This paper investigates the extent to which ‘advanced’ knowledge and technology played a role in the SO2 compliance process in electric power plants under the US SO2 cap and trade program. It investigates the hypothesis that advanced knowledge and technology dedicated to pollution abatement played a minor role in that process while relatively unadvanced forms of knowledge and technology played the main role. New qualitative evidence in this somewhat well-known case is considered: interviews with electric power plant R&D managers, plant-level compliance data, and the changes undergone by boiler manufacturer, coal mining and railroad companies in the supply chain. Advanced knowledge dedicated to pollution abatement like the type now being emphasised for carbon capture and storage (CCS) played a minor role, while unadvanced knowledge and technology played the main role.

While there are clearly limits to how far this unadvanced knowledge and technology finding can be generalised to GHG emission control, the specific aspects of the SO2 case that might be broadly informative of the response to GHG emissions are elaborated. In any case, the paper shows how ‘innovation’ in pollution control can be inexpensive and effective without involving very much advanced knowledge and technology for pollution control.


Grover, D. June 2012. The “advancedness” of knowledge in pollution-saving technological change with a qualitative application to SO2 cap and trade. Ecological Economics. Under review.

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