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View Diary: levers and fulcrum points: sustainability (22 comments)

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  •  One Piece Of Talking About Sustainability (1+ / 0-)
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    kid oakland

    is talking about true costs.

    I just finished writing a story for Random Lengths News about the new "green growth" rhetoric at the Port of Los Angeles in contrast with, how shall I put it... reality?

    Reality is represented in part by British economist Arthur Cecil Pigou’s concept of "externalized costs" (first articulated in book form in 1912) and the need to internalize them in order for markets to work properly.

    In my story, I make this mention of the big picture and how it relates to my specific subject:

    While widely accepted in the abstract, other theoretical perspectives have long combined with special interest political power to sideline Pigou’s impact. Yet, since the early 1990s, the sheer magnitude in externalized costs, combined with stalled progress in dealing with environmental damage has contributed to renewed interest in Pigou’s approach.  His approach is now routinely used by regulatory agencies, such as the Califonia Air Resources Board (CARB) and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) for their high-level analyses, though it has yet to trickle down to the level of individual EIRs.

    In 1995, Ralph Estes, an emeritus proefessor of busniess at American University in Washington, DC, wrote a paper, "The Public Cost Of Private Corporations," which conservatively estimated total external costs in the U.S. economy at $3.051 trillion, enough to turn a reported $714 billion net profit into a $2.337 trillion net loss. He estimated costs of $329.7 billion for stationary-source air pollution and $10.7 billion for mobile-source air pollution.  

    The later, at least, seems extremely low in light of current knowledge.  Last year, CARB estimated total externalized statewide air pollution costs at around $70 billion, with goods movement accounting for $19 billion, half of which is in AQMD’s jurisdiction.  The port-related share of that—anywhere from $3.5 to $5 billion or more—clearly dwarfs port revenues, much less expenditures to reduce pollution.

    This is but one example of a more general principle:  We have the tools to start fixing things. What we need is the political will.

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