The U.S. Clean Air Act, passed in 1970 with strong bipartisan support, was the first environmental law to give the Federal government a serious regulatory role, established the architecture of the U.S. air pollution control system, and became a model for subsequent environmental laws in the United States and globally. We outline the Act’s key provisions, as well as the main changes Congress has made to it over time. We assess the evolution of air pollution control policy under the Clean Air Act, with particular attention to the types of policy instruments used. We provide a generic assessment of the major types of policy instruments, and we trace and assess the historical evolution of EPA’s policy instrument use, with particular focus on the increased use of market-based policy instruments, beginning in the 1970s and culminating in the 1990s. Over the past fifty years, air pollution regulation has gradually become much more complex, and over the past twenty years, policy debates have become increasingly partisan and polarized, to the point that it has become impossible to amend the Act or pass other legislation to address the new threat of climate change.
In the Old-World vineyards of Europe, a key concept that plays an important role in the production and appreciation of wines is terroir, which refers to the special characteristics of a place that impart unique qualities to the wine produced. We examine whether terroir matters in the New-World wines produced in California’s Napa and Sonoma Counties by conducting a hedonic price analysis of vineyard sales over the period 1991 to 2007 to determine the relative effects on vineyard sales prices of designated appellations versus biophysical site attributes commonly associated with terroir, such as slope, aspect, elevation, and climate. Because vineyards that are sold are not necessarily representative of the universe of vineyards, we employ Heckman’s two-stage econometric approach to control for possible sample-selection bias. We find that intrinsic site attributes and designated appellations influence vineyard prices, although our results are stronger and more consistent with regard to the influence of appellations. This finding indicates that terroir matters economically, even if the designated appellations have relatively less connection in reality with terroir. (JEL Classifications: C2, Q11)
Energy-efficient technologies offer considerable promise for reducing the financial costs and environmental damages associated with energy use, but it has long been observed that these technologies may not be adopted by individuals and firms to the degree that might be justified, even on a purely financial basis. We survey the relevant literature on this "energy-efficiency gap" by presenting two complementary frameworks. First, we divide potential explanations for the energy-efficiency gap into three categories: market failures, behavioral explanations, and model and measurement errors. Second, we organize previous research in terms of the fundamental elements of cost-minimizing energy-efficiency decisions. This provides a decomposition that organizes thinking around four questions. First, are product offerings and pricing economically efficient? Second, are energy operating costs inefficiently priced and/or understood? Third, are product choices cost minimizing in present value terms? Fourth, do other costs inhibit more energy-efficient decisions? We synthesize academic research on these questions, with an emphasis on recent empirical findings, and offer suggestions for future research.
This article reviews the design of environmental markets for pollution control over the past 30 years, and identifies key market-design lessons for future applications. The focus is on a subset of the cap-and-trade systems that have been implemented, planned, or proposed around the world. Three criteria led us to the selection of systems for review. First, among the broader class of tradable permit systems, our focus is exclusively on cap-and-trade mechanisms, thereby excluding emission-reduction-credit or offset programmes. Second, among cap-and-trade mechanisms, we examine only those that target pollution abatement, and so we do not include applications to natural resource management, such as individual transferable quota systems used to regulate fisheries. Third, we focus on the most prominent applications—those that are particularly important environmentally, economically, or both.
The Paris Agreement has achieved one of two key necessary conditions for ultimate success – a broad base of participation among the countries of the world. But another key necessary condition has yet to be achieved – adequate collective ambition of the individual nationally determined contributions. How can the climate negotiators provide a structure that will include incentives to increase ambition over time? An important part of the answer can be international linkage of regional, national, and subnational policies, that is, formal recognition of emission reductions undertaken in another jurisdiction for the purpose of meeting a Party’s own mitigation objectives. A central challenge is how to facilitate such linkage in the context of the very great heterogeneity that characterizes climate policies along five dimensions – type of policy instrument; level of government jurisdiction; status of that jurisdiction under the Paris Agreement; nature of the policy instrument’s target; and the nature along several dimensions of each Party’s Nationally Determined Contribution. We consider such heterogeneity among policies, and identify which linkages of various combinations of characteristics are feasible; of these, which are most promising; and what accounting mechanisms would make the operation of respective linkages consistent with the Paris Agreement.
Trump’s decision to withdraw the nation from the Paris climate agreement was not based on science or sound economics, but on a confused, misguided, and simply dishonest desire to score some short-term political points with his voters. What he sacrifices in the long term will be immensely more difficult for the country to win back at the ballot box: authority, credibility, and influence.
This essay provides one economist’s perspective on the two-decade evolution of the field of environmental economics, by tracing it through personal reflections on the professional path that has led to my research and writing. Also, the article summarizes the highlights of some of my research and writing during this period.