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November 01, 2004

Bates College Students Buying Pollution Permits

I'm teaching pollution control methods today, and came across this interesting story about
Bates College econ students buying and retiring sulfur dioxide permits:

In 2001, 2002 and 2003, at the rate of one permit per year, students in the "Environmental Economics" course at Bates bought and retired government permits for the atmospheric release of a pollutant that causes acid rain.

This year, in one fell swoop, the 49 students in Econ 222 quadrupled the amount of sulfur dioxide (SO2) that Bates is keeping out of the nation's air. A $1,200 challenge grant from an environmental organization in Colorado spurred the students to submit winning bids for nine permits in the annual U.S. Environmental Protection Agency SO2-allowance auction....

...The Bates students bid $292 for each of the permits in this year's auction, held March 22....

"He asked if our class could match his $1,200 and buy a total of eight permits, as well as educate others about the program," Lewis explains. "My students designed informational fliers, sold T-shirts that they designed and had a booth in Commons," the college's dining hall.

Several campus organizations and many individuals at Bates contributed to the grant-matching drive. "We sold SO2 by the pound," Lewis says. "Five pounds for a buck -- you can't beat that!" In the end, the students even came up with enough money to top Udall's challenge by one permit.

I'm not sure that there is really that much social value to reducing sulfur dioxide pollution further, but I applaud the exercise in learning about property rights-- and in using your own money to control pollution rather than political power.

Posted by erasmuse at November 1, 2004 05:52 PM

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