Natural Resource Economics
Natural resource use started receiving the attention of economists since the beginning of modern economics. Limits to natural resources were discussed using basic laws of physics. viz., laws of thermodynamics, which have been introduced in economics as 'material balance approach'. According to this principle, materials are not destroyed during consumption, but merely transformed from one state to another; from a more useful to less useful state. From this understanding, 'residuals' from production and consumption. If generated excessively, can grow beyond the assimilative capacity of the environment. The term 'scarcity' is modified to include limitations on the environmental system.
What is important to understand is that the question of 'resource scarcity' cannot be addressed completely by referring to physical quantities alone. Scarcity is an economic concept and can be fully observed only by addressing concepts like prices, Costs and rents. Thus an important question before us is, given the scarce natural resource, how we allocate them efficiently. We will analyze 'natural resources' in the same way as non-natural resources are organized in production or consumption activity and determine the conditions for efficient allocation of the resources. Subsequently, we would turn to the problems in allocation if decision making is left to the market. In this context, we delve into the nature of rights of ownership and analyze how this would affect optimal allocation.