Entry: Using capitalism to clean the sky Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Wired:  using capitalism to clean the sky

Now this is the sort of environmental action I can get behind.  Forget using the legislative and judicial branches of government as a bully, or worse, using terrorist Earth Liberation Front tactics.  Instead, give environmental damage an economic face--by commodotizing it.  Then it becomes something which must be bought by polluters.

The twist is that ANYONE can buy the pollution rights.  So if you're an environmentalist with a few hundred dollars, you can bid on the rights to a few tons of sulfur dioxide emissions.  If you then win them, you simply tuck them away so no one can use them.  This drives up the price of useable emissions permits--and if enough of them go off the market, the polluters can't buy enough permits, and either must stop production totally or pay hefty EPA fines.

And if you're a major environmental group with a few million dollars available?

Well, it hasn't happened yet.  But the system is set up so it can.

This is like my other favorite environmental movement--the purchase programs.  Environmental groups buy property, and simply don't do anything with the land.  The purchased land is protected--without the heavy hand of government or other threats--and the cost of other, still-useable land goes up as well.  It's fair, because it uses property rights instead of abusing them.

Anyway, the emissions auction article is interesting.  Check it out.


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