Last week the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning estimated that the cost of environmental damage in China in 2010 had risen to $230 billion, 3.5% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). This estimate is nearly four times greater than the $62 billion in environmental damage calculated for 2004, which then represented 3.05% of China’s GDP. In 2010 it was estimated that the cost of environmental damage in China had risen in 2008 to $185 billion. Most economists view these estimates as underestimates of actual environmental damage because the researchers lack considerable important data. On March 28 the Beijing government released a plan to invest $16 billion to upgrade its sewage treatment and garbage incineration facilities and to promote reforestration. Edward Wong, Cost of Environmental Damage in China Growing Rapidly Amid Industrialization, N.Y. Times, March 30, 2013, at A4.
On March 27 economists with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a report criticizing global energy subsidies. Reviewing a database of 176 countries, the economists estimated that countries spend approximately $1.9 trillion each year on subsidies to reduce energy prices. The report, “Energy Subsidy Reforms -- Lessons and Implications,” argues that energy subsidies are counterproductive as a means for helping the poor because their benefits flow more to rich consumers who use more energy. It estimates that in low- and middle-income nations the 20 percent richest households receive six times more in energy subsidies than the 20 percent poorest. The report argues that energy subsidies harm the environment and cost governments substantial revenues at a time of chronic government deficits. The three countries with the largest energy subsidies are the United States ($502 billion), China ($279 billion), and Russia ($116 billion). The report is available online at: http://www.imf.org/external/np/pp/eng/2013/012813.pdf
On March 29 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules to require oil refiners to reduce the amount of sulfur in gasoline by two-thirds (from 30 to 10 parts per million). The rules essentially will extend the strict standards applied to gasoline in California to the entire U.S. EPA estimates that by the year 2030 the new rules will save 2,400 lives per year while reducing childhood respiratory illnesses by 23,000 annually, producing net benefits to society ranging from $8 billion to $23 billion per year. It is estimated that the rules will increase the cost of gasoline by 1 cent (EPA estimate) to 8 cents (industry estimate) per gallon.
On March 27 the University of Maryland Environmental Law Program held its annual “Golden Tree” award ceremony for films made by students in my Environmental Law class last fall. This year students made nine films that addressed a wide variety of topics including the environmental effects of methamphetamine labs, the environmental justice implications of pollution in Baltimore Harbor, offshore wind energy, natural gas exports, invasive species, and the effects of climate change on the wine industry.
The film that captured the most Golden Trees was “Beware the Beasts of the Ballast” by Matthew Jacobs, Phillip Chalker, Christopher Collins and Lisa Piccinini. It won Golden Trees for Best Acting, Best Animation/Special Effects, and Best Use of Humor. “Maryland’s Offshore Wind Debate” by Tom Blonkowski, Alana Wase, and James Miller won the Golden Tree for Best Narration. One of the most thought-provoking films was “The Environmental Effects of Methamphetamine Labs” by Gina Fioravanti and Chelsea Treadwell. It won Golden Trees for Most Educational film and Best Interviews.
The film “Controversy at Calvert Cliffs: The Implications of Natural Gas Exports” by Dawn Leung and Mona Zhe won a Golden Tree award for Best Cinematography. “Business for a Better Baltimore” by Mollie Rosenweig & Fernando Guerra won the Golden Tree for Best Sound. Best Picture honors were captured by Cassandra Miranda Villardes’s film “Here Comes the Oyster,” which also won the Golden Tree for Best Screenplay.
Other films included “Environmental Justice and the Baltimore Harbor” by Ilana Kerner, George Aguilar, and Adam Janet, which interviewed Baltimore Harborkeeper Tina Meyers, and “Climate Change You Can Taste,” a film about the impact of climate change on the wine industry by Emma Currin, Jacqueline Lynch, and Kevin Kellogg.
Thank you to our judges: Prof. Taunya Banks, John Brosnan, Dominic Dachille, Sonja Gloeckle from the Voice of America, Prof. Kathleen Hoke, former Program Coordinator Laura Mrozek, Mark Nevitt, and Jill Smith. This year’s Special Judge’s Award, proposed by judge Jill Smith, was the “Blair Witch Shaky-Cam Award Inspired by Dramamine.” It was awarded to “Baltimore Climate Action Plan” by Christine Hein and Kate Matthews. Photos of some of the award-winning student filmmakers and a video of the winning film "Here Comes the Oyster" can be viewed by visiting the March 30, 2013 blog post on my parallel blog at: http://www.globalenvironmentallaw.com