U.S. recession may benefit environment

By Melissa Silverberg

The effects of a possible recession may spread beyond the typical economic spheres to the environment, but there is disagreement about whether these effects will be beneficial or harmful.

“The U.S. economy has certainly slowed down substantially,” said Anne Villamil, professor of economics. “We may already be in a recession.” After a recent negative job-market report and a $200 billion injection into credit markets by the Federal Reserve on Tuesday to avoid banking problems, Villamil said the situation is clearly getting worse.

Environmental research will not be singled out and affected unless there are major long-term cuts driven by larger issues within the economy, said Gerald Nelson, professor of agricultural and consumer economics.

There may be two sides to the ways the environment will be affected by the current economic situation, Nelson added.

“General concern may take a back seat for a while as people deal with their own concerns,” Nelson said. “When people are under financial pressure, they will be more concerned with the short term than the long term.”

While people may be concerned about the housing market, losing their jobs and paying for their children to go to college, higher prices for organic or environmental products may fall a little out of favor, he added.

On the other side of the issue, however, is that the recession may be good for the environment in some ways.

In an active economy, there may be a lot of trucks, cars and planes transporting people and emitting pollution. However, during a recession when there is a general cutback on activity, emissions will be reduced, said Bart Taub, professor of economics.

“(Lesser emissions) may help; if you drive cars less because the cost of gas has gone up so much, that will obviously help the environment,” Nelson said.

Nelson also suggested a plan to place a carbon tax on home heating and gas that would make people use fuels more efficiently and allow the U.S. government to use that money within our country in a helpful way.

In spite of the problems in the economy, the unemployment rate is about 4.8 percent, which is relatively low, Villamil said.

“It will get better, and it will get worse,” said Taub because of the difficulty in predicting the fluctuations of the nation’s economy,

People can just be prepared for fluctuating prices during this time of uncertainty, he added.

“Hopefully it will work itself out over the next few months,” Villamil said. “Recessions happen from time to time. They are unfortunate, but just a part of the economic cycle.”