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September 18, 2006

Paying for Pollution

One of the basic reasons why we pollute the planet at the rate we do is quite simple.  We seemingly don't have to pay any of the costs.  If I throw my garbage over my fence onto my neighbor's property, I don't bear the costs associated with cleaning it up -- at least until my neighbor comes over to punch me in the nose.  Similarly, if I dump my garbage in the public domain, I am not forced to internalize any costs for the damage I cause.  The principle operates similarly when a State produces air pollution that causes acid rain in another state.  Effectively, the state is simply dumping its garbage over its fence.  If we actually had to pay for the costs (as we inevitably do in effects such as global warming), we might pollute less and make better choices.  This very basic idea has caught on in Europe, where companies are increasingly paying for the damage they do to the environment in the form of offsets.  If a company's employees are responsible for X amount of carbon dioxide emissions, due to their air travel, the company pays an equivalent amount in nonpolluting energy investments.  It's not perfect, but it's better than the status quo.  See Article Here.   It's also better than a punch in the nose, which appears to be what "mother nature" is going to give us if we continue to pollute at current rates.
-- DLF

September 18, 2006 | Permalink


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