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The Optimal Management of Environmental Quality with Stock and Flow Controls

  • Keohane, Nathaniel

    (Yale U)

  • Van Roy, Benjamin

    (Stanford U)

  • Zeckhauser, Richard

    (Harvard U)

We characterize environmental quality as a stock, and its rate of deterioration as a flow. We consider a class of problems, which we call “SFQ” problems, in which both stocks and flows can be controlled to promote the quality of a resource stock. Abatement (curbing the flow) and restoration (restoring the stock) are interdependent tools in such problems. Under the optimal policy, periodic restoration complements positive but variable abatement that partly stems the quality decline. The preferred balance between the two strategies depends on environmental and economic factors. If flows are low enough, or if abatement is sufficiently inexpensive relative to restoration, optimal abatement may be sufficiently intense to offset the expected deterioration and produce an equilibrium in expectation. When deterioration is more rapid or more variable, when abatement is more expensive, or when restoration is less costly, the optimal policy relies more on restoration. We apply the analysis to the restoration of an endangered species, and show how it could illuminate a range of other problems in the environmental arena. But the lessons are general, and we briefly discuss how they apply to the management of both physical and human capital stocks.

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Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp05-042.

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Date of creation: Jun 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp05-042
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  1. Abel, Andrew B & Eberly, Janice C, 1994. "A Unified Model of Investment under Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1369-84, December.
  2. Phillips, Carl V. & Zeckhauser, Richard J., 1998. "Restoring Natural Resources with Destination-Driven Costs," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 225-242, November.
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  5. Sanford J Grossman & Guy Laroque, 2003. "Asset Pricing and Optimal Portfolio Choice in the Presence of Illiquid Durable Consumption Goods," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000000803, David K. Levine.
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  7. Feldstein, Martin S & Rothschild, Michael, 1974. "Towards an Economic Theory of Replacement Investment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 42(3), pages 393-423, May.
  8. Thomas H. Stevens & Jaime Echeverria & Ronald J. Glass & Tim Hager & Thomas A. More, 1991. "Measuring the Existence Value of Wildlife: What Do CVM Estimates Really Show?," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 67(4), pages 390-400.
  9. Abel, Andrew B & Eberly, Janice C, 1996. "Optimal Investment with Costly Reversibility," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(4), pages 581-93, October.
  10. Plourde, Charles & Yeung, David, 1989. "A model of industrial pollution in a stochastic environment," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 97-105, March.
  11. Caputo, Michael R & Wilen, James E, 1995. "Optimal Cleanup of Hazardous Wastes," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 36(1), pages 217-43, February.
  12. Smith, Vernon L, 1972. "Dynamics of Waste Accumulation: Disposal Versus Recycling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 86(4), pages 600-616, November.
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