Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Environmental Markets

I liked the sentiments expressed by commenter "kolmogorov" here on Slate expressing his desire for environmental markets rather than environmental puritanism.
I want an environmentalism dominated by environmental engineers and economists, by markets working out the most efficient solutions, not by envionmental shamans shaking their rattles and checking my piety.
This was in response to Emily Bazelon's article on how the motivations behind the Prius's success may have more to do with a desire to advertise oneself as being environmentally conscious rather than a primary desire to take action on the environment. That being said, a Prius does use a lot less fuel than a similar gasoline-only car. But it is still an automobile.

Preach all you want against consumptive habits, but if you want to reach beyond the already-converted, you're going to need to establish some sort of environmental tax structure that builds in the cost of the externalities into the cost of production and transportation.

2 Comments:

At Thursday, September 27, 2007 at 5:47:00 AM PDT, Blogger Theodore said...

God bless that kolmogorov for being so willing and patient with those "pollution credits are just a way to oppress developing countries and the poor" lunatics.

Taxing for externalities is a fabulous idea. In terms of considerations of political economy, though, the issue is you've still got to get enough people to support the idea. There're a lot of people out there who consider all taxation bad, for starters. Some element of having to convert people beyond the already-converted still has to happen.

kolmogorov's a little rosy-eyed in his "price as a perfect signal" vision -- though he's right we can clearly do better than the current structure.

 
At Thursday, September 27, 2007 at 11:56:00 AM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

I suppose one spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down is to tie it to reductions in other taxes like sales or income taxes.

The argument I saw from some Green Party literature a while ago was that we should tax things we want to discourage (environmental externalities) instead of things we want to encourage (income, wealth generation, etc.) This may be the secret bridge between environmentalists and conservatives.

 

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