The Missing Instrument: Dirty Input Limits

52 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2008 Last revised: 24 Sep 2014

See all articles by David M. Driesen

David M. Driesen

Syracuse University College of Law

Amy Sinden

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law; Center for Progressive Reform

Date Written: April 9, 2008


This article evaluates an environmental protection instrument that the literature has hitherto largely overlooked, Dirty Input Limits (DILs), quantitative limits on the inputs that cause pollution. DILs provide an alternative to cumbersome output-based emissions trading and performance standards. DILs have played a role in some of the world's most prominent environmental success stories. They have also begun to influence climate change policy, because of the impossibility of imposing an output-based cap on transport emissions. We evaluate DILs' administrative advantages, efficiency, dynamic properties, and capacity to better integrate environmental protection efforts. DILs, we show, not only have significant advantages that make them a good policy tool, they also have the capacity to help us fruitfully reconceptualize environmental law in more holistic fashion.

Keywords: environment, environmental, regulation, climate change, global warming, regulatory instruments, instrument choice, emissions trading, upstream, downstream, inputs, outputs, fossil fuels, cap and trade, pollution prevention, end-of-the-pipe

JEL Classification: K32, L51, O31, O33, O38, Q28, Q38, Q40, Q42, Q48

Suggested Citation

Driesen, David M. and Sinden, Amy, The Missing Instrument: Dirty Input Limits (April 9, 2008). Harvard Environmental Law Review, Vol. 22, 2009, Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-61, Available at SSRN:

David M. Driesen

Syracuse University College of Law ( email )

Dineen Hall
950 Irving Ave.
Syracuse, NY, NY 13244
United States
315-443-4218 (Phone)
315-443-4141 (Fax)


Amy Sinden (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-4969 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)

Center for Progressive Reform ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
United States

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