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Benefit-Cost Analysis of Environmental Projects: A Plethora of Systematic Biases

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  • Philip E. Graves

Abstract

There are many reasons to suspect that benefit-cost analysis applied to environmental policies will result in policy decisions that will reject those environmental policies. The important question, of course, is whether those rejections are based on proper science. The present paper explores sources of bias in the methods used to evaluate environmental policy in the United States, although most of the arguments translate immediately to decision-making in other countries. There are some “big picture” considerations that have gone unrecognized, and there are numerous more minor, yet cumulatively important, technical details that point to potentially large biases against acceptance on benefit-cost grounds of environmental policies that have true marginal benefits greater than true marginal costs, both in net present value terms. It is hoped that the issues raised here will improve future conduct of benefit-cost analyses of environmental policies.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3144.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3144

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Related research

Keywords: benefit-cost analysis; environmental policy; decision making; choice behavior; public goods; willingness-to-pay; willingness-to-accept; precautionary principle; hedonic methods; sum of specific damages; health effects model; environmental perceptions;

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References

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  1. Paul R. Portney, 1994. "The Contingent Valuation Debate: Why Economists Should Care," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 3-17, Fall.
  2. Hahn Robert, 2010. "Designing Smarter Regulation with Improved Benefit-Cost Analysis," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-19, July.
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  4. Graves, Philip E., 2009. "A note on the valuation of collective goods: overlooked input market free riding for non-individually incrementable goods," MPRA Paper 19928, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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  7. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-48, December.
  8. Flores, Nicholas E. & Graves, Philip E., 2008. "Optimal public goods provision: implications of endogenizing the labor/leisure choice," MPRA Paper 19923, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Blomquist, Glenn C & Berger, Mark C & Hoehn, John P, 1988. "New Estimates of Quality of Life in Urban Areas," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(1), pages 89-107, March.
  10. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-61, November.
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  12. Hanemann, W Michael, 1991. "Willingness to Pay and Willingness to Accept: How Much Can They Differ?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(3), pages 635-47, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Philip E. Graves, 2011. "Appropriate Fiscal Policy over the Business Cycle: Proper Stimulus Policies Can Work," The IUP Journal of Governance and Public Policy, IUP Publications, IUP Publications, vol. 0(2), pages 26-32, June.

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