Environmental studies class prevents pollution
(April 11, 2005) GENEVA, N.Y.–Environmental study students at Hobart and William Smith Colleges successfully prevented the release of one ton of sulfur dioxide (SO2) into the atmosphere by purchasing an SO2 allowance from the Chicago Board of Trade in late March.
Purchase of the allowances was made possible by The Clean Air Act of 1990, which capped total allowable SO2 emissions by requiring power plants to purchase permits in order to operate. A certain number of permits are set aside and auctioned off to the highest bidder each year, allowing new companies, environmental groups and private citizens to bid on permits. By reducing the number of SO2 permits available to power plants, citizens limit the amount of SO2 emissions, which occur when coal is burned and have been linked to acid rain.
Members of the Topics in Energy class, taught by Tom Drennen, associate professor of economics, and John Halfman, associate professor of geoscience and director of environmental studies, purchased the permit with a bid of $703, more than 3 times what HWS students paid in 2002 and the lowest successful bid by an educational group this year. The students came up with the money by soliciting donations from friends, the Campus Greens and the HWS sailing team.
“Because there are fewer permits available, prices have really skyrocketed. I didn't think we'd be able to bid because of the high price, but our students were quite willing to get out and come up with the money,” says Drennen.
“The permit is obviously wise investment — they've nearly tripled in value in the past three years. We could make enough money to support the environmental studies department if we sold it to the highest bidder in a few years,” jokes Halfman. While the permit could technically be sold in the future, Professors Drennen and Halfman have promised the students that they will not sell the permit.
Results of the auction, including the HWS winning bids, are available at http://www.epa.gov/airmarkets/auctions/2005/05summary.html.
The Hobart and William Smith Colleges Environmental Studies program combines the excellent local environmental resources and the Colleges’ rich history of interdisciplinary teaching and works to address the environmental issues.
The department of economics at Hobart and William Smith has a distinctive curriculum that provides a traditional economics major and more. With courses designed to both meet the needs of students interested in economic issues that affect their lives and to meet the needs of students who have an interest in an extended, in depth study of economics, the department prepares students with a solid base in micro- and macroeconomic theory.