Robert Stavins

Robert N. Stavins is the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, and Chairman of the Environment and Natural Resources Faculty Group at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

What baseball can teach policymakers

With the Major League Baseball season having just begun, I’m reminded of the truism that the best teams win their divisions in the regular season, but the hot teams win in the post-season playoffs.  Why the difference?  The regular season …

What explains the recent popularity of market-based environmental solutions?

Despite the potential cost-effectiveness of market-based policy instruments like pollution taxes and tradable permits, conventional approaches — including design and uniform performance standards — have been the mainstay of U.S. environmental policy since before the first Earth Day in 1970. …

Moving beyond vintage-differentiated regulation

A common feature of many environmental policies in the United States is vintage-differentiated regulation (VDR), under which standards for regulated units are fixed in terms of the units’ respective dates of entry, with later vintages facing more stringent regulation. In …

Using markets to make fisheries sustainable

Around the world, over-fishing is leading to severe depletion of valuable fisheries. This is as true in U.S. coastal waters as it is in many other parts of the world. In New England waters, for example, after two decades of …

Approach water management as an economic problem

Throughout the United States, water management has been approached primarily as an engineering problem, rather than an economic one. Water supply managers are reluctant to use price increases as water conservation tools, instead relying on non-price demand management techniques, such …

Let’s call a gas tax the ‘All-American Energy-Independence Assessment’

Whether they are called “revenue enhancements” or “user charges,” fear of the political consequences of taxes restricts debate on energy and environmental policy options in Washington. In a March 7 post on “green jobs,” in which I argued that it …

An argument for separating climate action and economic stimulus — sometimes

The January 12, 2009 issue of The New Yorker includes a well-written and in some ways inspiring article by Elizabeth Kolbert, profiling Van Jones, founder and president of Green for All. In the article, "Greening the Ghetto: Can a Remedy …

Pay up

As reservoirs fall, water prices should rise

Last week, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency and warned of possible mandatory water rationing as the state struggled through its third consecutive year of drought. This well-intentioned response to the latest water crisis should not come …

No particular policy instrument is appropriate for all environmental problems

I introduced my previous post by noting that there are several prevalent myths regarding how economists think about the environment, and I addressed the "myth of the universal market" ­-- the notion that economists believe that the market solves all …