Reducing Mercury Emissions
Mercury for some time has been a dangerous pollutant that has been environmentally hurting the human population through the uncontrollable contamination of lakes and other bodies of fresh water that hold fish. The most porlific source of mercury polliton in the United States is smoke from coal-fired power plants which accounts for about 40% that eventually enter the food chain. The problem lies in finding an efficient level at which the power plants can produce at without further harming the general population The current Clear skies bill sets emission targets for mercury of 34 tons by 2010 and 15 tons by 2018 with and earyly credit program and safety valve which allows generators to exceed those limits if the cost goes above a certain level. There are two problems with this, one is that pareto dis-improvements exist where the polluting firms can polute above target limits thus increasing there profits and produciton while further hindering the general population. Secondly, with an early incentives program polluting firms can reach the optimal tonnage, recieve credit, and then still be allowed to pllute. What can we do to achieve an efficient ammount of pollution? Under the carper bill and the administration bill cap and trade programs would be enacted. Under the cap and trade programs a pollution max tonnage is set, and under these ramifications firms abiding by the rules are giving the ability to trade allowances to either pollute more or recieve some extra allowance. This is favorable because like in the Coase propostion it offers cost savings that can give profits to firms, lower electiricty prices to consumers and help achieve environmental quality at teh same cost . The problem i find with implementing either the Carper bill or the Administration bill is the role of government observing and keeping track of the amount of pollution that the firms are acutally producing. How will we know whether or not a firm is producing at the efficient amount. As we have seen with the SO2 allowance trading program, emission reductions for mercury would surley decline almost everywhere, but the decline may be greater at one locatoin than at another, leaving some plants to pollute more where there are fewer reducitons. A plan that could be implemented would be a pollution tax where the cost of pollution would be equal for all polluters and with a set quanity of pollution any firm exceeding the quanity would be fined.