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Once subsidies dry up, wind farm developments are being scavenged for useful parts, then abandoned and left to decay and leak toxic chemicals into the surrounding environment.

Unintended consequences: and Cumulative Impacts By: Jason Hayes, American Coal Council

In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them. – Fredric Bastiat 1


astiat’s unforeseen effects are examples of what is often described as “unintended consequences” and held out as reminders that we cannot always have complete control over complex systems. We cannot always foresee all potential outcomes of a management option. “Cumulative impacts” also play a role in choosing management options. Over time, impacts of management actions can add together and, if the impacts are allowed to american coal council

compound, they can have a greater influence – for good or ill – than the sum of those individual impacts. Both concepts have been widely applied in the area of environmental management to describe potentially negative outcomes of human use of the natural environment. However, those concepts can also be 1 2

applied in the economic realm, and to the efforts of special interests and government to stop or severely curtail our use of energy. While initial intentions may be innocent, these actions are having unintended and cumulatively negative impacts on energy supply, generation capacity, energy prices, and job creation. Unintended Consequences are defined as, “any intervention in a complex system [that] may or may not have the intended result, but will inevitably create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes.”2 Three types of unintended consequence are generally recognized. 1) Positive outcome

Bastiat, F. (1850). What is Seen and What is not Seen. The Law of Unintended Consequences. (n.d.). In Wikipedia Retrieved March 15, 2010 from 15

Profile for American Coal Council

American Coal Issue 1 2010  

American Coal Issue 1 2010