Economics 255: Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

Winter 2015
Instructor: Jim Casey
Contact Info: 204 Holekamp Hall, Ext. 8102, Email: Caseyj
Prerequisite: Economics 101

Office Hours: MW, 9:00 to 11:00 and by appointment

(1) Course Objectives
(2) Readings
(3) Grading and Conduct
(4) Course Outline

1. Course Objectives:


The course is an introduction to both environmental and natural resource economics.  Throughout the semester we will see how economic principles can be and are being used in public and private decision making involving the management and use of environmental and natural resources.  Aspects pertaining to fisheries, forests, species diversity, agriculture, solid waste and various economic policies to reduce air, water and toxic pollution will be discussed. We will spend a significant amount of time looking at the relationship between energy acquisition and global climate change.  The lectures, reading assignments, discussions and papers will be directed at using microeconomic analysis for dealing with environmental and natural resource problems.

By the end of the semester, (1) you should be able to analyze current environmental and natural resource management issues using basic economic models.  (2) You should be familiar with the concept of market failure and (3) how non-market valuation techniques are used to value environmental and natural resources.  Lastly,    (4) you should be comfortable using economic analysis to explain policy interventions aimed at reducing environmental externalities.




(2) Readings:

All reading will be posted at

Assigned chapters from - Kahn, James R.  The Economic Approach to Environmental and Natural Resources, Thomson-Southwest, Third Edition 2005.

Selected Primary Literature

(3) Grading and Conduct:

(1) Bi-Weekly Quizzes (5/6):                      20%

(2) Blog Posts:                                               10%

(3) Exam 1:                                                   35%

(4) Final Paper:                                                         35%

(1) We will have a quiz on random Thursdays at the beginning of class.  The quiz will consist three or four questions from material that was covered in class on Tuesday.  If you miss class on Thursday, you will NOT be allowed to make up the quiz. .  I will drop your lowest score. 

(2) Every Thursday, after the quiz, we will discuss a paper/papers.  You will be responsible for posting a comment on the blog by Wednesday at 8pm.  Your comment should NOT be a summary.  It should be a question about or critical insight from the paper and/or a previous blog comment.

 (3) We will have an hour exam at the end of week 6.

(4) The paper is due the last day of class. 



 Classroom and Course conduct: As a courtesy to your classmates, please turn off all cellphones at the start of class.  Also, use the restroom before class and do not get up during class to leave the room. If you are having an emergency then please raise your hand and I will certainly dismiss you from class.  Lastly, be on time – please do not enter the classroom late.

It is important to note that lectures and class discussion will complement rather than substitute for the reading, sometimes providing alternative approaches. Therefore, both reading and attendance are strongly advised, and arrangements should be made to find out what was covered in class when attendance becomes impossible.

I will make every attempt to respond to class-related emails within 24 hours. This policy does not apply to weekend days, so do not expect responses to emails during the weekend. I will also not respond to emails asking questions that are clearly answered on the syllabus or via prior emails: e.g. when is the problem set due?

Questions about grading of any assignment or exam must be addressed within one week of its return. Questions must be presented in writing, and the entire assignment or exam will be regarded, which means you might end up with a lower score than you started.  I make plenty of mistakes so dont be afraid to ask.

Washington and Lee University makes reasonable academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities.  All undergraduate accommodations must be approved through the Office of the Dean of the College.  Students requesting accommodations for this course should present an official accommodation letter within the first two weeks of the term and schedule a meeting outside of class time to discuss accommodations.  It is the students responsibility to present this paperwork in a timely fashion and to follow up about accommodation arrangements.  Accommodations for test-taking should be arranged at least a week before the date of the test or exam.

 (4) Schedule with assigned readings:

WEEK 1:        How do Economists Think about the Environment?

Tuesday, Jan 13: Introductions

Thursday, Jan 15: Kahn chs. 1 and 2 and   


WEEK 2:  Market Failure and Government Intervention

Tuesday, Jan 20:  Kahn ch. 3

Thursday, Jan 22: The Tragedy of the Commons    


Conservation Reconsidered - 

WEEK 3: Non-Market Valuation

Tuesday, Jan 27: Kahn ch. 4  

Thursday, Jan 29: non market valuation papers 

WEEK 4:    Fisheries and Water Resources  

Tuesday, Feb 3: Kahn chs. 11 and 15

Thursday, Feb 5: Corals and MPAs

WEEK 5:  Forests

Tuesday, Feb.10: : Kahn chs. 12 and 13

Thursday, Feb 12: Valuing Forest Resources

WEEK 6: Biodiversity and Agriculture

Tuesday, Feb 17: Kahn chs. 14 and 17

Thursday, Feb 19:  Exam Review

Take Home Exam will be turned in by 5PM Friday the 20th.


WEEK 7: Energy Acquisition and Dissipation

Tuesday, March 3: Kahn chs. 8  and 9

Thursday, March 5   Full Cost Accounting for the Life Cycle of Coal  (R)

WEEK 8: Global Climate Change

Tuesday, March 10: Kahn ch. 7

Thursday, March 12: TBA

WEEK 9: Climate Economics

Tuesday, March 17:  TBA

Thursday, March 19:   TBA

 WEEK 10: Climate Policy

Tuesday, March 24: TBA           

Thursday, March 26: TBA

WEEK 11:  Environment and Development

Tuesday, March 31: TBA

Thursday, April 2: TBA

WEEK 12:      Concluding Thoughts

 Tuesday, April 7:   The Anthropocene

Thursday, April 9:   Your Letters to Congress