Shared catches, cleaner engines, and auctioned permits now the law
Fishermen, truckers, and energy suppliers accept new eco-rules
On the environmental front at least there’s some good news. Humans have reached agreements that they are beginning to abide by in order to rescue fisheries, clean up harbor air, and curb climatic emission. We trim, blend, and append three 2008 articles, out of Science of September 19, out of the Los Angeles Times of October 1 by Louis Sahagun and Ronald D. White, and a press release from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for September 29.
by Jeffery J. Smith, October 2008Science: In the world’s oceans, where fishermen have open-access -- free-for-all race-to-fish -- nearly a third of fisheries have collapsed; the number is only half that under “catch share” systems. Catch shares guarantee each shareholder a fixed portion of a fishery's total allowable catch, which is set each year by scientists. Every shareholder has a financial stake in the long-term health of the fishery.
Tailoring the program to the ecological, economic, and social characteristics of a fishery works best. Controls such as consolidation caps, which prevent any one entity from owning too much of a given fishery, and community-owned quotas have worked in some cases to help maintain vibrant ports and fisheries. Some design features however, such as how shares are allocated between individuals and processors, can be contentious, as in the Alaskan king crab fishery.
Once in place, catch share programs can reduce bycatch -- the unintentional harvest of threatened or undesirable species -- and protect the ecosystem in the process. The limits on bycatch and on desirable species spurs fishermen to use more selective, less damaging fishing gear.
Catch shares are common in New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, and increasingly the US and Canada. Worldwide, catch shares reverse the overall downward trajectory for fisheries.
JJS: One size does not fit all. Sometimes an individual owns the share, sometimes the community does. Now, from fishing ports to shipping ports and the air above.
Los Angeles Times: The adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle 40% of the nation's imported goods. The estimated 16,700 trucks servicing them account for more smog and soot than all 6 million cars in the region, and diesel emissions spewed by big rigs cause 1,200 premature deaths annually. Asthma rates among children living in neighborhoods near the ports are double the national average. Dock workers and truck drivers face significantly higher risks of lung and throat cancer.
The nation's most ambitious pollution control program at a major seaport is expected to slash overall emissions at the ports by 45% by 2012. Under the program's first phase, more than 2,000 dirty diesel trucks built before 1989 will be banned from the twinned ports. When fully implemented in 2012, only trucks that meet 2007 vehicle emissions standards will be allowed to service terminals.
On the program’s first day, cargo moved smoothly despite compliance checks. Although port officials estimated a 90% compliance rate of trucks meeting the new standards, even those lacking permission were allowed to move cargo. “The message at the terminal gates is we will let you in this time but don't count on being let in again," said Arley Baker, a spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles.
One independent contractor is no longer allowed to work at the Port of Los Angeles because he could not secure the required permission sticker under the new rules -- even though his 1996 Kenworth truck meets the pollution goals. "It's too complicated," he said. "This should be one harbor together, not separate plans and different rules.”
JJS: Makes sense. And it seems that even wider cooperation is in play in America’s Northeast.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) held the first CO2 auction in the nation on September 25. The 10 Northeast states that comprise RGGI have agreed to cap CO2 emissions from power plants through 2014. The cap will then be reduced by 2.5 percent in each of the four years 2015 through 2018, for a total reduction of 10 percent. Their auctions will ensure an ample opportunity for bidders to obtain the allowances they will need.
At the first one, all of the 12,565,387 emissions permits offered for sale were sold at a clearing price of $ 3.07 per allowance. The 59 bidders from the energy, financial, and environmental sectors demanded a total of 51,761,000 allowances, four times available supply. The $ 38,575,783 in proceeds raised so far will be distributed to the six RGGI states that offered permits for sale. They’re confident they know to whom to give the those funds, supposedly the people best able to develop energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. They may also pay shares to energy consumers.
JJS: Up to me, I might pay it all out as a Housing Voucher, good for property taxes and tax-exempt improvements by owners, for down payments by buyers, and for housing rent by renters. Improvements tend to make buildings more efficient -- and owners are better able to improve than renters -- so it makes sense to encourage owner occupancy. Yet renters, who usually are the poorest, should not be left out.
Knowing everyone has vouchers, owners might just jack up rents, or avoid improvements that’d raise the value of their building and thus their property tax. So it’d make sense to shift that tax off buildings, onto land. That would put owners into competition for paying tenants and buyers so they’d keep rents and prices low.
To pay the tax, owners would also put their sites to best use, which in-fills cities. That, in turn, reduces energy use for heating and transportation and the emission of CO2. This geonomic tax shift is a way to get the biggest bang from your reform buck.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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