Natural Resources

Fall 2011 Natural Resources Law Class at UB

Jevons Paradox: Increasing our Energy Efficiency and Consumption at the Same Time November 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — jdkmsw @ 4:43 pm

In keeping with the topic of energy, check out this NYT article from a few months back:

It is an interesting proposition that by becoming more energy efficient we may be using more energy than before, but it makes sense. That extra few dollars in your pocket after you pay your utilities and fill up your tank has to go somewhere.  And I’m sure none of us mind having more disposable income.

But is this really a bad thing?

While you can say the old adage “mo’ money, mo’ problems” by the great philosopher Notorious B.I.G. has been proven correct again, doesn’t the fact that as we’ve become more efficient and consequently purchase more, strike at the heart of our consumer mentality and growth as a society?

While I like the premise of this article, I’d like to emphasize a few things.

First, lower energy costs benefit everyone, wealthy or poor. This means that those with lower incomes can take that extra money and put it towards food, their children, or their savings.  It raises the standard of living for all.

Second, we all derive great enjoyment from our gadgets and they make our lives safer. Your cell phone puts emergency services at your finger tips, cheaper energy makes lighting our streets and buildings after dark easier and safer, and our computers allow us to stay connected and up-to-date with news from across the country and the world.

Third, greater energy efficiency allows for the development of new and innovative products. Within the past 10-20 years, our greatest advances have occurred in the field of technology and medical sciences. Cheaper energy allows these innovators and researchers to put money saved back into R&D, paving the way for new advances in the years to come.

Fourth, I do not believe an energy tax with the purpose of reducing consumption is the answer. Education, I believe, is the best answer. If you feel strongly about curbing our energy consumption then remind people that our consumption has consequences. That you must keep in mind another adage, “there is no free lunch” (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Biggie who said that), and that our energy needs require the burning of fossil fuels, nuclear fission, and wind/solar/hydroelectric etc. And for those who feel strongly about climate change, they must balance their enjoyment with their beliefs on environmental policy. If carbon emissions are your enemy, then perhaps don’t buy as much. Save your money and plant a tree, inform your neighbors about the effect of their actions on the environment, or more importantly invest in the development of cleaner forms of energy.

But most importantly, we should not seek to tax the innovative spirit that has allowed civilization to advance to where it is today.

Images from:


Marcellus Shale: An Economic Revival? November 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — jdkmsw @ 2:50 am

In light of the fact that we are starting our discussion on minerals, I figured what better, and more contemporary a topic to blog about than hydraulic fracturing the Marcellus Shale deposits in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

The phrase hydraulic fracturing, or as it’s commonly known “fracking,” is undoubtedly a sensitive issue and one that many of you are very passionate about one way or another.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with hydraulic fracturing (which I’d be very surprised if you were), the process involves injecting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals, to make shale deposits deep underground more permeable.

Why is this important?

Well advances in technology have made the production of previously inaccessible reservoirs of natural gas economically viable.

So what’s the issue?

On one side of the debate, you have environmental activists and organizations who advocate against the use of the technique for a multitude of health and safety reasons. The most prominent reason asserted is that the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process have the potential to enter and contaminate our water supply.  A very serious issue that could touch all of us.  For the specific chemical compositions, I recommend your check out:

On the other side, you have individuals and businesses that assert the economic boom that drilling the shale formation will provide the region will be extraordinary. In this “rust belt” area, where the relics of our industrial past take the form of shuttered factories, a boom in mining would bring jobs to the region, bring unemployment down, and revenue to state coffers.

As a soon-to-be-attorney who is interested in this field of litigation, I try to stay on top of the media coverage of the Marcellus Shale formation. What I’ve found is that I am inundated in reports of the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, until this past summer as I was reading the news paper. I came across the following editorial that rose above the din.

The following is the link. For the sake of space I didn’t include the text of the editorial in this posting. I highly recommend that you read the editorial and compare it to what you have already heard in the media.

Whether you are for the development and exploration of the Marcellus Shale formation or against it, I think what we all can agree on is the fact that neither side should demonize the process without a sufficient scientific basis.  Personally, I am for the exploration and production of the formation, so long as it can be done SAFELY. If the claims of water contamination materialize, then I believe we need to take a step back and figure out how we can solve that problem. Whether it is through better water or well casings, changing the chemical composition of the fracturing fluid, different disposal techniques etc., safety must remain a priority.

In a time when many people are struggling to get by or are unemployed (Unemployment Rates: NY 8%, Ohio 9.1%, PA 8.3%, and WV 8.2% from,  Marcellus Shale will add jobs, significant new tax revenue to the states as well as helping to make domestic energy abundant and affordable. These deposits have the potential to rejuvenate the region, but it is important to remember the enormous responsibility that those seeking to produce the formation must bear.

Images from: