To Choose a Future: Resource and Environmental Consequences of Alternative Growth Paths

By Ronald G. Ridker; William D. Watson | Go to book overview
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7
Pollution Costs and Control Benefits

This and the next chapter are concerned with assessing the environmental impacts of the various scenarios developed in earlier chapters. This chapter focuses on the mass pollutants, such as particulate matter (PM) and suspended solids (SS), which have been the subject of environmental regulations during this decade; the next chapter discusses a wide variety of other environmental concerns. Together, they touch upon most of the potentially important environmental and physical side effects of economic activities during the next quarter- to half-century.

This chapter has an additional goal: to apply benefit-cost analysis to pollution problems in order to assess the appropriateness of various pollution policies over time. It must be emphasized that data weaknesses make it impossible to look upon the conclusions of this analysis with a high degree of confidence. The analysis and applications in this chapter should be taken as illustrations of what could be done with good data and what needs to be done in the future to develop more definitive policy analyses.

Our approach to this policy analysis differs from others in three ways. First, instead of estimating the impacts of different policies given the current state of the economy, we have extended the analysis several decades into the future. This is important because, as we shall show, a longer time horizon may lead to different policy conclusions. In addition, extending the analysis into the future permits us to discuss the impact of long-run changes, such as those in population and in the composition of output, as well as the effects of differences in the timing of policy implementation. Second, though we are interested in assessing national policies, we have tried wherever possible to take into account the fact that emis

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