Of all natural resources, energy is the master. Without natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydropower, or other energy sources, humankind could not access other natural resources to produce the food, shelter, and clothing needed to sustain its current population, let alone raise the average standard of living.
Energy production, however, creates by-products that can have detrimental effects on human life and well-being. Although enforcement of property rights and tort law can mitigate the harms, governments increasingly rely on environmental laws and regulations to do the job. Yet these too can have negative impacts, such as the inadvertent wasting of resources and straining of our social, economic, and political ecosystems.
Independent Institute fellows have examined the consequences of numerous environmental policies on energy production, air and water quality, recreational amenities, and human institutions. One recurring theme is that environmental problems often result from inadequate property rights or misguided laws and regulations. Environmental quality can therefore be improved by strengthening property-rights enforcement and by lowering regulatory barriers to new innovations that can reduce environmental degradation.
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