Vol. 38 No. 2

Shedding Light: The Role of Public Utility Commissions in Encouraging Adoption of Energy Efficient Lighting by Low-income Households

This Note proposes harnessing the abilities of state public utility commissions (“PUCs”) to tailor preexisting efficient lighting programs for low-income households, which are particularly susceptible to the common barriers to efficient lighting adoption. Although the exact mandate differs by state, most PUCs regulate and monitor utility services and ensure reliable delivery of electricity at just and reasonable rates.Within this relatively undefined area, PUCs may extend the scope of their rules to encompass energy efficiency schemes by characterizing such programs as a method of promoting the reliability and decreasing the costs of the entire electricity grid.  This Note identifies three approaches that, if applied together, accommodate for special needs of low-income households and satisfy general policy goals: free and subsidized light bulbs, free audits, and educational projects.  The combination of these approaches is low-cost and self-sustaining: PUCs already regulate utilities, meaning no additional procedure or oversight is necessary, and reduced electricity bills, once initial barriers […]

Blowing Smoke: Why the Current Government Incentive Regime Makes EVs and PHEVs a Distant Prospect—and How to Fix It

An entire generation has greeted the arrival of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (“PHEVs”) with eager anticipation.  However, the rise of a trend does not necessarily imply that spending habits will change—much less in a permanent way.  The ambiguous prospects for popular PHEV and electric vehicle (“EV”) adoption demands discussion of what may keep them out of driveways, and how to overcome those barriers. This Note seeks to analyze how, through proper government incentive programs, EVs and PHEVs might become one mechanism for reducing the United States’ carbon emissions from transportation.  Part I will set the backdrop for this analysis by discussing the history of EVs and PHEVs, and the government incentive programs already in place.  Part II will cover the issues impeding popular adoption of EVs and PHEVs by consumers.  Finally, Part III will propose a “model” government incentive program to overcome these issues.  This program can be broken into five parts:  educating consumers […]

Missing the Forest and the Trees: Lost Opportunities for Federal Land Exchanges

For any land exchange carried out by the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management (“Agencies”), federal law generally requires the Agencies to ensure that “the public interest will be well served by making that exchange.”  To do so, the Agencies must consider the fate of the land they convey and how that is likely to affect the public interest.  To help control the fate of the land they convey and the adverse impacts it may have on the public interest, the Agencies’ regulations mandate that they “reserve such rights or retain such interests as are needed to protect the public interest.”  Nevertheless, the Agencies’ internal policies all but prohibit their employees from carrying out that mandate. As a result, the Agencies are missing opportunities to better serve both the public’s interests and their own.  By including covenants, easements, or other restrictions on the lands they convey, the Agencies can more […]

Greenwashing 2.0

This Article argues that this period of unprecedented clean tech innovation requires a new paradigm for thinking about greenwashing.  Specifically, it is essential that the paradigm shift from almost exclusive focus on B-to-C environmental advertising directed to individual green consumers to an expanded and more nuanced view that also includes B-to-B representations made to commercial consumers.  This new paradigm would define greenwashing expansively to include any false or misleading claim regarding the environmental benefit of a product, service, or business practice.  Its analysis should not be limited to cases brought by or on behalf of individual consumers, but should also contemplate legal actions by and on behalf of green commercial consumers. Changing the greenwashing paradigm in this way will reflect the commercial realities of the clean tech revolution, and will provide the broader vantage point necessary to identify instances of greenwashing and understand its prevalence and effects.