From Research to Policy

The Case of Environmental Economics

In his contribution to this symposium issue, Professor Oates ex-amines the impact of economic analysis on environmental policy over the last thirty years. He begins by describing the exclusive reliance on a command-and-control approach in the early years of environmental regulation and explains why economics and economists had so little impact at that stage of policymaking. Next, drawing on examples from the history of environmental regulation, Professor Oates details the evolution of environmental policy instruments and the methods used to set environmental standards, tracing the emergence of trad-able emission permit systems as the dominant form of incentive-based policy instruments in the United States (in contrast to Europe). He then describes the virtues and limits of benefit-cost analysis in the en-vironmental policy arena and concludes with some reflections on the importance of economic research and theory to sound environmental policymaking.* Professor of Economics, University of Maryland; University Fellow, Resources for the Future.

The full text of this Symposium is available to download as a PDF.