Counting the cost of last winter’s flooding: Evidence from disruptions to the road network

[Post co-authored by Paul Kilgarriff and Tom McDermott]

This time last year Ireland was in the middle of its wettest winter on record [PDF]. A series of Atlantic Storms battered the country, beginning with Storm Desmond in early December, followed by Eva and Frank. Rainfall levels in some areas were up to 300% of normal levels. Extensive flooding around the country caused widespread damage – hundreds of homes and businesses were flooded, and thousands more were cut off by flood waters. In many places the floods did not recede until well into the new year.

Various impacts of the flooding are detailed in the recent report by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM)[PDF]. Almost €1.8million in humanitarian assistance was paid out to affected households; close to €1m to farmers; local authorities received special funding of €18m for clean-up costs; while damage to the road network was estimated at over €100m. Aside from damages, the flooding also caused substantial disruptions to everyday life — 350,000 customers suffered disruptions to electricity supply, and 23,000 households were placed on boil water notices. The flooding also resulted in substantial travel disruptions – in particular as a result of flooding on the road network.

Continue reading “Counting the cost of last winter’s flooding: Evidence from disruptions to the road network”

Climate change in the 32nd Dáil

The 32nd Dáil has already thrown up some, eh, interesting views on climate change , which I previously responded to here. The new Dáil also sees the return of the Green Party, with two TDs elected.

With the formation of the new government on Friday we now have a Department for “Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources“. Denis Naughten, independent TD for Roscommon-Galway, has been appointed as Minister.

On the one hand, having a government department with climate change in the title seems like progress. Continue reading “Climate change in the 32nd Dáil”

New York Times: A Migration Juggernaut is Headed for Europe

Eduardo Porter, one of the most highly respected economic analysts in the US media, has an interesting, thoughtful new article on European immigration pressures. He argues that European economies and societies need to prepare for large-scale immigration from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. These regions are close to Europe, are notably poor by world standards, and have a forecast population increase of three billion in coming decades, on top of the large increases which have already occurred in the recent past. Porter argues that attempts to stop completely this migration pressure will not succeed, and instead Europe should try to adjust to an inevitable large inflow.

Carbon tax breaks for low-particulate fuel

We have learned a few lessons over the years. Monetary policy and market regulation are better done at arm’s length of the government. The generalists in the Dail set the broad goals, but leave the details to quasi-independent technocrats. Macro-prudence is now being added to those broad goals.

Micro is another matter. Policy-makers instinctively reach for the second-best. Sometimes that is the best feasible regulation. Sometimes that creates rents for their clients. And sometimes it is just the force of habit.

The Examiner reports that Minister Hogan suggested that smokeless fuels be given a break on the carbon tax. Really? The carbon tax regulates carbon dioxide emissions. Smokeless fuels and smoky fuels differ in their particulate emissions. A carbon tax break may reduce particulate emissions but would increase carbon dioxide emissions.

A carbon tax break would make climate policy more expensive. Emission reduction is cheapest when there is a uniform price. At the moment, there are three carbon prices: EU ETS, carbon tax, and zero. Hogan proposes there’d be four: EU ETS, carbon tax, reduced carbon tax, and zero. The reduced carbon tax would hold for coal and peat, the fuels that emit most carbon dioxide per unit of energy.

A carbon tax break would also make particulate policy more expensive. At the moment, there is a range of regulations including technical standards (e.g., in transport) and local bans (e.g., on selling smoky fuels in cities). A tax break would add yet another layer of regulation. The impact on costs is predictable: They will rise as any move away from first-best regulation does (Tinbergen 1952).

The impact on emissions is unknown. There are two substitution effects: (1) smoky -> smokeless coal and peat; and (2) oil and gas -> coal and peat. The carbon tax break would apply to all smokeless fuel, not just to smokeless fuel sold in places where smoky fuels are banned. Smokeless fuel use may increase more that smoky fuel use falls.

Recall that smokeless fuels are not particulate-less. There are no visible emissions. Invisible particulates, the ones that do real damage, are emitted nonetheless.

If Minister Hogan wants to reduce particulate emissions, he should impose a particulate tax (and abolish the ineffective sales ban) or extend the sales ban to the entire country.

Where in Donegal?

This document reached me by way of the European Commission. It shows that some people are working hard to convince the Commission that Bogtec is a transnational infrastructure project of European importance (and thus qualifies for subsidies). It also shows that the Spirit of Ireland refuses to die.

There is mention of a glacial valley near Kilcar, Co Donegal. A dam, 1300 meters wide and 120 meters high (in the middle), would create an upper reservoir with a surface of 4 squared kilometers; assuming that the valley is triangular, the reservoir would be 6150 meters long. The sea would be the lower reservoir. Surplus wind power would pump the water from the sea into the reservoir. Releasing the water back into the sea, power would be generated when there’s demand.

I’ve been hiking in Donegal only a few times. Is there a glacial valley near the sea, of the above dimensions, uninhabited, and not full of archaeological treasure?

UPDATE: I’ve had one vote for Glenaddragh River Valley, which is a good way from the sea.

UPDATE2: Another correspondent forwarded this map, discussed by Donegal County Council. The hydro plan was apparently rejected as it failed to meet the requirements of the SEA Directive on procedural grounds.