Principles of Economics: Four firms called Elm, Maple, Oak, and Cherry, produce wooden chairs. Ho...

Question

Four firms called Elm, Maple, Oak, and Cherry, produce wooden chairs. However, they also produce a great deal of garbage (a mixture of glue, varnish, sandpaper, and wood scraps). The first row of Table below shows the total amount of garbage (in tons) currently produced by each firm. The other rows of the table show the cost of reducing garbage produced by the first five tons, the second five tons, and so on. First, calculate the cost of requiring each firm to reduce the weight of its garbage by one-fourth. Now, imagine that marketable permits are issued for the current level of garbage, but the permits will shrink the weight of allowable garbage for each firm by one-fourth. What will be the result of this alternative approach to reducing pollution?

Answer

First, if each firm is required to reduce its garbage output by one-fourth, then Elm will reduce five tons at a cost of $5,500; Maple will reduce 10 tons at a cost of $13,500; Oak will reduce three tons at a cost of $22,500; and Cherry will reduce four tons at a cost of $18,000. Total cost of this approach: $59,500. If the system of marketable permits is put in place, and those permits shrink the weight of allowable garbage by one-quarter, then pollution must still be reduced by the same overall amount. However, now the reduction in pollution will take place where it is least expensive.

Thus, the overall pattern of reductions here will be that Elm reduces garbage by 20 tons and has 15 tons of permits to sell. Maple reduces by five tons and needs to buy five tons of permits. Oak does not reduce garbage at all, and needs to buy 15 tons of permits. Cherry reduces garbage by 25 tons, which leaves it with five tons of permits to sell. The total cost of these reductions would be $56,300, a definite reduction in costs from the $59,500 cost of the command-and-control option.

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