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Dr. Michael Farmer speaking at CPBIS Seminar on October 11, 2002


ATLANTA, GA. -- Dr. Michael C. Farmer: Assistant Professor of Public Policy, in the Ivan Allen College of the Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) discussed his current research project for CPBIS on Friday Oct 11, 2002 at 11:15 AM, in the Institute of Paper Science and Technology (IPST) Seminar Room. His Powerpoint presentation can be viewed here: Prof. Farmer seminar slides.

Commercial implementation of new technology is typically driven by the promise of increased sales, reduced operating costs, or regulatory compliance. However, if the new technology will impact jobs, the environment, or the community at large, then these impacts must also be assessed. The CPBIS is sponsoring such a study on the impact of black liquor gasification with combined cycle power generation. Professor Michael Farmer of the Public Policy Dept at Georgia Tech will discuss how these "external benefits" assessments are made.

Many issues affecting the Paper industry are environmental as well as economic. It is often assumed that environmental questions are in some strong sense a "non-economic" issue in that the values for environmental care are beyond economics or simply the practical observation that one cannot purchase increased environmental protection in the same way one an purchase a house or a car or a college education. Dr. Farmer takes issue with this contention. As long as persons are willing to pay for environmental care, the environment becomes an intrinsic economic concern.

Two types of economic responses are possible: social choice responses where society sets up economically efficient rules to realize a deep environmental value objective, and welfare economic responses where analysts measure the economic value of environmental improvements - what society is willing to pay to obtain the clean-up.

The benefit of insisting on a fusion between economic ways of thinking and valuing to environmental values is the ability to motivate new green technologies. Black Liquor Gasification is one such Green technology. The industry is beginning to see BLG as a profitable venture on its own; yet is hesitant to embrace the technology until greater assurances appear. These assurances can be technical (higher pulp yields, in situ causticization, etc.) but they can also be economic (out right technical subsidies or literal production insurance for slow downs by governments caused by technical failures provided to early adopters).

Welfare economic estimation in particular can assess the economic benefits to society at large from the delivery of a cleaner environment from the technology and can assist the process of technological innovation so necessary to pulp and paper industry survival in the US. How this and other societal benefits are measured, theoretically, will be the basis of his discussion.
Dr. Farmer's previous project experience included the ethics of employing economic benefit-cost information in the public decision process, damage assessment of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, management of agricultural lands with recreation services.

About CPBIS: The Center for Paper Business and Industry Studies (CPBIS) is a globally recognized and industry-valued academic center, creating knowledge and tools that support paper industry decision-makers, and producing interdisciplinary graduates who contribute to the long-term success of the paper industry. The CPBIS is co-sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Institute of Paper Science and Technology (IPST), the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), and the Paper Industry.


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