Read this chapter to learn more about the different types of environmental solutions. Recall that a negative externality from producing is usually environmental pollution. Be sure to click through to read sections 12.1 to 12.6.
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
From 1970 to 2012, the U.S. population increased by one-third and the size of the U.S. economy more than doubled. Since the 1970s, however, the United States, using a variety of anti-pollution policies, has made genuine progress against a number of pollutants.
Table 12.1 lists the change in carbon dioxide emissions by users of energy (from residential to industrial) according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The table shows that emissions of certain key air pollutants declined substantially
from 2007 to 2012; they dropped 730 million metric tons (MMT) a year - a 12% reduction. This seems to indicate that progress has been made in the United States in reducing overall carbon dioxide emissions, which cause greenhouse gases.
|Primary Fossil Fuels||Purchased Electric Power||Total Primary Fossil Fuels|
|End-use Sector||Coal||Petroleum||Natural Gas
Table 12.1 U.S. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions from Fossil Fuels Consumed 2007–2012, Million Metric Tons (MMT) per Year
Despite the gradual reduction in emissions from fossil fuels, many important environmental issues remain. Along with the still high levels of air and water pollution, other issues include hazardous waste disposal, destruction of wetlands and other wildlife habitats, and the impact on human health from pollution.
Private markets, such as the cell phone industry, offer an efficient way to put buyers and sellers together and determine what goods are produced, how they are produced, and who gets them. The principle that voluntary exchange benefits both buyers and
sellers is a fundamental building block of the economic way of thinking. But what happens when a voluntary exchange affects a third party who is neither the buyer nor the seller?
As an example, consider a concert producer who wants to build an outdoor arena that will host country music concerts a half-mile from your neighborhood. You will be able to hear these outdoor concerts while sitting on your back porch - or perhaps even in your dining room. In this case, the sellers and buyers of concert tickets may both be quite satisfied with their voluntary exchange, but you have no voice in their market transaction. The effect of a market exchange on a third party who is outside or "external" to the exchange is called an externality. Because externalities that occur in market transactions affect other parties beyond those involved, they are sometimes called spillovers.
Externalities can be negative or positive. If you hate country music, then having it waft into your house every night would be a negative externality. If you love country music, then what amounts to a series of free concerts would be a positive externality.
Pollution is a negative externality. Economists illustrate the social costs of production with a demand and supply diagram. The social costs include the private costs of production incurred by the company and the external costs of pollution that are passed on to society. Figure 12.2 shows the demand and supply for manufacturing refrigerators. The demand curve (D) shows the quantity demanded at each price. The supply curve (Sprivate) shows the quantity of refrigerators supplied by all the firms at each price if they are taking only their private costs into account and they are allowed to emit pollution at zero cost. The market equilibrium (E0), where quantity supplied and quantity demanded are equal, is at a price of $650 and a quantity of 45,000. This information is also reflected in the first three columns of Table 12.2.
Figure 12.2 Taking Social Costs into Account: A Supply Shift If the firm takes only its own costs of production into account, then its supply curve will be Sprivate, and the market equilibrium will occur at E0.
Accounting for additional external costs of $100 for every unit produced, the firm's supply curve will be Ssocial. The new equilibrium will occur at E1.
||Quantity Supplied before Considering Pollution Cost
||Quantity Supplied after Considering Pollution Cost
However, as a by-product of the metals, plastics, chemicals and energy that are used in manufacturing refrigerators, some pollution is created. Let's say that, if these pollutants were emitted into the air and water, they would create costs of $100 per
refrigerator produced. These costs might occur because of injuries to human health, property values, wildlife habitat, reduction of recreation possibilities, or because of other negative impacts. In a market with no anti-pollution restrictions, firms
can dispose of certain wastes absolutely free. Now imagine that firms which produce refrigerators must factor in these external costs of pollution - that is, the firms have to consider not only the costs of labor and materials needed to make a refrigerator,
but also the broader costs to society of injuries to health and other values caused by pollution. If the firm is required to pay $100 for the additional external costs of pollution each time it produces a refrigerator, production
becomes more costly and the entire supply curve shifts up by $100.
As illustrated in the fourth column of Table 12.2 and in Figure 12.2, the firm will need to receive a price of $700 per refrigerator and produce a quantity of 40,000 - and the firm's new supply curve will be Ssocial. The new equilibrium will occur at E1, taking the additional external costs of pollution into account results in a higher price, a lower quantity of production, and a lower quantity of pollution. The following Work It Out feature will walk you through an example, this time with musical accompaniment.
Table 12.3 shows the supply and demand conditions for a firm that will play trumpets on the streets when requested. Output is measured as the number of songs played.
||Quantity Supplied without paying the costs of the externality
||Quantity Supplied after paying the costs of the externality