Jan 31 2008

An answer to Kevin Yeh’s excellent question about emissions monitoring…

Environmental Economics: From the Answer Desk: Monitoring Cap and Trade

Towards the end of our last Micro unit, which was on Market Failure, SAS AP Econ student asked a good question in a comment on my blog post “Reducing negative externalitites – the European market for carbon emissions”

I forwarded Kevin’s question to the two professors who write the blog Environmental Economics. Their response to Kevin’s question is in the link above. Here’s what was posted on their blog last week:

Reader Jason Welker received the following question from a high school student (Kevin Yeh):

“It’s very interesting how this whole marketing pollution rights works. In this way the “commons” in the tragedy of the commons becomes privatized, and companies are forced to take responsibility for their pollution which is being dumped into the atmosphere.I do have one question, though, and that is how does one regulate the amount of pollution a factory dispenses into the air? How can the government be sure that a firm is not violating the law by dumping more than its licensed amount?”

My question: Why do Jason’s high school students ask better questions than my PhD students?

Anyway, I’m getting ready for a lecture on the EPA’s Acid Rain Program and I happened across this answer…

“Emissions monitoring and reporting systems are critical components of a successful program. Since the Program’s inception in 1995, the emissions data – continuously monitored by sources, verified and recorded by EPA, and posted for public review on the Internet – has been among the most complete and accurate ever collected by EPA. Unlike traditional emissions limitation programs, the Acid Rain Program requires an accounting of each ton of emissions from each regulated unit to determine compliance. The Acid Rain Program requires units to install Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) to continuously measure and record emissions. In order to ensure accurate emissions monitoring and reporting, regulations specify equipment certification procedures, periodic quality assurance and quality control procedures, record keeping and reporting, and procedures for filling in missing data periods. All affected units are required to report hourly emissions on a quarterly basis to EPA’s tracking system. EPA invests substantial time and resources into assuring that both the monitoring and reporting of emissions are occurring properly and efficiently. Conservative “missing data” procedures help ensure that emissions are never understated. Real-time electronic auditing by EPA helps to ensure that emissions data are accurate, consistent, and complete.”

There you have it, Kevin! Looks like SAS Econ students are asking better, more relevant questions that Economics PhD students! Ahh… you guys make me proud!

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About the author:  Jason Welker teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Economics at Zurich International School in Switzerland. In addition to publishing various online resources for economics students and teachers, Jason developed the online version of the Economics course for the IB and is has authored two Economics textbooks: Pearson Baccalaureate’s Economics for the IB Diploma and REA’s AP Macroeconomics Crash Course. Jason is a native of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is a passionate adventurer, who considers himself a skier / mountain biker who teaches Economics in his free time. He and his wife keep a ski chalet in the mountains of Northern Idaho, which now that they live in the Swiss Alps gets far too little use. Read more posts by this author

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