MacLeod
Cc: Elizabeth Thompson
Sent: Mon Feb 04 XXXXXXXX 2008
Subject: Need your help challenging attacks on Chairman Boxer, the EPW Committee, and climate bill


Senator Boxer and the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act have come under attack in ads placed on liberal blogs. Some blog posts have picked up on the claims in these ads (see Environmental Defense has been defending the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act and the work of the EPW committee on these blogs and through posts on our own blog, but we feel at this point it would be very helpful to have members of the Committee voice their support for Sen. Boxer, the committee, and the LWCSA. One idea we have would be to run ads on the blog sites and we would be happy to work with your office to arrange for filming of a short statement of support. Other ideas include a joint letter from the members of the committee who voted for the bill. The more members that would participate – the stronger the message (further details below).

Please let us know if you would consider participating in such an ad or taking other action. Time is of the essence. FYI – I am sending this message to all the offices that voted for the bill as well as other prominent supporters

Mark MacLeod

Friends of the Earth (FOE) is running ads against the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, calling for killing the bill (if unrealistic dramatic changes are not made).

– There are growing calls in the liberal blogosphere for opposition to the bill; and a general push against passing any climate bill in this Congress. This position has NOT yet solidified, but will become orthodoxy if we do not present a counterview from respected pro-environment voices.

– A major DailyKos contributor today (2/1/08) ran a full-throat expression of the FOE point view, directly attacking Sen. Boxer for wanting to move forward and for objecting to the FOE ads.

– Environmental Defense and many other major environmental groups (Friends of the Earth is small and fairly isolated) are in favor of moving forward to get a strong bill like Lieberman-Warner. We may differ on details and areas which require improvement, but are still pushing for action in this Congress.

– For scientific reasons, and to take advantage of political momentum (which should not be taken for granted), we think it is important to make a strong start on global warming by passing a bill like Lieberman-Warner this year. If there are more environmental supporters in Congress in the future, we can improve it, as we did the Clean Air Act and other important first steps. Delay only makes the solution harder and more expensive.

– We need a strong voices to stand up for Sen. Boxer, the committee, the LWCSA, and for the importance of acting NOW on climate change. Environmental Defense is interested in running ads featuring that voice on the same blogs where the FOE ad is appearing.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Dell Running on Green

A promising development -- go green power!

Dell says its headquarters runs on 100% green power (04/02/2008)

Sara Goodman, E&ENews PM reporter

Computer-manufacturing giant Dell Inc. announced today that it is using 100 percent "green energy" to power its Round Rock, Texas, headquarters campus, a workplace for more than 10,000 people.

A gas-to-energy plant at Waste Management's Austin landfill is providing 40 percent of Dell's power needs, with the rest being generated by TXU Energy's wind farms -- all part of a company-wide effort to go carbon-neutral this year.

Dell is also increasing the percentage of green power used at its Austin Parmer campus from 8 percent to 17 percent, while its Twin Falls, Idaho, facility uses 100 percent green power.

Paul Bell, president of Dell Americas, said in a teleconference that the company is working with "relevant local power companies to see how far we can push this, since location by location, power sourcing is highly variable."

Dell announced its move toward carbon neutrality last September. It plans to use a mix of energy-efficiency upgrades, renewable power purchases and carbon offsets to compensate for its greenhouse gas emissions.

So far, Dell has installed a company-wide power management system that turns off computers at night and has changed all light bulbs and air conditioning units. The effort already has saved the company nearly $2 million annually, Bell said, as well as cut emissions by nearly 12,000 tons a year.

Bell declined to share cost estimates for the project, but he said that while the company was paying a premium for its initiatives, it was counting on stable pricing in the long term, combined with greater energy efficiency, to lead to lower costs.

Dell will continue to work with its suppliers to get them to reduce their emissions as well, Bell said, continuing an effort announced last June to have suppliers identify and report their carbon dioxide emissions impacts. It also will continue to push for stronger government regulations that reward innovative, energy-efficient information technology.

"Environmental Tribalism"

Below is an abstract of a fascinating paper published in the Minnesota Law Review looking at some of the issues of eco-pragmatism and at the tribal nature of environmental advocacy. I recommend it to you.

Environmental Tribalism

Cornell University - School of Law
Duke University - School of Law

Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 87

Recent writings by Dan Farber and J.B. Ruhl have put forward a strong case for "eco-pragmatic" and "radical middle" approaches to environmental policymaking. Rather than debate the merits of such an approach, in this Article we examine whether eco-pragmatic policy development is likely in practice and where it might occur, given the tribal nature of public environmental advocacy. We use the remarkably polarized reaction to Bjorn Lomborg's book, "The Skeptical Environmentalist," as a vehicle to explore the seemingly fundamental divide that exists between warring parties within the environmental law and policy communities. By offering a more complete understanding of why parties involved in environmental policymaking exhibit such stark bipolarism, we seek to help proponents of pragmatic, inclusive approaches to environmental law and policy overcome the field's tribal dynamics.

While many commentators point to the apparently incompatible worldviews of "bean counters" and "tree huggers" as the primary explanation for the lack of a strong middle ground in environmental advocacy, the differences may prove less profound than commonly assumed. After all, like the public at large, bean counters and tree huggers seem to recognize the legitimacy of competing economic and environmental considerations. Thus, rather than simply speaking past one another, disagreement for many advocates seems to be more practical. This usually plays out in contrasting beliefs over the proper manner in which to weigh and compare economic and environmental values, not a dispute concerning the values' existence or their political validity. If this account is accurate, and the divide is less theological than commonly assumed, then space may well exist for some common, pragmatic agreement.

In practice, though, these divisions are widened by a number of social dynamics that frustrate effective public deliberation in the environmental policymaking arena. In particular, we examine the influences of (1) group polarization within environmental policymaking communities, (2) entrepreneurial efforts by interest groups to exploit cognitive heuristics and biases among the public, (3) disputes over proper sources of authority for scientific information, and, finally, (4) the possibility of empirical debates subsuming, and consequently obscuring, more fundamental disputes over cultural or social values. These four barriers act together as an effective "policy cutting gate," shunting advocates into one pen or the other and leaving little space in between for effective advocacy of pragmatic, middle approaches to policy problems.

As a result, we conclude that eco-pragmatists should concentrate their efforts not at the high-profile level of policy formation but, rather, at the level of policy implementation, where relevant actors are less severely influenced by the social dynamics of the cutting gate. Put differently, the target audience for appeals to eco-pragmatic decisionmaking may well be neither Earth First!, nor the Competitive Enterprise Institute, nor even the general public. Rather, the most fertile terrain for balanced, pragmatic governance likely lies below the advocacy radar screen at the level of administrative implementation of environmental policy.