Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Free-Market Environmentalism and Pollution Standards

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Free-Market Environmentalism and Pollution Standards

Article excerpt

The special report on the environment "The United States Goes Green," Jan. 12, is up to its normal high standards, with one exception: Some of the statements in the article "Counter Movement Backs Wise Use," on anti-environmentalists, leave the impression that "free-market environmentalism" is part of the counter movement. Free-market environmentalism - endorsed by such hard-core environmentalists as the Environmental Defense Fund - is simply a different approach to enforcing pollution standards and protecting natural resources. And it is an approach that, in many cases, would be much more efficient than what we do now.

The government now uses a "command and control" system, in which bureaucrats enforce specific standards and technologies on individual factories and cities. Free-market environmentalism, on the other hand, would use the price mechanisms of the market to induce people to clean up the air and water. A free-market approach would set overall, total allowable emissions in a river basin or air shed and issue permits for no more than that amount. The permits could be bought and sold on the open market, so individual companies could determine how to meet their pollution allowances. A factory could emit what its permit allows; or it could sell the remaining allowance; or it could buy additional permits from other factories. …

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