Density or Exclusion: the Perils of Local Zoning

In my last post, I suggested that while we like to think of housing as an investment, it’s really more like a crappy savings plan, potentially redeemed by the fact that you can live inside the piggy bank. Land can be a profitable speculative investment, but allowing land to appreciate and drag the cost of housing upward in real terms is fundamentally incompatible with housing being affordable.

Economists (including Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Paine, Henry George, Thomas Friedman, Joseph Stiglitz, and Matt Yglesias) have highlighted the negative impacts of allowing land owners to collect monopolistic “ground rents” but nobody seems to care. So now tens of trillions of dollars worth of real estate in the US is predicated on the idea that landowners get to retain these speculative gains. Barring a glorious Georgist Revolution, this is probably the arrangement we have to work within.

Build, Baby Build!

Luckily, in a city with increasing land values, where property owners get to keep all of those unearned financial gains, there’s an All American Capitalist Solution™ of sorts, which can potentially keep housing affordable, even when land is expensive: build more housing on less land. By building densely, high land costs can be shared across more households, reducing the overall impacts of expensive land, and allowing home buyers & renters to pay primarily for housing instead of land.

Continue reading Density or Exclusion: the Perils of Local Zoning

Exploring a Carbon Price for Colorado

In May of 2013 I gave a talk at Clean Energy Action’s Global Warming Solutions Speaker Series in Boulder, on how we might structure a carbon pricing scheme in Colorado. You can also download a PDF of the slides and watch an edited version of that presentation via YouTube:

The short policy overview:

  • We should begin levying a modest carbon tax, in the range of $5 to $25/ton of CO2e.
  • The tax must be applied to the fossil fuels used in electricity generation (coal and natural gas). Ideally it should also be applied to gasoline, diesel, natural gas used outside the power sector, and fugitive methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, but those are less important for the moment.
  • New electricity generation resources must be allowed to compete economically with the operation of existing carbon-intensive facilities, and fuel costs must not be blindly passed through to consumers without either rigorous regulatory oversight, or utilities sharing fuel price risk.
  • Carbon tax revenues should be spent on emissions mitigation, providing reliable, low-cost financing for energy efficiency measures and a standard-offer contract with modest performance-based returns for new renewable generation.
  • Over time the carbon price should be increased and applied uniformly across all segments of the economy, with the eventual integration of  consumption based emissions footprinting for imported goods.

But wait… I can hear you saying, I thought James Hansen and others  were rallying support for a revenue neutral carbon tax proposal?  Even the arch-conservative American Enterprise Institute was looking into it, weren’t they?

A carbon price alone is not enough to get the job done — there are other pieces of our energy markets that also have to be fixed to get us to carbon zero.

Continue reading Exploring a Carbon Price for Colorado

A Carbon Price for Colorado

In May of 2013 I gave a talk at Clean Energy Action’s Global Warming Solutions Speaker Series in Boulder, on how we might structure a carbon pricing scheme in Colorado.  You can also download a PDF of the slides and watch an edited version of that presentation via YouTube:

What follows is a more structured written exploration of the same ideas.

Continue reading A Carbon Price for Colorado

Shared Links for Mar 11th

  • The Missing $1,000,000 Tax Bracket – There's a fair amount of debate over what the "top marginal tax rate" should be, but it's infrequently noted that there's actually vastly more variation in the income threshold at which that rate becomes applicable. In inflation adjusted dollars, it's fluctuated between around $80,000 (Regan) and $80,000,000 (!) during the Depression. Ignoring this while debating the highest income tax rate is kind of absurd. (tagged: usa tax policy )
  • True Traffic Tales – Ah, bikes and cars living harmoniously together. (tagged: cartoon bicycle transportation )
  • Evangelical Climate Initiative – A Christian take on climate change, given its reality, what is the appropriate response for a conscientious person of faith? From my point of view as an atheist, it's not so important what other peoples' motivations are for taking action, as long as they take action. I'm curious how this has been received by the evangelical movement. (tagged: religion climate science christian green )
  • Sailfish Cooperating to Hunt Sardines – I had no idea sailfish were so colorful (and changeable), let alone this cooperative. Glad National Geographic still exists, even if our maps no longer have "Terra Incognita" on them (tagged: fish cooperation nature )
  • Communicating the Second Premise: Whether Obama or Bush, Values Drive Science Policy Decisions – A good look at the division between science facts/findings and science policy in the context of stem cell research and Bush's vs. Obama's take on it. Facts alone do not imply any "shoulds". We need values to tell us what's right or wrong. Sometimes those values are so obvious we don't even think about them, and sometimes they're not, especially when new and poorly understood technology is involved. (tagged: science policy obama bush stemcells biology )