In some cases, it may mean merely creating a more favorable business climate by minimizing the tax burden (in terms of both liability and compliance costs), strengthening intellectual property rights, and passing a host of other reforms that would increase the ability of entrepreneurs to develop, implement, and market new environmentally-advantageous technologies. Many of these technologies were actively suppressed by the Environmental Protection Agency until the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico catalyzed emergency approval.
Of course, it also means eliminating all tax and subsidy bias toward resource use, to minimize the artificial adoption or avoidance of some technologies or resource uses over others. These direct financial incentives have led to wasteful use of American cropland for fuels, rainforest degradation as agriculture is displaced to Central America, and the stifling of innovation in both alternative and conventional energy technologies.
The particular rules markets operate under will vary widely according to the needs and interests of local communities, yet we ought not to think of this diversity of opinion as a chaotic mess in search of a national solution. The decentralization of environmental decisions is desirable: the people closest to the problems ought to have the greatest say in their resolution. Federalization of environmental issues tends to leave those with the most at stake held hostage to the deliberations of Congressmen and bureaucrats far removed from those problems, with neither the personal interest nor the local knowledge to make value-maximizing decisions.
Andrew Glidden is a writer living in Berkeley, California.