TACOMA, Wash. - Months before the B.P. oil rig disaster,
a Tacoma group was working in the Gulf Coast region to determine the
potential financial impact of restoring the Mississippi River Delta. Earth
did a similar study of Puget Sound in 2008.
The group's executive director, economist David Batker, says they
evaluated water supply, food production, flood protection, recreational
value and other characteristics of the environment as goods and
services, and put price tags on them that governments and businesses
"What's important here is that we've never looked at the Puget Sound
basin, or other natural systems, for the full economic value they
provide to us. By treating them as economic assets, we realize it's
worth an investment - a big investment."
Even without the oil spill, the Delta was in bad shape, says Batker.
Hurricanes and oil pipelines have degraded the wetlands that provide
flood control and wildlife habitat. The costs of restoration are high,
however, and it makes sense to know if they're worth it.
"What we calculated as the net benefit of restoration, large-scale
restoration in the Mississippi Delta would be $62 billion. That's
important because it justifies both federal and state funding for
The Earth Economics
report concludes that the total value of
the Mississippi Delta and its assets is at least $330 billion, which is
more than the total company value of B.P. Batker says the lesson for
industry may be that ignoring environmental consequences can be just as
devastating to a company's bottom line as financial mismanagement.
The report, "Gaining Ground," is online at www.eartheconomics.org