Best air pollution control: A carrot or stick approach?

In “Air Quality Awareness Week 2014: Why ‘getting on board’ is so apropos,” I made reference to the idea of the importance of air regulation.

What I had written specifically in this regard is this:

“Fundamentally speaking, a person would expect that subsequent to enacting air pollution regulations, laws, rules or legislation – take your pick – improvement in the quality of the air would follow. That would seem to me to be a reasonable assumption.

“But, enactment of such laws alone is not always adequate. There must also be compliance. In order to ensure compliance, enforcement of said laws, etc. goes without saying, or one would think it would. And, as we all know, in this regard, a regime on this order is only as strong as its weakest link.

“So, in looking at the full spectrum of conditions or ingredients in this mix, there is some element to this equation that is either sorely lacking or completely absent – one or the other.”

That element, either “sorely lacking or completely absent,” what is it? The one I have in mind may surprise you. Here’s a hint: involved is more than just awareness of bad air.

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17[1]It’s one thing that air pollution has reached the proportions it has; not knowing what to do – or lacking the will (even when properly outfitted to tackle the problem) – to clean it up is yet another.

As it relates, in the recent The Modesto Bee opinion piece: “Our View: Central Valley has the greatest need for using ‘cap and trade’ billions,” written by the Bee editorial board, reference was made to a color-coded California Environmental Protection Agency CalEnviroScreen map of Golden State communities impacted most by – air, soil, water – pollution. It came as little shock the state’s mid-section – the Central San Joaquin Valley – was ground zero. Regarding which the Bee Board insisted: “By any measure, however, it was clear that the region’s longstanding problems are shortening millions of lives.”

Which is why other approaches and strategies to dealing with the air pollution crisis should be made part of the prescriptive plan to assist in removing contaminants from air.

One such strategy is incentivization. And as it applies, farther on into the same op-ed, the Bee Board astutely observed that of the $2,500 rebates offered by the state San Joaquin Valley-based car owners received but a mere two percent. In an area so wracked by air pollution, one would think there’d be more Valley motorists wanting in on the action. That more are not is sad commentary indeed. Apparently, outside the Valley, the success rate in state in this regard is higher.

All of which brings me back to my original point and that has to do with what the best means is to mitigate pollution in the air – by providing incentives or enacting laws requiring compliance and then seeing to it constituents comply through the work of law enforcement.

What’s your view?

Image above: NASA

– Alan Kandel

6 thoughts on “Best air pollution control: A carrot or stick approach?”

  1. Personally, I don’t think that the laws make much of a difference. They’re too difficult to enforce. People, drivers especially, already break laws on a daily basis. Underage drinking, driving through stop streets and more violent crimes such as rape and murder all occur on a daily basis. It’s difficult enough to monitor these laws, and they definitely aren’t always enforced, so adding in another law to break won’t work. Incentivising people, however, is a good option, but the incentive also has to be right. In monetary terms, it has to cover the cost of not using a car. This cost includes: public transport, time wasted while walking and (I know this sounds stupid, but from an economist’s point of view, it works) happiness lost from having to use alternate forms of transport. In economics, you would use a utility function to find out what the person’s utility is with and without the car, and then the difference would be the right amount to use as an incentive, as it will maximise utility (which is a good thing). The problem with this is that utility is different for everyone, and even using a utility function that calculates average utility, this is a huge and difficult process. Also, the amount will most probably not fall within the budget of the government, as most governments are in debt, and therefore cannot afford to pay more than what they need to. In my opinion, neither of these are feasible options in the long run. I would say that educating the masses would work, but I have been educated about air pollution and I still want nothing more than to buy a ’67 V8 Camaro and cruise down the highway with my sunglasses on. I think the best option is to continue what we’ve already started doing: slowly introduce more economical cars that have lower CO2 and subtly manipulate the minds of the people into buying them out of duty to the planet.

  2. I believe that the age old saying “prevention is better than cure ” is applicable in this instance. An incentive would provide a better solution to the problem than environmental laws, as these laws against pollution can be difficult to enforce , especially in a third world country like South Africa.

    I would suggest that governments provide tax incentives on the type of car that you buy. As an example; a hybrid car should be subsidised whereas the price of a sports-car should include an environmental impact tax. Another incentive worth pursuing is one where vehicle owners can get discount on fuel according to the vehicle’s fuel efficiency. A final initiative worth considering would be a regular service bonus, in other words, if the owner of a vehicle maintains their cars in good working condition, a certified fuel discount could be awarded.

    My thoughts are that a carrot provides a better solution than a stick , because the carrot is much more appetizing and the stick is perhaps too short in the arm of the law to reach all the perpetrators.

  3. I really don’t think people will actually follow those rules as many other rules are disobeyed so i think the best way is to educate people about air pollution. And try to make them realise the effects of air pollution, maybe that will help to control air pollution.

  4. I don’t think people will follow this this rule just like any other rules which are not followed. I suggest that people must be educated about air pollution and they must also learn about all effects of air pollution in order to be aware of the consequences of air pollution. This might help in the controlling of air pollution.

  5. The problem is not knowing what to do,lacking the will even when properly outfitted to tackle the problem of pollution.So as a starting point,the world has to come to terms on finding sustainable ways of dealing with pollution.There are so many strategies we can use to reduce the level of pollution to our environment,our soil and water systems.For example we can impose pollution taxes,that `you pollute,you pay`.We can also promote public transport,lift clubs to reduce traffic congestion on our roads,which in turn reduces the number of cars on our roads,thus leading to less air pollution from car exhausts.But remember,it is not a matter of following the rules to be on the safest side but it is about caring for the world we live in.

  6. I totally agree with Jacobus,
    “‘prevention is better than cure’ is applicable in this instance. An incentive would provide a better solution to the problem than environmental laws, as these laws against pollution can be difficult to enforce , especially in a third world country like South Africa.”

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