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

  • Show how pollution charges impact firm decisions
  • Suggest other laws and regulations that could fall under pollution charges
  • Explain the significance of marketable permits and property rights
  • Evaluate which policies are most appropriate for various situations

Market-oriented environmental policies create incentives to allow firms some flexibility in reducing pollution. The three main categories of market-oriented approaches to pollution control are pollution charges, marketable permits, and better-defined property rights. All of these policy tools, discussed below, address the shortcomings of command-and-control regulation—albeit in different ways.

Pollution charges

A pollution charge    is a tax imposed on the quantity of pollution that a firm emits. A pollution charge gives a profit-maximizing firm an incentive to figure out ways to reduce its emissions—as long as the marginal cost of reducing the emissions is less than the tax.

For example, consider a small firm that emits 50 pounds per year of small particles, such as soot, into the air. Particulate matter, as it is called, causes respiratory illnesses and also imposes costs on firms and individuals.

[link] illustrates the marginal costs that a firm faces in reducing pollution. The marginal cost of pollution reduction, like most most marginal cost curves increases with output, at least in the short run. Reducing the first 10 pounds of particulate emissions costs the firm $300. Reducing the second 10 pounds would cost $500; reducing the third ten pounds would cost $900; reducing the fourth 10 pounds would cost $1,500; and the fifth 10 pounds would cost $2,500. This pattern for the costs of reducing pollution is common, because the firm can use the cheapest and easiest method to make initial reductions in pollution, but additional reductions in pollution become more expensive.

A pollution charge

 The graph shows the incentive for a firm to reduce pollution in order to avoid paying a pollution charge.
If a pollution charge is set equal to $1,000, then the firm will have an incentive to reduce pollution by 30 pounds because the $900 cost of these reductions would be less than the cost of paying the pollution charge.

Imagine the firm now faces a pollution tax of $1,000 for every 10 pounds of particulates emitted. The firm has the choice of either polluting and paying the tax, or reducing the amount of particulates they emit and paying the cost of abatement as shown in the figure. How much will the firm pollute and how much will the firm abate? The first 10 pounds would cost the firm $300 to abate. This is substantially less than the $1,000 tax, so they will choose to abate. The second 10 pounds would cost $500 to abate, which is still less than the tax, so they will choose to abate. The third 10 pounds would cost $900 to abate, which is slightly less than the $1,000 tax. The fourth 10 pounds would cost $1,500, which is much more costly than paying the tax. As a result, the firm will decide to reduce pollutants by 30 pounds, because the marginal cost of reducing pollution by this amount is less than the pollution tax. With a tax of $1,000, the firm has no incentive to reduce pollution more than 30 pounds.

Questions & Answers

what is economic
Okechukwu Reply
Explain any five limitation to division of labour
Aliyu Reply
size of the market. for example..let's take a look at a barbing saloon. the number of hands needed there isnt up to the one needed in a company or production line because the number of people the barbing saloon is serving cant be up to the ones of the company
Answer: The four basic problems of an economy, which arise from the central problem of scarcity of resources are: What to produce?How to produce?For whom to produce?What provisions (if any) are to be made for economic growth?
Yusuf Reply
what is the basic economic problem
Arnold Reply
what is the basic problem
importance of elasticity of demand
Ayuk Reply
what nature is price elasticity
nature of price elasticity
is it de basic economic problem
Answer: The four basic problems of an economy, which arise from the central problem of scarcity of resources are: What to produce?How to produce?For whom to produce?What provisions (if any) are to be made for economic growth?
All teachers economic development
what is macro economics
In the short-run, the monopoly makes?
Felix Reply
A demand which gives rise to the reverse of the law of demand is?
Price  (₦)Quantity Demanded 8  610  12 If we move from 8 to 6, the elasticity of demand is
does inventories accumulation included in GDP?
kelly Reply
Selling goods and services below or above the equilibrium price.
Daniel Reply
I will be there at the same time .....
Economics it big in the capital in
what is the meaning of black market
David Reply
the law of demand to price of goods if price is $13 and quantity $60, price $20 and y variable how calculate
Jackie Reply
what is diminishing marginal utility
Harish Reply
what is indifference curve
when the rate of utility goes on diminishing with every success ful unit is know as diminishing marginal utlity
what's economic growth
Rukundo Reply
what is economic growth
what is growth
growth is a sort form of development growth means development of only one specil part
one special part
what is wants
Daudu Reply
want is a specil desire whereas have you available resources for satisfying desire of products
what is scarcity
Syanda Reply
scarcity means wants
scarcity is the situation whereby there are limited means in a world of unlimited ends.
what is end?

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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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