Emissions Trading, an Exercise in Reforming Pollution Policy

By T. H. Tietenberg | Go to book overview

SUMMARY
Air quality measured at specific locations is distributed as a log- normal random variable. Observed readings vary because of underlying variations in meteorological conditions and in emission rates. Ambient standards are usually stated in terms of a long-term average (such as an annual average) or in terms of permissible exceedances of maximum short-term average readings (such as a 3-hour average), or both. The form of the standard is chosen so as to mitigate damage to health (the primary standard) or welfare (the secondary standard).
Meeting the short-term standards cost effectively means controlling the timing as well as the quantity of emissions. Emissions timing has played no role in the command-and-control regulations. Transferable permit systems can be defined to meet the short-term standards cost effectively. Two different types of permit systems are needed to meet two different types of situations. Periodic permits can be used to control short-term pollution peaks caused by regular, anticipated seasonal or diurnal variations in meteorological conditions. Episode permits can be used to control pollution during those rare, but potentially devastating thermal inversions which can be anticipated only a day or so in advance.
Though few studies have incorporated the temporal aspects of pollution, the available evidence suggests that significant cost savings may be possible from both periodic and episode control permits. The more stringent the short-term standard, the larger the potential cost savings. These studies have also found that a constant control policy based on a "worst case" condition is frequently not sufficient to avoid violating the ambient standards. Because the true "worst case" depends on emission patterns as well as meteorological conditions, the ambient standards cannot be protected with complete assurance whenever a typical constant-control strategy is adopted.
As currently written, the Clean Air Act specifically prohibits the use of periodic permits. EPA has not raised the issue of whether the existing command-and-control episode policy might allow trading episode permits. The high costs associated with constant control have tended to discourage the establishment of new short-term standards, opened the door to variances, and delayed attainment.
Because of the focus on continuous emission control in the Clean Air Act, insufficient attention has been paid to encouraging emission reductions during peak periods and discouraging trades which use emission decreases in off-peak periods to compensate for increases in peak periods. Perhaps the simplest modification to the existing EPA program

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Emissions Trading, an Exercise in Reforming Pollution Policy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables ix
  • Preface xi
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • 1 / Introduction 1
  • References 13
  • 2 - /The Conceptual Framework 14
  • References 35
  • 3 - The Potential For Cost Savings 38
  • Summary 56
  • 4 - The Spatial Dimension 60
  • Summary 89
  • 5 - Distributing The Financial Burden 93
  • Summary 120
  • References 123
  • 6 - Market Power 125
  • Summary 145
  • 7 - The Temporal Dimension 149
  • Summary 165
  • 8 - Enforcement 168
  • Summary 184
  • 9 - Evaluation and Proposals For Further Reform 188
  • Concluding Comments 213
  • References 214
  • Index 217
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