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Environmental debate

This photo shows a protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline for tar sands at the White House in 2011.
Across the country, countless people have protested, even risking arrest, against the Keystone XL Pipeline. (Credit: modification of image by “NoKXL”/Flickr Creative Commons)

Keystone xl

You might have heard about Keystone XL in the news. It is a pipeline system designed to bring oil from Canada to the refineries near the Gulf of Mexico, as well as to boost crude oil production in the United States. While a private company, TransCanada, will own the pipeline, U.S. government approval is required because of its size and location. The pipeline is being built in four phases, with the first two currently in operation, bringing oil from Alberta, Canada, east across Canada, south through the United States into Nebraska and Oklahoma, and northeast again to Illinois. The third and fourth phases of the project, known as Keystone XL, would create a pipeline southeast from Alberta straight to Nebraska, and then from Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico.

Sounds like a great idea, right? A pipeline that would move much needed crude oil to the Gulf refineries would increase oil production for manufacturing needs, reduce price pressure at the gas pump, and increase overall economic growth. Supporters argue that the pipeline is one of the safest pipelines built yet, and would reduce America’s dependence on politically vulnerable Middle Eastern oil imports.

Not so fast, say its critics. The Keystone XL would be constructed over an enormous aquifer (one of the largest in the world) in the Midwest, and through an environmentally fragile area in Nebraska, causing great concern among environmentalists about possible destruction to the natural surroundings. They argue that leaks could taint valuable water sources and construction of the pipeline could disrupt and even harm indigenous species. Environmentalist groups have fought government approval of the proposed construction of the pipeline, and as of press time the pipeline projects remain stalled.

Of course, environmental concerns matter when discussing issues related to economic growth. But how much should they factor in? In the case of the pipeline, how do we know how much damage it would cause when we do not know how to put a value on the environment? Would the benefits of the pipeline outweigh the opportunity cost? The issue of how to balance economic progress with unintended effects on our planet is the subject of this chapter.

Introduction to environmental protection and negative externalities

In this chapter, you will learn about:

  • The Economics of Pollution
  • Command-and-Control Regulation
  • Market-Oriented Environmental Tools
  • The Benefits and Costs of U.S. Environmental Laws
  • International Environmental Issues
  • The Tradeoff between Economic Output and Environmental Protection

In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio was so polluted that it spontaneously burst into flame. Air pollution was so bad at that time that Chattanooga, Tennessee was a city where, as an article from Sports Illustrated put it: “the death rate from tuberculosis was double that of the rest of Tennessee and triple that of the rest of the United States, a city in which the filth in the air was so bad it melted nylon stockings off women’s legs, in which executives kept supplies of clean white shirts in their offices so they could change when a shirt became too gray to be presentable, in which headlights were turned on at high noon because the sun was eclipsed by the gunk in the sky.”

The problem of pollution arises for every economy in the world, whether high-income or low-income, and whether market-oriented or command-oriented. Every country needs to strike some balance between production and environmental quality. This chapter begins by discussing how firms may fail to take certain social costs, like pollution, into their planning if they do not need to pay these costs. Traditionally, policies for environmental protection have focused on governmental limits on how much of each pollutant could be emitted. While this approach has had some success, economists have suggested a range of more flexible, market-oriented policies that reduce pollution at a lower cost. We will consider both approaches, but first let’s see how economists frame and analyze these issues.

Questions & Answers

Helloo, im new, can i get to know more?
Saniya Reply
You ask questions on any topics you find difficult.
Favour
is price elasticity of demand the same as elasticity of demand
Favour Reply
not really
Victoria
hi
Gh
hello
Bhartendu
i hope everyone be ok
Gh
No
Hassan
please explain
Favour
No
William
explanations please
cleophas
price elasticity of demand is the reaction of customers /demand to price changes(increase or decrease) elasticity of demand is the reaction of prices brought about by the change in demand
Victoria
thank you
Favour
state the laws of demand and supply
William
dd: when price rises demand decreases whereas when price reduces dd rises ss: when ss rises the price rises and when ss decreases price also reduces. There is a positive relationship
Dhoonah
nice
Victoria
Draw a demand curve graph
William
though price elasticity and elasticity are used interchangeably, the demand can respond to income changes and prices of related goods as well.
Gurpalak
what is economic
Seray Reply
It is a social science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce which have alternative uses
Obeng
what is norminal wage
Demba Reply
is the wages measured in money as distinct from actual purchasing power
Favour
what is demand curve
Azeez Reply
this is a curve that slop downward from left to rich
Obeng
yes
Basanta
different between capital and wealth
Samuel Reply
What is scale of reference?
Finda Reply
What is monopoly?
Finda
It is the control of market by single seller or producer
Mayen
the exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade in a commodity or services
Brains
what is scarcity
Bonny Reply
scarcity means that the resources which we can produce goods and services relatives to wants for them.
Bonny
what is demand
Sophia Reply
demand means that's good demand according to your needs is called demand
Bonny
needs of people ar called demand
Francis
what's the difference between opportunity cost and production possibility curve?
Francis
apportunity cost means a goods which can be replace by other goods without any ease of saticfaction
Bonny
different between capital and wealth
Samuel
apportunity cost means the profit lose when one alternative is selected over other
Bonny
what is economocs
Bonny Reply
Economics is a science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.
Abubakari
It deals with making choices in the face of scarcity
Abu
what is perfect complements?
Bilal Reply
explain the return to scale with the help of mathematical expression
Bilal
what is scarcity
Bonny
difference between fixed policy and monetary policies
Doris Reply
explain why the ppc curve slopes downward?
Osei Reply
As you shift you attention to producing more of one good the graph will represent the trade-off of of the limitations of time or resources producing one verses the other good. The first 2 end points represent that you are using all your resources to only produce one good.
Sean
what is perfect complements?
Bilal
determination of perfect competition
Mumbere Reply
How can economics be important to us
Obed Reply
how can economics be important to us
Winny
economics is important on expenditure analysis
Umar
because it is to make choice
Puosour
Economics also provide the individuals the opportunity to make significant contributions to make social and economic development in their country
Sarah
Economic is important because of the fact of scarcity and desire for efficiency...
Ernest
it enable us to make rational choice
Osman
what is unemployment
scor
unemployment occurs when a person is actively searching for employment is unable to find work .....
Fatema
unemployment occurs when an individual is willing and capable to work but is unable to attain a job.
Lintoya
It is important because economics provide solutions about scarcity.
Pobreng
which of the following measures will the government take during inflation?
Ally

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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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