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Weekly Roundup: June 9, 2023


At the Blog

On Monday, Larry Lohmann kicked off a new series on Climate, Economics, and Green Capitalism by discussing misguided logic of environmental offsets, and the role that legal ingenuity has played in opening ever more frontiers for exploitation. As Lohmann writes, “for a whole generation of innovative lawmakers, the seemingly simple concept of ‘avoided emissions’ has offered the juiciest potential of all for crafting legislation that allows the current frontier of fossil fuel extraction to continue expanding outward indefinitely…. Armed with this concept, you can come up with no end of cheap possibilities for keeping fossil fuels coming out of the ground.” Predictably, after 25 years of experience, few serious scientists deny that carbon offsets are doing anything but making climate change worse. Less noticed, however, “is the extent to which offsetting has warped the whole original idea of environmental law,” as it has provided an incentive against legislating and enforcing stringent limits to environmental destruction.

On Tuesday, William Boyd continued the series by asking who, as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act, will own the clean energy future? As Boyd outlines, the IRA promises to pump billions of dollars into clean energy infrastructure, primarily though tax equity financing. Yet this approach, despite provisions like direct pay and transferability of tax credits, all but guarantees that our clean energy future will be dominated by incumbent private actors, namely large financial institutions and private developers, who will capture the benefits of abundant low-cost renewable electricity. As he writes, “while this may have all been what is required by the art of the possible, it does not bode well for a fundamental rebalancing of public and private.” (On Twitter, Jeff Gordon and Sandeep Vaheesan debated the merits of Boyd’s pessimism).

And on Thursday, Shelley Welton argued that the current atomized approach to net-zero is more smokescreen than progress, and unlikely to catalyze carbon reductions at the scale or pace necessary. As she writes, “company-by-company netting is a deeply libertarian approach to achieving our collective imperative. To be sure, the global net-zero goal must be disaggregated somehow. In the current world order, without an empowered global body to direct emissions reductions, I think that national net-zero planning and execution makes good sense. But the current net-zero framework takes disaggregation much further, encouraging each corporate entity to manipulate its own carbon universe in the way it sees fit.” We should, she concludes, stop encouraging corporate pledges that focus on netting and start asking corporations to pledge simple, transparent emissions reduction goals.

In LPE Land

As part of a new issue of the Utah Law Review on antitrust and consumer protection, Luke Herrine discusses how to think about the relationship between the two areas: “At the Nexus of Antitrust and Consumer Protection.”

Over at Balls and Strikes, Jenny Hunter argues that, yes, Glacier Northwest “could have been worse,” but that is a tiresome refrain that acclimatizes the public to a Supreme Court that’s constantly whittling away at peoples’ rights and increasing the power of corporations. And in the NYT, Jamelle Bouie observes that the decision is part and parcel of the Roberts’ Court longstanding attack on workers. (Josh Chafetz, meanwhile, lays out how the Roberts’ Court has been engaged in a judicial power grab for the past 15 years, seizing for themselves more and more of the national governing agenda.)

In the New Yorker, Zachary Carter writes about the recent trajectory of Isabella Weber, whose once verboten ideas about inflation are now being widely celebrated.

Finally, H-Diplo has just published a roundtable on Jamie Martin’s The Meddlers, featuring a murderers’ row of Adom Getachew, Eric Helleiner, Vanessa Ogle, Quinn Slobodian, and Christy Thornton.