Pollution Control: Costs and Benefits

February 27, 1976

Report Outline
Kinship Between Ecology and Economy
Problems of Water-Pollution Control
Mixed Results from Air-Pollution Fight
Questions of Solid Waste and Land Use
Special Focus

Kinship Between Ecology and Economy

The words “ecology” and “economy” come from the same etymological root—from the Greek word meaning “household management.” Yet in recent years the two words have taken on conflicting connotations, with environmental protection widely labeled an enemy of economic progress. The drive to stop pollution and clean up the environment, which came to resemble a national crusade in the giddy aftermath of Earth Day 1970, ran head-on into energy shortages, rising inflation, spreading unemployment and deepening recession in the middle years of the decade. Cleaning up the environment and getting the economy back on its feet suddenly were regarded as mutually exclusive. Industry spokesmen, labor leaders and elected officials argued strongly that environmental regulations should be relaxed to stimulate the economy and preserve jobs. Pollution control and environmental improvement were branded as luxuries the nation could ill afford.

Today, however, the tide has turned again, in an unexpected direction. Evidence is mounting that pollution control not only is compatible with economic advancement but actually may contribute to it. Much of the new evidence comes from the federal environmental agencies, which clearly have a stake in promoting pollution control, but some comes from the marketplace, Investments in pollution-control programs and equipment have been found to encourage employment, increase production. create new markets and, on balance, contribute to the national economy.

A booming new pollution-control industry has sprung up to help companies and cities meet environmental standards established by federal, state and local governments. Environmental protection also has been found to benefit the economy in indirect ways—by reducing the health, recreational, agricultural and esthetic costs and damages of pollution. These “external” effects were disregarded for decades as insignificant or unavoidable, but recent calculations have shown their true economic costs to be enormous.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Environmental Protection
Mar. 17, 2023  Forever Chemicals
Sep. 02, 2022  Preserving the Seas
Jun. 17, 2022  Plastic Pollution
Dec. 17, 2021  Endangered Species
Nov. 06, 2020  Preventing Wildfires
Jul. 10, 2020  Circular Economy
Nov. 29, 2019  Climate Change and Health
Sep. 20, 2019  Extreme Weather
Dec. 07, 2018  Plastic Pollution
Dec. 02, 2016  Arctic Development
Apr. 22, 2016  Managing Western Lands
Jul. 18, 2014  Regulating Toxic Chemicals
Sep. 20, 2013  Future of the Arctic
Jun. 14, 2013  Climate Change
Nov. 06, 2012  Vanishing Biodiversity
Nov. 02, 2012  Managing Wildfires
Nov. 04, 2011  Managing Public Lands
Aug. 26, 2011  Gulf Coast Restoration
Jul. 2010  Plastic Pollution
Feb. 2010  Climate Change
Jan. 09, 2009  Confronting Warming
Dec. 05, 2008  Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
Nov. 2008  Carbon Trading
Oct. 03, 2008  Protecting Wetlands
Feb. 29, 2008  Buying Green
Dec. 14, 2007  Future of Recycling
Nov. 30, 2007  Disappearing Species
Feb. 2007  Curbing Climate Change
Dec. 01, 2006  The New Environmentalism
Jan. 27, 2006  Climate Change
Oct. 25, 2002  Bush and the Environment
Oct. 05, 2001  Invasive Species
Nov. 05, 1999  Saving Open Spaces
Jun. 11, 1999  Saving the Rain Forests
May 21, 1999  Setting Environmental Priorities
Mar. 19, 1999  Partisan Politics
Oct. 16, 1998  National Forests
Jun. 19, 1998  Environmental Justice
Aug. 23, 1996  Cleaning Up Hazardous Wastes
Mar. 31, 1995  Environmental Movement at 25
Jun. 19, 1992  Lead Poisoning
May 15, 1992  Jobs Vs. Environment
Jan. 17, 1992  Oil Spills
Sep. 20, 1991  Saving the Forests
Apr. 26, 1991  Electromagnetic Fields: Are They Dangerous?
Sep. 08, 1989  Free Market Environmental Protection
Dec. 09, 1988  Setting Environmental Priorities
Jul. 29, 1988  Living with Hazardous Wastes
Dec. 20, 1985  Requiem for Rain Forests?
Aug. 17, 1984  Protecting the Wilderness
Jun. 15, 1984  Troubled Ocean Fisheries
Aug. 19, 1983  America's Disappearing Wetlands
Feb. 22, 1980  Noise Control
Nov. 16, 1979  Closing the Environmental Decade
Oct. 13, 1978  Toxic Substance Control
Feb. 27, 1976  Pollution Control: Costs and Benefits
Nov. 28, 1975  Forest Policy
May 30, 1975  Wilderness Preservation
Dec. 20, 1974  Environmental Policy
Nov. 14, 1973  Strip Mining
Dec. 01, 1971  Global Pollution
Jul. 21, 1971  Protection of the Countryside
Jan. 06, 1971  Pollution Technology
Jun. 19, 1968  Protection of the Environment
Oct. 30, 1963  Noise Suppression
Air Pollution
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Recycling and Solid Waste
Water Pollution