Allen V. Kneese


Honorary Degree (1987)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John William Ryan


A renowned international authority in the field of environmental economics, Allen V. Kneese initiated the development of contemporary economic policy in relation to the environment and natural resources. His research and analysis have contributed significantly to the assessment of pressing questions concerning the management of finite natural resources and the disposal of radioactive wastes, and the innovative methods that he developed for federal control of environmental pollution provide the basis for governmental policies in the United States and Western Europe.

Dr. Kneese received the B.A. from Southwest Texas State University in 1951, the M.A. from the University of Colorado in 1953, and the Ph.D. in economics from Indiana University in 1956. He was assistant professor of economics at the University of New Mexico for two years before joining the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in 1958 as research associate. From 1961 to 1963 Dr. Kneese served as research economist for Resources for the Future, and in subsequent years was also director of the Water Resources Program and the Quality of the Environment Division before receiving in 1978 his current appointment as senior fellow of the Quality of the Environment Division. He has held visiting professorships at Stanford University, the University of New Mexico, and the University of California-Berkeley, and from 1974 to 1979 was professor of economics at the University of New Mexico.

Allen Kneese was one of very few scholars during the early 1960s to apply economic theory rigorously to the problems of commonly held environmental resources. He was also one of the first economists to take the time to understand biological processes to see what they implied in economic terms. Amidst the rather unfocused explosion of environmental concerns in the late 1960s and early 1970s, his work provided a sound analytical basis for looking at environmental issues. The expansion of the fields of theoretical and applied environmental economics is in a large degree the outcome of Dr. Kneese's contributions as scholar, analyst, educator, and policy adviser. He very early articulated the social need to contrive economies of quality air and water and developed the concept of payments for pollution as an instrument for inducing such economies. Over the past twenty-five years, he has brought a variety of building blocks to the construction and refinement of environmental economic theory: environmental waste input-output tables, computer modeling, ethical complexities of valuing the benefits in a cost-benefit analysis of environmental resources, and, perhaps most complex of all, the ambiguities inherent in the "economic" valuing of quality of life and nature's heritage.

He has been prolific in assembling data and testing theory in the context of practical problems. Through this combination of theory and empirical analysis, together with his perceptive understanding of policy-making institutions, Dr. Kneese has had an important impact on federal and state legislation and its implementation. He has contributed significantly, also, to the question of the long-term risk assessments that society must make in dealing with the disposal of radioactive wastes, and has been active in moving forward the frontier of international applied research on the economics of exhaustible natural resources.

In the course of his administration at Resources for the Future, Dr. Kneese has supported a long succession of outstanding research programs and individual scholar grants. These have underscored the leadership of the organization in furthering environmental research, public knowledge, and governmental policy. Dr. Kneese is the author or contributing author of more than sixty books and numerous articles, many of which have been widely translated, and is a consultant to state and national governments and organizations in this country and abroad. His work has strongly influenced the thought of economists in governmental, scholarly, and academic circles. Environmental economics, in the form that he has been so instrumental in shaping, is now taught in most Western universities. His achievements have been recognized by membership in numerous honorary and professional organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Economic Association, the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Science Foundation Advisory Committee on Policy Research and Analysis.

In focusing diverse environmental concerns into a coherent body of knowledge and incorporating that knowledge into economic theory, Allen V. Kneese has made contributions that have lasting implications for a world in which environmental and economic issues can no longer with impunity be confined within national frontiers.