Environmental Economics

Vanderbilt University
Nashville, Tennessee

Instructor(s): Russell, Clifford
Subject area: Economics
Department: Economics
Course number: 283
Year taught: 1997
Level: Undergraduate

Please note that the copyright for this syllabus is retained by the instructor.

This course aims to connect economic concepts and methods to the policy problems raised by pollution, species extinction, and other impacts of human society on the environment. Along the way we will touch on connections to ecological science and engineering and to social psychology. There will be an early review of micro-economic notions that are important in subsequent sections of the course.

The course is not highly technical or mathematical, though a few of the readings will push in that direction. In exams, if a question can only be answered with math beyond simple derivatives, there will always be an alternative question.


The course grade will be determined from four components:

Assignments (8 @ 4 points each)--32%
Hour exam (1 @ 20 points)--20%
Final exam (1 @ 30 points)--30%
Class participation-- 18%


The readings come as two "classpaks". One is a first version of a textbook I decided to write after 9 years of frustration with the available published texts. It covers the subjects I think are most interesting and important and is arranged in the same way as the course, so there is no skipping around. I will be grateful for your help in finding holes and weak spots. (Some of the former will be obvious because I will have indicated where a missing piece goes.) In fact, any comments or suggestions you feel called on to make will be useful.

The other set of readings contains 10 papers that seem especially useful for illuminating ideas in the text.

(Assignments and Hour Exam Subject to Rescheduling)
28 Aug.: Introduction

2 Sept.: Laws and policies: features and economic issues
Reading: Ch. 1,2, #1 Hahn, 1994, "U.S. Environmental Policy..."
Assign. #1 due

4 Sept.: Laws and policies
Reading: #2 Howe, 1993, "The U.S. Environmental Policy Experience..."

9 Sept: Micro-economic foundations:
- free mkt. benchmark
- externalities & public goods
- time & discounting
- probabilities
Reading: Ch. 3
Assign. #2 due

11 Sept: Same topic

16 Sept: Same topic
Assign. #3 due

18 Sept: Same topic

23 Sept: The natural world: sink for pollution; source of services
Reading: Ch. 4

25 Sept: Same topic

30 Sept: Benefit estimation: general issues
Reading: Ch. 5

2 Oct: Damages and benefits: Indirect methods
Reading: Ch. 6, #3 Portney & Mullahy, 1986, "Urban Air Quality..."

7 Oct: Same topic, reading
Assign. 4 due

9 Oct: Damages and benefits: Direct methods
Reading: #4 Portney & others 1994 (Symposium)

14 Oct: Same topic
Ch. 7, #5 Schkade and Payne, 1994, "How People..."
Assign. 5 due

16 Oct: Same topic


23 Oct:
Reading: ch. 8

28 Oct: Designing policies: Advanced topics

30 Oct: Same topic
Reading: Ch. 9

4 Nov: Same topic

6 Nov: Same topic

11 Nov: Monitoring and enforcement
Reading: Ch. 10, #6 Segerson & Tietenberg, 1992, "Structure..."
Assign. 7 due

13 Nov: Same topic
Reading: #7 Russell, 1990, "Monitoring & Enforcement" (might be 10 in ClassPak)

18 Nov: Risk I--Basic techniques and problems
Reading: ch. 11

20 Nov: Same topic

2 Dec: Risk II--Risk analysis: Some applications to difficult problems
Reading: Ch. 12, #8 Derby & Keeney, 1981, "How Safe is Safe Enough?"
(might be #7)
Assign. 8 due

4 Dec: Same topic
#9 Krutilla, 1967, "Conservation Reconsidered" (might be #8)
#10 Sagoff/Kopp exchange from Resources, 1993 (might be #9)

9 Dec: Overview/Review