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By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Apply the production possibility frontier to evaluate the tradeoff between economic output and the environment
  • Interpret a graphic representation of the tradeoff between economic output and environmental protection

The tradeoff between economic output and the environment can be analyzed with a production possibility frontier (PPF) such as the one shown in [link] . At one extreme, at a choice like P, a country would be selecting a high level of economic output but very little environmental protection. At the other extreme, at a choice like T, a country would be selecting a high level of environmental protection but little economic output. According to the graph, an increase in environmental protection involves an opportunity cost of less economic output. No matter what their preferences, all societies should wish to avoid choices like M, which are productively inefficient. Efficiency requires that the choice should be on the production possibility frontier.

The tradeoff between economic output and environmental protection

The graph shows a trade-off example in which a society must prioritize either economic output or environmental protection.
Each society will have to weigh its own values and decide whether it prefers a choice like P with more economic output and less environmental protection, or a choice like T with more environmental protection and less economic output.

Economists do not have a great deal to say about the choice between P, Q, R, S and T in [link] , all of which lie along the production possibility frontier. Countries with low per capita gross domestic product (GDP)    , such as China, place a greater emphasis on economic output—which in turn helps to produce nutrition, shelter, health, education, and desirable consumer goods. Countries with higher income levels, where a greater share of people have access to the basic necessities of life, may be willing to place a relatively greater emphasis on environmental protection.

However, economists are united in their belief that an inefficient choice such as M is undesirable. Rather than choosing M, a nation could achieve either greater economic output with the same environmental protection, as at point Q, or greater environmental protection with the same level of output, as at point S. The problem with command-and-control environmental laws is that they sometimes involve a choice like M. Market-oriented environmental tools offer a mechanism either for providing either the same environmental protection at lower cost, or providing a greater degree of environmental protection for the same cost.

Keystone xl

So how would an economist respond to claims of environmental damage caused by the Keystone XL project? Clearly the environmental cost of oil spills would be considered a negative externality, but how many external costs would arise? And are these costs “too high” when measured against any potential for economic benefit?

As this chapter indicates, in deciding whether construction of the pipeline is a good idea, an economist would want to know not only about the marginal benefits resulting from the additional pipeline construction, but also the potential marginal costs—and especially the marginal external costs of the pipeline. Typically these come in the form of environmental impact statements, which are usually required for these kinds of projects. The most recent impact statement, released in March 2013 by the Nebraska Department of State, considered the possibility of fewer miles of pipeline going over the aquifer system and avoiding completely environmentally fragile areas; it indicated that “most resources” would not be harmed by construction of the pipeline.

As of press time, the Obama Administration has not approved construction of the Keystone XL project. While the economic benefits of additional oil in the United States may be fairly easily quantified, the social costs are not. It seems that, in a period of economic expansion, people want to err on the side of caution and estimate the marginal costs to be greater than the marginal benefits of additional oil generation. Those estimates may change, however, if the price of gasoline continues to rise.

Key concepts and summary

Depending on their different income levels and political preferences, countries are likely to make different choices about allocative efficiency    —that is, the choice between economic output and environmental protection along the production possibility frontier. However, all countries should prefer to make a choice that shows productive efficiency    —that is, the choice is somewhere on the production possibility frontier rather than inside it. Revisit Choice in a World of Scarcity for more on these terms.

Problems

In the Land of Purity, there is only one form of pollution, called “gunk.” [link] shows possible combinations of economic output and reduction of gunk, depending on what kinds of environmental regulations are chosen.

Combos Eco Output Gunk Cleaned Up
J 800 10%
K 500 30%
L 600 40%
M 400 40%
N 100 90%
  1. Sketch a graph of a production possibility frontier with environmental quality on the horizontal axis, measured by the percentage reduction of gunk, and with the quantity of economic output on the vertical axis.
  2. Which choices display productive efficiency? How can you tell?
  3. Which choices show allocative efficiency? How can you tell?
  4. In the choice between K and L, can you say which one is better and why?
  5. In the choice between K and N, can you say which one is better, and why?
  6. If you had to guess, which choice would you think is more likely to represent a command-and-control environmental policy and which choice is more likely to represent a market-oriented environmental policy, choice L or M? Why?
Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Questions & Answers

how environment affect demand and supply of commodity ?
Amos Reply
Wht at the criteria for market ?
Amos
what is difference between monitory policy and fiscal policy?
Malik Reply
monetary policy is a policy thrust by National Govt(CBN) to influence government spending, purchase &taxes
Frank
necessity of economics
Pamela Reply
I will say want,choice,opportunity cost,scarcity,scale of preference
Alao
what is monopoly market.How price output are determined under monopoly market
bisham
b) Monopoly market is an impecfect market where s single firm having the innovation to produce a particular commodity.Prices are determined through output since there are no other competitive.
Frank
Monopoly market:firm has market power & does not respond to market price
Frank
Explain the process of price determination under perfect competition market with suitable diagram
bisham Reply
Price determination under perfect competition via this process :firms have no market power to influence price rather firms respond to market price.
Frank
price is different from demand- demand is amount of commodity
Effah Reply
demand is amount /quantity of commodity a potential buyer is willing to buy at a given price at market
Frank
demand is a desire of customer on commodity with the ability to pay it and willing to buy it at given price of commodity
Harika
demand is price of what
Faith Reply
show that shortrun average cost
Baby Reply
what is economics
Mbah Reply
what is money
Mbah
what is money
Mbah
Difine macro economics
agaba
money is a medium of exchange between goods and services,maybe inform of currency.
Wesonga
Economics is study of how human beings strive to satisfy numerous wants using limited available resources.
Wesonga
how do you find the maximum number of workers the firms should employ order to produce where there are increasing returns
Jane
what are implications of computing national income?.
agaba
pl
MUDASIRU
what is the formulae for calculating national income
MUDASIRU
it calculated by value added method
Praveen
classify the production units like agriculture, banking, transport etc
Praveen
money is anything that is generally acceptetable for human
Ogbaji
Estimate the net value added(NVA) at fixed cost by each industrial structure
Praveen
definition of unemployment
Adam Reply
what are the causes of unemployment?
Mbubi Reply
The main causes of unemployment are listed below. 1. Frictional unemployment 2. Cyclical unemployment 3. Structural unemployment
assani
We can also categorize the causes on a broader sense as: 1. Political and 2. Social cause As unemployeement root causes are embaded in this two.
Yonathan
would opportunity cost exist if there was no scarcity?
assani
yes just because the opportunity cost arose when there is Alternative to choose among the alternatives.
BADAMASIU
I am thinking that, if our resources were unlimited, then there wouldn't be any need to forgo some wants. Hence the inexistence if opportunity cost
assani
Politics
Job
politics has done what?
assani
consider time assani
Mary
I'm Emmanuel,...I taught the main cause is the change in gov't.
Emmanuel
...Lack of capital to set up a firm respectively
Emmanuel
🙈
Emmanuel
I would like to bring in Educational levels can also be the cause the cause of the problem respectively
Emmanuel
I think the main causes of unemployment is lack of INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT OVER POPULATION OVER DEPENDENT ON GOVERNMENT LACK OF SELF EMPOWERMENT...
ananti
lack of skills among the new generation is the serious issue.
Vishal
Where I come from , I don't see why education or personal aspects seem to do with unimployment, technically the motivation and eigerness in all works of live is there , dispite the cultural influence and physical bearriors;the thing we lacking is Government Support and open market ethics.
Joe
sorry about that-(repation). We have a over powering ethical political system that's displacing the marketing asspects of economy and causing large scale unemployment right across the board...
Joe
can someone Explain Expansionary Monetary Policy and Contractionary Monetary Policy Using one of the instrument of Monetary Policy? Please am kinda lost here?. ta
Emmanuel Reply
using a graph show the case of substitute and compliment goods
Ade Reply
can anyone give me a simple explanation to Five Sector Macroeconomics?
Emmanuel
Can someone please define what economics is
jason Reply
economics simply is a social science subject that study human behavior.
dajan
economics is a social science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means that has alternative uses
Alao
Can someone please tell me how to calculate GDP
Emmanuel
emmanual kapal to calculate GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has three method in calculating it (1)income approach (2) expenditure approach (3) value added method
Alao
thanks Alae
Emmanuel
u are welcome
Alao
in basic terms economics is revered to as battery system, it date back to when Men sees the need to exchange sapless goods and produce to gain , either wealth , basic necessities or to establish trading ties for personal benefit or social asspects in terms of coexistence and continuity, future .
Joe
what is the law of demand
Berlinda Reply
keep other thing constant, when the price increases demand decrease when the price decreases demand increases of the commodity.
sj
all things being equal,quantity demanded decrease as price increase and increase as price decrease
Seth
there's practial joke to it ..." the higher the demand ; scarcity, increase in production and drop in quality"... quite the controversy - for example China vs Europe, United States and we are all boxed up in between somewhere...
Joe
Other thing remain constant the low price of commodity the high quantity of commodity and vice versa is true
Baraka
Explain Effective demand
Anita Reply
What is effective demand
Anita
like Modi is in demand...best example of effective demand
Pranav
Don't get you
Anita
Anita you mean you don't get me or who?
Onyeking
level of demand that represents a real intention to purchase by people with the means to pay
Pranav

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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