Handbook on Experimental Economics and the Environment
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Handbook on Experimental Economics and the Environment

Edited by John A. List and Michael K. Price

Laboratory and field experiments have grown significantly in prominence over the past decade. The experimental method provides randomization in key variables therefore permitting a deeper understanding of important economic phenomena. This path-breaking volume provides a valuable collection of experimental work within the area of environmental and resource economics and showcases how laboratory and field experiments can be used for both positive and normative purposes.
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Chapter 7: Regulatory instruments for monitoring ambient pollution

Gaston Giordana and Marc Willinger


When individual emissions of pollutants combine in an unpredictable way because of complex physical interactions and random perturbations, an ambient pollution problem arises. Water contamination is a widely studied case. Ambient or diffuse pollution occurs because complex processes (e.g. infiltration, agricultural practices) and random events (e.g. rainfalls) affect the concentration of pollutants in surface and ground waters. This contrasts to point source pollution, where effluents enter a river course at well-identified locations, such as pipe discharge. The use of pesticides and nitrogen in agriculture, emissions by mobile sources in the transportation sector, dumping in open sea and, at a larger scale, greenhouse gas emissions, are a few examples of the widespread phenomenon of ambient pollution. Traditional emission-based instruments, such as emission taxes, subsidies for abatement, standards and licences, which are based on individual emissions, do not readily apply to the ambient pollution case. The lack of low-cost monitoring technologies prevents the identification of individual emissions.

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