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Pollution abatement expenditures and plant-level productivity: A production function approach

  • Shadbegian, Ronald J.
  • Gray, Wayne B.

In this paper we investigate the impact of environmental regulation on productivity using a Cobb-Douglas production function framework. Estimating the effects of regulation on productivity can be done with a top-down approach using data for broad sectors of the economy, or a more disaggregated bottom-up approach. Our study follows a bottom-up approach using data from the U.S. paper, steel, and oil industries. We measure environmental regulation using plant-level information on pollution abatement expenditures, which allows us to distinguish between productive and abatement expenditures on each input. We use annual Census Bureau information (1979-1990) on output, labor, capital, and material inputs, and pollution abatement operating costs and capital expenditures for 68 pulp and paper mills, 55 oil refineries, and 27 steel mills. We find that pollution abatement inputs generally contribute little or nothing to output, especially when compared to their ‘productive’ equivalents. Adding an aggregate pollution abatement cost measure to a Cobb-Douglas production function, we find that a $1 increase in pollution abatement costs leads to an estimated productivity decline of $3.11, $1.80, and $5.98 in the paper, oil, and steel industries respectively. These findings imply substantial differences across industries in their sensitivity to pollution abatement costs, arguing for a bottom-up approach that can capture these differences. Further differentiating plants by their production technology, we find substantial differences in the impact of pollution abatement costs even within industries, with higher marginal costs at plants with more polluting technologies. Finally, in all three industries, plants concentrating on change-in-production-process abatement techniques have higher productivity than plants doing predominantly end-of-line abatement, but also seem to be more affected by pollution abatement operating costs. Overall, our results point to the importance using detailed

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

Volume (Year): 54 (2005)
Issue (Month): 2-3 (August)
Pages: 196-208

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:54:y:2005:i:2-3:p:196-208
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

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  1. Eli Berman & Linda T. M. Bui, 2001. "Environmental Regulation And Productivity: Evidence From Oil Refineries," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(3), pages 498-510, August.
  2. Nguyen, Sang V. & Kokkelenberg, Edward C., 1990. "Measuring Total Factor Productivity, Technical Change and the Rate of Returns to Research and Development," Working Papers 179215, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
  3. Barbera, Anthony J & McConnell, Virginia D, 1986. "Effects of Pollution Control on Industry Productivity: A Factor Demand Approach," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(2), pages 161-72, December.
  4. Wayne B. Gray & Ronald J. Shadbegian, 2001. "Plant Vintage, Technology, and Environmental Regulation," NCEE Working Paper Series 200104, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revised Nov 2001.
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  7. Zvi Griliches & Jacques Mairesse, 1995. "Production Functions: The Search for Identification," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1719, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  8. Michael E. Porter & Claas van der Linde, 1995. "Toward a New Conception of the Environment-Competitiveness Relationship," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 97-118, Fall.
  9. Gray, Wayne B, 1987. "The Cost of Regulation: OSHA, EPA and the Productivity Slowdown," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 998-1006, December.
  10. Lichtenberg, Frank R. & Siegel, Donald, 1990. "The effects of leveraged buyouts on productivity and related aspects of firm behavior," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 165-194, September.
  11. Mary L Streitwieser, 1996. "Evaluation And Use Of The Pollution Abatement Costs And Expenditures Survey Micro Data," Working Papers 96-1, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  12. Olley, G Steven & Pakes, Ariel, 1996. "The Dynamics of Productivity in the Telecommunications Equipment Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(6), pages 1263-97, November.
  13. Becker, Randy A., 2005. "Air pollution abatement costs under the Clean Air Act: evidence from the PACE survey," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 144-169, July.
  14. Satish Joshi & Ranjani Krishnan & Lester Lave, 2002. "Estimating the Hidden Costs of Environmental Regulation," Working Papers 02-10, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  15. Frank R. Lichtenberg & Donald Siegel, 1989. "The Impact of R&D Investment On Productivity - New Evidence Using Linked R&D-LRD Data," NBER Working Papers 2901, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Mary E. Deily & Wayne B. Gray, 1989. "Enforcement of pollution regulations in a declining industry," Working Paper 8912, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  17. Robert H Mcguckin & George A Pascoe, 1988. "The Longitudinal Research Database (LRD): Status And Research Possibilities," Working Papers 88-2, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  18. Fare, Rolf, et al, 1989. "Multilateral Productivity Comparisons When Some Outputs Are Undesirable: A Nonparametric Approach," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 71(1), pages 90-98, February.
  19. Viscusi, W Kip, 1983. "Frameworks for Analyzing the Effects of Risk and Environmental Regulations on Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 793-801, September.
  20. Karen Palmer & Wallace E. Oates & Paul R. Portney, 1995. "Tightening Environmental Standards: The Benefit-Cost or the No-Cost Paradigm?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 119-132, Fall.
  21. Gollop, Frank M & Roberts, Mark J, 1983. "Environmental Regulations and Productivity Growth: The Case of Fossil-Fueled Electric Power Generation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(4), pages 654-74, August.
  22. Randy A. Becker & J. Vernon Henderson, 1999. "Costs of Air Quality Regulation," NBER Working Papers 7308, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Randy A. Becker & J. Vernon Henderson, 2001. "Costs of Air Quality Regulation," NBER Chapters, in: Behavioral and Distributional Effects of Environmental Policy, pages 159-186 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Michael Greenstone, 2002. "The Impacts of Environmental Regulations on Industrial Activity: Evidence from the 1970 and 1977 Clean Air Act Amendments and the Census of Manufactures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1175-1219, December.
  24. Boyd, Gale A. & McClelland, John D., 1999. "The Impact of Environmental Constraints on Productivity Improvement in Integrated Paper Plants," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 121-142, September.
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