Saturday, March 2, 2013

Week 7 Featured Journal Entries

This week's featured entries come from Megan Fox, Kevin Rigsbee, and Nick Wilkerson.

Week 7 Journal Prompt

Is there an environmental policy problem currently being addressed at the state level which you think could be better solved by federal-level regulation? Conversely, is the federal government trying to solve an environmental policy problem better addressed by the states? Identify and describe an environmental policy problem which you think is being addressed by the wrong level of government. Explain why you think the problem could be better regulated by a different level, laying out the pros and cons of switching to a different regulatory approach. Cite class readings and other sources (e.g., news articles that help you describe the policy problem) as necessary. Your narrative should be 6–9 paragraphs.

Megan's Week 7 Journal Entry

California has come up with its own cap and trade program for their state. This cap and trade program is on greenhouse gas emissions ans market-based compliance mechanisms. Their final regulation had an effective date of January 1, 2012 and stated the following as its purpose, "The purpose of this article is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases associated with entities identified in this article through the establishment, administration, and enforcement of the California Greenhouse Gas Cap-and Trade Program by applying an aggregate greenhouse gas allowance budget on covered entities and providing a trading mechanism for compliance instruments (CEPA)." The document discussed the amount of greenhouse gas emissions allowed to be emitted per source type and explains how the program works.

The cap and trade program is run by the State of California and I think that this program should be run at a federal level. Recently, there was legislature brought to Congress about having a cap and trade program for the United States for greenhouse gas emissions. Although it could have gone through, the Obama administration decided it had to make a decision on what to focus its resources on, environmental issues or health care, and health care won the battle. I think that if they would have focused on this issue then it would have been regulated at a federal level.

The reason that I think that this regulation should be addressed at the federal level and not the state level is because of the importance it has on our nation. I also think that companies would feel more push from a federal level than from a state level. I also think that there is often more money at a federal level and it may take a lot of time and money to start this regulation, continue to monitor it and to fine those who are out of compliance. Overall this project is so big that the federal government should take responsibility for the regulation to see that it is followed.

While this regulation is currently at a state level I think this is only because California has a desire to have this type of regulation and is willing to go the extra lengths to enforce it and keep track of those under the regulation. I also think that if the regulation becomes a nation wide regulation that it will be moved and regulated under the federal government. California, however, is doing the nation a good thing by implementing this on their own, it shows to others (hopefully the nation's leaders) that our country needs these types of regulations and I think that the way this regulation has been put into place will help all other states when the time comes for them to do the same.

While I have listed above the many different pros to switching to a federally regulated cap and trade program for greenhouse gas emissions there are also some cons to switching to a federally regulated program from a state regulated program. First of all this regulation only exists at a state level and this is because the state is much closer to the problem than the federal government, that it why the regulation is in place. Often times when a state becomes aware of a problem they are able to make the proper changes and fast because it hits so close to home. I also think a con to having this regulations regulated at a federal level instead of a state level is that if their is a problem it could be hard to identify if it isn't a very large issue which could lead to companies taking advantage of the regulation and not following all the rules associated with it.

Overall I believe that while this policy has a few positives being regulated at a state level I hope for many reasons that this regulation is soon regulated at a federal level. The biggest reason is the enforcement that will happen when it is regulated at a federal level. Another reason that I would like to see it regulated at a federal level is because then all states will have to follow this regulation. I look forward to when this regulation is at a federal level and hope that there will be many more positive aspects about this regulation then.

1. California Environmental Protecting Agency Air Resources Board. "Cap and Trade 2010." Last modified December 22, 2011.

Kevin's Week 7 Journal Entry

Climate change is one of the most important issues facing the world today. This is an issue that affects the entire planet, regardless of nation, religion, or race. As such, almost every nation on Earth has established some policy regarding it, and it is one of the most important policy drivers in every industrialized nation on the planet. Every industrialized nation, that is, except one. 

The United States is the main exception to that rule. In the US, climate change is consistently regarded as a minor issue, something not really worth worrying about at the moment. Over the past ten years, there has been virtually no meaningful legislation passed dealing with the issue of climate change. Of course, that’s only the rule at the national level. On the state level, many things are being done.

Where the federal government has stalled, many of America’s states have taken the lead in dealing with the issue of climate change. California has enacted a plan to reduce statewide emissions to a point below 1990 levels by 2050, and Pennsylvania has resolved to increase its renewable energy usage to 18% by 2020 (Vig 38). Altogether, 23 states have developed initiatives to deal with the problem that is posed by climate change. However, this is less than half of the total number of states in the Union. This is why climate change would be better handled at the national level.

There is no real problem with some states trying to lead in dealing with climate change. The problem is that most of the states in the union do not seem to feel any need to address climate change. If 23 states have developed climate change initiatives, that means that the other 27 are perfectly content to fulfill the minimum standards set by the federal government, and do nothing more than that. Simply waiting for these states to realize that climate change is a problem and get started on doing something isn’t going to work, which means that solutions to the problem should be directed at a federal level.

If climate change legislation was primarily handled by the federal government, rather than the state governments, then there would be no way for the states to sit back and do nothing. The increased federal standards and regulations would force the states to move to address emissions within their borders, unless they wanted to get hit with penalties. More importantly, the federal government would be able to co-ordinate policy across the entire nation. Any new climate change regulations passed would involve multiple states pooling their resources and combining their efforts in order to address the problem.

Now, this isn’t to say that it would be possible for things to completely be handled at the federal level. As useful as central control over policy is, there is such a thing as too much centralization. The federal government can’t always understand what is and isn’t possible at the local level, nor can it focus on improving things for each and every community in the country. Any federal regulation, by necessity, is focused on what is best for the country as a whole, not for individual parts of the country.

However, there are many ways to shift more control over climate change to the federal government without falling into this trap. There’s such a thing as a middle ground between our current policy of virtually no central planning and the hypothetical policy of too much central planning. It would be entirely possible for all new climate change initiatives to be directed at the federal level, but implemented at the state level. For example, the federal government could say “I want emissions reduced by 20% by 2017”. How the states would go about doing that would be entirely up to them. The federal government would be setting the direction, but the states would figure out how to make it work.

Climate change is a complex issue. No one can really understand how to deal with it perfectly, nor can any authority have a perfect solution. However, as it is the states are not cooperating to deal with it, but primarily working independently, with some refusing to work at all. Having federal direction would let the whole country work together solve the problem, rather than separately.

Nick's Week 7 Journal Entry

In 2010, the state Colorado increased its renewable energy portfolio standard to 30%, one of the highest in the nation. This law mandates that large businesses, utilities, etc; obtain their power from renewable sources by the year 2020 (Eber, Tucker 2010). However, this increase stands as an amendment to previous renewable standard increases. In 2004, Colorado became the first state in the nation to pass a renewable energy standard, requiring the state obtain 10% of its energy from renewable sources by 2015. In 2007, the state increased this to 20% by 2020 (Eber, Tucker 2010). The laws incentivize renewable energy production in regard to solar, wind, etc; as well as recycling electricity and reducing waste.
Arguably, this law serves as good news for the state and environment. However, I would argue that this poses a single problem. Many states over previous years have taken action into their own hands simply because the federal government hasn’t acted. Put simply, the federal government has failed to set a national renewable energy standard. In 2011, President Obama called for setting an extremely ambitious national renewable energy standard. The presidents plan “called for the United States to produce 80% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2035” (Union of Concerned Scientists 2012). Though ambitious, congressional action on the matter has been little to none as no legislation has been passed to put this agenda in motion. However, Congress SHOULD PASS THIS IMMEDIATELY. Even though the federal government has failed to act in this department, they are arguably the best suited level of government to deal with this problem as opposed to the states.

In regard to the federal government taking on the role of setting renewable standards, there are many pro’s. The federal government has a vast variety of tools and resources that the states don’t have access to. Commonly known tools include the governments various departments and agencies. One of the most common is The Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA itself is very powerful and has exemplified this power since its creation. Though many state level EPA’s exist, none have such broad discretion of regulatory power as the federal level. Essentially, the federal government is much better suited to set and more effectively enforce these types of national standards due to their vast availability of departments, agencies, and other various tools/resources.Quite simply, federal legislation is more effective in regard to solving environmental problems. Though state laws and regulations might serve as effective for a particular state, other states may suffer from insufficient laws. Essentially, these various issues can travel across the states border (Medoway 2012). One state might be heavily regulating pollution, but would suffer spillover from other states not doing so. In my opinion, I would argue that instances such as these paint a perfect picture as to why the federal government should take on this role. The same goes for setting national renewable energy standards, as the federal government’s law would affect all 50 states and would require all to comply.

Throughout researching this topic, I found it slightly more difficult to find cons to this issue. Although there are many pros to the federal government assuming this rule as opposed to the states, there are obviously cons of some sort. The first that comes to mind is that the federal government may not be in tune with the states specific problems and the solutions needed. One might argue that even though federal legislation would cover all 50 states, it wouldn’t necessarily address their own specific problems. Many states have various economic and cultural environments, etc; and may need their own specific legislation to address their own specific problems. Thus, a national renewable energy standard might serve trouble to certain states. For example, an oil rich state such as Texas or North Dakota might have more trouble in complying with this law as opposed to California, an environmentally conscious/friendly state. Colorado’s energy standard may serve as better legislation that meets their needs, wants, and goals. So far, Colorado seems to be doing pretty well in regard to renewables…without a national standard set by the federal government. We face a growing debate in this country as to whether the states or the federal government should assume the roles of setting environmental policy. This debate is only a part of the history of the state vs. federal government scenarios. Some argue that the states produce measures better suited for their own needs, some point to effectiveness at the federal level. One thing is for sure, it will be extremely interesting to see what the future holds!

"A Blueprint for Meeting President Obama’s Clean Energy Goals." Union of Concerned Scientists: Citizens and Scientists for Environmental Solutions. N.p., 11 Feb. 2011. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. <>.

Eber, Kevin, and Ernie Tucker. "Colorado Boosts Its RPS to 30% by 2020." Renewable Energy World. Brightergy, 26 Mar. 2010. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

Medoway, Meredith. "Why the Federal Government, Not States, Should Regulate the Environment."PolicyMic. N.p., 2012. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

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