Pollution, Prices, and Public Policy: A Study Sponsored Jointly by Resources for the Future, Inc. and the Brookings Institution

Pollution, Prices, and Public Policy: A Study Sponsored Jointly by Resources for the Future, Inc. and the Brookings Institution

Pollution, Prices, and Public Policy: A Study Sponsored Jointly by Resources for the Future, Inc. and the Brookings Institution

Pollution, Prices, and Public Policy: A Study Sponsored Jointly by Resources for the Future, Inc. and the Brookings Institution

Synopsis

Reviews the legislative history of federal pollution-control efforts, noting high costs and enforcement problems, and proposes alternative incentive and other policies to reduce air and water pollution.

Excerpt

Rising national concern over domestic supplies of energy throws into sharp relief the difficult problems that confront Americans in seeking a cleaner environment. If electric utilities burn coal instead of oil, we reduce dependence on imports but we risk befouling the air. If we stripmine low-sulfur western coal or exploit oil shale, we may help keep the air free of sulfur but we may also despoil hundreds of square miles of western land and pollute the tributaries of western rivers.

The nation has decided in favor of a cleaner environment. But it is equally committed to economic growth and a rising standard of living. the problem is that these goals, to some extent, conflict with each other.

Conflict among important goals cannot be eliminated, but the authors' theme in this book is that pollution control programs can be designed to reduce substantially the costs of cleaning up the environment, and to cope more flexibly with the difficult choices the energy outlook imposes. After outlining the major economic and technical aspects of air and water pollution, the authors examine the basic legislation under which U.S. pollution control programs now operate. That legislation, they conclude, has led to increasingly detailed federal regulation of business firms and industries and has fostered generous subsidies to firms and municipalities for the construction of waste treatment facilities. They spell out the enforcement difficulties, the high enforcement costs, and the loss of flexibility that these approaches entail, and argue that interactions between the environment and the economy are far too complex and subtle to be mastered by a regulatory bureaucracy.

They then present an alternative strategy with two central components: a set of national effluent and emission charges--taxes levied on each unit of air- and water-polluting substance discharged . . .

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