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On green technology: a framework for evaluation

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There is a complex interrelationship between technological change, economic growth and environmental risk/protection. Since the 1950s, at least, it has been clear that factors other than capital and labor must be responsible for most economic growth. Historical and anecdotal evidence suggests that the substitution of machines powered by fossil energy for human and animal labor must play a significant role in driving growth. On the other hand, consumption of fossil fuels and other extractive resources certainly constitutes one of the major sources of enivornmental pollution and damage. An influential school thought, promoted especially by the World Bank, argues that economic growth is actually a prerequisite for environmental protection, both because the latter is a "superior" good -i.e. a luxury - desired mainly by the rich and because advanced technology and wealth are needed for purposes both prevention and abatement of environmental damage. On closer scrutiny it is clear that technologies vary widely in both growth-creation potential and environmental risk. The question then arises: to what extent can these different aspects be anticipated and evaluate ex ante? This paper proposes a simple framework for such an evaluation methodology.

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