Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 9 No. 4 (Fall 1995)


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Tightening Environmental Standards: The Benefit-Cost or the No-Cost Paradigm?

Article Citation

Palmer, Karen, Wallace E. Oates, and Paul R. Portney. 1995. "Tightening Environmental Standards: The Benefit-Cost or the No-Cost Paradigm?" Journal of Economic Perspectives, 9(4): 119-132.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.9.4.119


This paper takes issue with the Porter-van der Linde claim that traditional benefit-cost analysis is a fundamental misrepresentation of the environmental problem. They contend that stringent environmental measures induce innovative efforts leading to improvements in abatement and production technologies that offset the costs of the regulations. Drawing both on basic economic theory and existing data on control costs, the authors argue that such offsets are special cases. The data indicate offsets are minuscule relative to control costs. There is no free lunch here: environmental programs must justify their costs by the benefits that improved environmental quality provides to society.

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Palmer, Karen (Resources for the Future)
Oates, Wallace E. (U MD and Resources for the Future)
Portney, Paul R. (Resources for the Future)

JEL Classifications

Q28: Renewable Resources and Conservation: Government Policy


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