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Pollution Abatement Expenditures and Plant-Level Productivity: A Production Function Approach

  • Ronald Shadbegian
  • Wayne Gray

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, disaggregated analyses, even below the industry level, when trying to model the costs of forcing plants to reduce their emissions.

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File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/2003/CES-WP-03-16.pdf
File Function: First version, 2003
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Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 03-16.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:03-16
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  1. Zvi Griliches & Jacques Mairesse, 1995. "Production Functions: The Search for Identification," NBER Working Papers 5067, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Sang V Nguyen & Edward C Kokkelenberg, 1991. "Measuring Total Factor Productivity, Technical Change And The Rate Of Returns To Research And Development," Working Papers 91-3, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  7. 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.
  8. Eli Berman & Linda T.M. Bui, 1998. "Environmental Regulation and Productivity: Evidence from Oil Refineries," Papers 0091, Boston University - Industry Studies Programme.
  9. 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.
  10. Griliches, Zvi & Hausman, Jerry A., 1986. "Errors in variables in panel data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 93-118, February.
  11. Frank R Lichtenberg & Donald Siegel, 1989. "The Effects Of Leveraged Buyouts On Productivity And Related Aspects Of Firm Behavior," Working Papers 89-5, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  12. Deily, Mary E. & Gray, Wayne B., 1991. "Enforcement of pollution regulations in a declining industry," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 260-274, November.
  13. 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.
  14. Eric J. Bartelsman & Wayne Gray, 1996. "The NBER Manufacturing Productivity Database," NBER Technical Working Papers 0205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Wayne B Gray & Ronald J Shadbegian, 2001. "Plant Vintage, Technology, and Environmental Regulation," Working Papers 01-08, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  16. 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.
  17. Michael Greenstone, 1998. "The Impacts of Environmental Regulations on Industrial Activity: Evidence from the 1970 and 1977 Clean Air Act Amendments and the Census of Manufacturers," Working Papers 787, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. Randy Becker, 2001. "Air Pollution Abatement Costs Under the Clean Air Act: Evidence from the PACE Survey," Working Papers 01-12, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  23. 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.
  24. George S Olley & Ariel Pakes, 1992. "The Dynamics Of Productivity In The Telecommunications Equipment Industry," Working Papers 92-2, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
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