Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



Oil spills on the world's oceans and waterways are a significant environmental threats. This Note explores some of the myriad reasons why the law--in both the United States and the international community--has failed adequately to address many of the reasons spills occur in the first instance.

Beginning with a brief history of various pollution control schemes enacted over the past few years, this Note focuses on why the current international legal regimes remain ineffective in combating oil pollution. In essence, this Note argues that the current laws fail because of textual deficiencies, a failure to address the external economic realities of the shipping industry, and a basic misconception that ex ante punishment of multi-billion-dollar corporate polluters is more effective than ex post pollution control via market-based control mechanisms.

This Note argues that the solution to oil pollution control rests in enacting market-based laws that allow for the free trading of pollution trading permits, such as those used with some success in the U.S. Clean Air Act amendments. Building on the writings of Ronald Coase, Lisa Heinzerling, and others, this Note argues that the application of law and economics methodology to oil pollution liability and control will yield more favorable results than the existing command-and-control structural paradigm.