Increasing the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Environmental Decisions: Benefit-Cost Analysis and Effluent Fees A Critical Review
Date of Original Version
Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association Vol. 41, Iss. 5, 1991
Abstract or Table of Contents
The objective of this critical review is to evaluate and summarize the literature on economic tools used to improve environmental decision making. Environmental decisions are complicated by pervasive uncertainty, and the lack of consensus on goals and on tradeoffs, such as air versus water pollution and versus loss of coal mining jobs. Five decision frameworks are used by regulatory agencies to simplify decision making. Congress’ choice of a decision framework designates the amount of data and analysis that will be required and the range and depth of social values that must be considered. Economic incentives have worked well for phasing out lead in gasoline, for increasing recycling and for reducing the volume of municipal solid waste. Congress has mandated incentives for acid rain and CFCs, and several countries have implemented carbon taxes to abate greenhouse gas emissions. Economic tools have become more central to the analysis and implementation of environmental policies; their role should continue to increase. We conclude that economic tools are extremely valuable, although their application is difficult.