Peter J Wilcoxen > ECN 437 Environmental and Resource Economics

General Information, Textbook and Requirements

Spring 2016

General information that you may need at the beginning of the semester.

Contact Information

Office: 426 Eggers 
Office Hours: Tue and Thu, 10:00-11:30, or by appointment. 
Email: wilcoxen at 

Teaching Assistant

Krieg Tidemann
Office Hours: Mon 3:45-5:15 and Thu 1:00-2:30
Location: 041 Eggers
Email: kitidema at

Course Content

Optimal use of exhaustible and renewable resources including fuels, minerals, fisheries, forests and water; resource scarcity and economic growth; valuation of non-marketed environmental amenities; the economics of pollution control; pollution control instruments including taxes, permits, direct regulation, and negotiation; pollution control policy in practice.

Learning Outcomes

Through this course you will become familiar with: (1) the economic theory of externalities and common property; (2) the optimal use of resources across time and under conditions of uncertainty; (3) policies for managing resources or pollution, including taxes, quotas, permit systems, regulation, liability laws, and recycling policies; and (4) tools for assessing non-marketed costs and benefits, including risk assessment.  The course heavily emphasizes learning by doing and for each topic you will learn how to design, solve and analyze appropriate mathematical models.  By the end of the course, you will be very comfortable applying key microeconomic techniques: (1) market models and welfare analysis; (2) cash flow models and present value calculations; (3) decision trees and choice under uncertainty; and (4) applications integrating these tools, including the use of option value to analyze irreversible decisions.


Before enrolling in this course you should have taken Economics 301 or 311. There is no specific math prerequisite but please be aware that the course will use math extensively: all exercises and exam questions will involve algebra and geometry and some exercises will require the use of a spreadsheet.


There is no required textbook but there will be several books on reserve in Bird that you can use for supplementary reading. 

Assignments and Grading

Grades will be based on three exams, weekly exercises done outside class, and daily exercises done in class. Each of the exams will count for 25% of the semester grade, the weekly exercises will count for 15%, and the in-class exercises will count for the remaining 10%.


The first two exams will be during class on Wednesday, March 2nd and Wednesday, April 6.  The third exam will be at the official time and date for the final: Wednesday, May 11th, 8:00-10:00 am.  It will focus on material from the last third of the semester and will not be cumulative.

Exams from previous semesters are available from the course web site.  If you want to do well in the course it's very important to do some of them for practice before the exams.  Each semester's exams are written with the expectation that people have done some of the old ones. 

In previous years, the topics covered in the course were the same but there were two exams rather than three. That will mean: (1) some topics from old midterms won't be on the exam 1 this semester and (2) exam 2 will cover a mix of topics formerly on the midterm and the final.  As we get close to each exam, I'll explain which topics from old exams will be covered on that exam.

Weekly Exercises Outside Class

Weekly exercises will generally be handed out each Monday and collected a week later. Grading will be on a 5 point scale: 5 for excellent work, 4 for good, 3 for an honest attempt and 0 otherwise. They do not need to be typed but must be clearly organized, neatly written and not torn out of a spiral notebook. You'll need to do the exercises in order to do well on the exams. 

Working in groups: You may work on the exercises in groups of up to three students. When working in a group, please turn in a single set of answers for the group and be sure to list each member's name. 

Turning in the exercises: The exercises are collected at the beginning of class and an answer sheet is handed out right away.  Exercises will not be accepted after the answer is passed out with one exception: if you are late to class, turn in your exercise immediately when you arrive, before you sit down. 

Daily Exercises During Class

On most days there will be one or two "five minute" exercises during class.  They'll be graded on effort on a pass/fail basis. An honest attempt, even if it's wrong, will count as a pass; not turning in the exercise, or turning one that shows no real effort, will count as a fail.  Although the daily exercises will be scored only on effort for your semester grade, I'll also keep a record of whether your answers were correct or not.  At the end of the semester I'll give a prize to the person with the highest number of correct answers.


Working in groups is encouraged on weekly exercises but be sure to limit the group to no more than three students and list everyone on the answer you submit.

It should go without saying, however, that working in groups is absolutely prohibited on exams. Any form of cheating on an exam will result in a 0 for the exam, an F in the course, and the case being passed on to the College of Arts and Sciences for additional sanctions. 

To emphasize this point, here's the official SU statement on academic honesty: "Syracuse University students shall exhibit honesty in all academic endeavors. Cheating in any form is not tolerated, nor is assisting another person to cheat. The submission of any work by a student is taken as a guarantee that the thoughts and expressions in it are the student's own except when properly credited to another. Violations of this principle include: giving or receiving aid in an exam or where otherwise prohibited, fraud, plagiarism, the falsification or forgery of any record, or any other deceptive act in connection with academic work. Plagiarism is the representation of another's words, ideas, programs, formulae, opinions, or other products of work as one's own either overtly or by failing to attribute them to their true source." (Section 1.0, University Rules and Regulations.)


Accommodations can be made in exams and assignments for students with disabilities. If you believe you need accommodations, please contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as soon as possible. ODS will help you with the University procedure for arranging appropriate accommodations for all of your classes.

Religious Observances

Under SU’s religious observances policy, classes meet at their regularly scheduled times on religious holidays. However, you have an opportunity to make up any examination, study, or work requirements that may be missed due to a religious observance as long as you notify your instructors before the end of the second week of classes. To make the process as easy as possible, an online notification system is available through MySlice/Student Services/Enrollment/My Religious Observances from the first day of class until the end of the second week of class.  If you prefer, however, you can notify me directly by email.  In either case, just check with me and we'll work out an arrangement that fits your schedule.

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Peter J Wilcoxen, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University
Revised 01/20/2016