Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Emissions trading doesn't cause pollution 'hot spots'

30.03.2011
Programs that allow facilities to buy and sell emission allowances have been popular and effective since they were introduced in the U.S. two decades ago. But critics worry the approach can create heavily polluted "hot spots" in low-income and minority communities.

A new study by Evan Ringquist, professor in the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, finds the problem hasn't materialized -- that the efficiency gains of allowance trading have not come at the expense of equitable treatment of minorities and the poor.

"There is very little evidence that allowance trading causes 'hot spots,'" Ringquist said. "This study finds there is no inherent trade-off between efficiency and equity when using market-based instruments for pollution control."

The study, "Trading Equity for Efficiency in Environmental Protection? Environmental Justice Effects from the SO2 Allowance Trading Program," is scheduled for publication this spring in the journal Social Science Quarterly.

It focuses on the sulfur dioxide allowance trading program (ATP) established by 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act. The program created a market for trading pollution credits to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, which causes human health problems and acid rain that results in environmental damage.

While the sulfur dioxide program is the largest and most established U.S. market, there are regional markets for other regulated pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon dioxide. Domestic markets have been proposed to curb mercury pollution. And an international carbon market would be an element of a "cap and trade" initiative to slow climate change.

The idea behind emissions allowance trading is simple. Some firms and facilities can reduce their emissions by required amounts without facing excessive costs, but some can't. With a trading system, firms with low control costs will reduce pollution more than necessary and "sell" their excess credits. Firms with high costs will purchase permits rather than over-spend to reduce pollution.

The net result is the same as with a "command and control" program that requires across-the-board cuts for everyone. And the costs to society are smaller. Economists are happy.

But a trading program is likely to reduce pollution more in some locations than in others. Facilities that purchase allowances effectively "import" pollution to their region. Facilities that sell allowances, meanwhile, "export" pollution.

Environmental justice advocates have argued that pollution will be imported to urban centers and aging industrial areas, where polluting facilities have operated for years and the cost of reducing emissions is likely to be high. And it's in such areas, they say, that minority and low-income communities are more likely to live -- especially as white and middle-income residents have left the cities for the suburbs.

Previous studies, including a meta-analysis by Ringquist published in 2005, have found that poor people and minorities were more likely than others to live in polluted areas. So an allowance trading program, while reducing overall pollution, could make a bad situation worse for certain populations.

To examine the claim, Ringquist obtained trading records for all facilities participating in the sulfur dioxide allowance program between January 1995 and March 2009. He then used several statistical models to determine whether allowance trading tended to concentrate pollution in poor communities or communities of color.

He found that it did not. To the contrary, the data show that communities with high percentages of African-American and Hispanic residents experienced fewer imports of SO2 than did other areas.

The analysis does reveal one cause for concern, however: Allowance trading appears to concentrate SO2 emissions in areas with large percentages of people without a high-school education.

Ringquist said that finding suggests government regulators may want to design future emissions trading programs to make it easier for the effects to be monitored by nearby residents, including residents without a high level of education.

To speak with Ringquist, contact Jana Wilson at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, 812-856-5490 or wilsonjs@indiana.edu. For a copy of the study, contact Wilson or Steve Hinnefeld at University Communications, 812-856-3488 or slhinnef@indiana.edu

Steve Hinnefeld | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.indiana.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

nachricht Disarray in the brain
18.12.2017 | Universität zu Lübeck

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk

17.01.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials

17.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Fraunhofer HHI receives AIS Technology Innovation Award 2018 for 3D Human Body Reconstruction

17.01.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>