Are We Overstating the Economic Costs of Environmental Protection?
Reported expenditures for environmental protection in the U.S. are estimated to exceed $150 billion annually or about 2% of GDP. This estimate is often used as an assessment of the burden of current regulatory efforts and a standard against which the associated benefits are measured. This makes it a key statistic in the debate surrounding both current and future environmental regulation. Little is known, however, about how well reported expenditures relate to true economic cost. True economic cost depends on whether reported environmental expenditures generate incidental savings, involve uncounted burdens, or accurately reflect the total cost of environmental protection. This paper explores the relationship between reported expenditures and economic cost in a number of major manufacturing industries. Previous research has suggested that an incremental $1 of reported environmental expenditures increases total production costs by anywhere from $1 to $12, i.e., increases in reported costs probably understate the actual increase in economic cost. Surprisingly, our results suggest the reverse, that increases in reported costs may overstate the actual increase in economic cost. Our results are based a large plant-level data set for eleven four-digit SIC industries. We employ a cost-function modeling approach that involves three basic steps. First, we treat real environmental expenditures as a second output of the plant, reflecting perceived environmental abatement efforts. Second, we model the joint production of conventional output and environmental effort as a cost-minimization problem. Third, we calculate the effect of an incremental dollar of reported environmental expenditures at the plant, industry, and manufacturing sector levels. Our approach differs from previous work with similar data by considering a large number of industries, using a cost-function modeling approach, and paying particular attention to plant-specific effects. Our preferred, fixed-effects model obtains an aggregate estimate of thirteen cents in increased costs for every dollar of reported incremental pollution control expenditures, with a standard error of sixty-one cents. This single estimate, however, conceals the wide range of values observed at the industry and plant level. We also find that estimates using an alternative, random-effects model are uniformly higher. Although the higher, random-effects estimates are more consistent with previous work, we believe they are biased by omitted variables characterizing differences among plants. While further research is needed, our results suggest that previous estimates of the economic cost associated with environmental expenditures have been biased upward and that the possibility of overstatement is quite real. Key words: environmental costs, fixed-effects, translog cost model
|Date of creation:||May 1997|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Phone: (301) 763-6460
Fax: (301) 763-5935
Web page: http://www.census.gov/ces
More information through EDIRC
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Mary E. Deily & Wayne B. Gray, 1989.
"Enforcement of pollution regulations in a declining industry,"
8912, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
- 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.
- Simpson, R. David & Bradford, Robert III, 1996. "Taxing Variable Cost: Environmental Regulation as Industrial Policy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 282-300, May.
- Diewert, Walter E & Wales, Terence J, 1987.
"Flexible Functional Forms and Global Curvature Conditions,"
Econometric Society, vol. 55(1), pages 43-68, January.
- W. Erwin Diewert & T.J. Wales, 1989. "Flexible Functional Forms and Global Curvature Conditions," NBER Technical Working Papers 0040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- 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.
- Mundlak, Yair, 1978. "On the Pooling of Time Series and Cross Section Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 69-85, January.
- Timothy J. Bartik, 2010.
"Small Business Start-Ups in the United States: Estimates of the Effects of Characteristics of States,"
Book chapters authored by Upjohn Institute researchers,
in: Zolton Acs (ed.), Entrepreneurship and regional Development, pages 155-169
W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
- Timothy J. Bartik, 2002. "Small Business Start-Ups in the United States: Estimates of the Effects of Characteristics of States," Book chapters authored by Upjohn Institute researchers, in: Norris F. Krueger (ed.), Entrepreneurship: Critical Perspectives on Business and Management, volume 0, pages 191-210 W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
- Timothy J. Bartik, . "Small Business Start-Ups in the United States: Estimates of the Effects of Characteristics of States," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles tjb1989sej, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
- Jorgenson, D.W., 1992. "Tax Reform and the Cost of Capital : An International Comparison," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1621, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
- Gruenspecht, Howard K, 1982. "Differentiated Regulation: The Case of Auto Emissions Standards," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(2), pages 328-31, May.
- Hazilla, Michael & Kopp, Raymond J, 1990. "Social Cost of Environmental Quality Regulations: A General Equilibrium Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(4), pages 853-73, August.
- Barbera, Anthony J. & McConnell, Virginia D., 1990. "The impact of environmental regulations on industry productivity: Direct and indirect effects," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 50-65, January.
- Virginia D. McConnell & Robert M. Schwab, 1990. "The Impact of Environmental Regulation on Industry Location Decisions: The Motor Vehicle Industry," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 66(1), pages 67-81.
- Levinson, Arik, 1996. "Environmental regulations and manufacturers' location choices: Evidence from the Census of Manufactures," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1-2), pages 5-29, October.
- Timothy J. Bartik, 2002. "The Effects of Environmental Regulation on Business Location in the United States," Book chapters authored by Upjohn Institute researchers, in: Wayne B. Gray (ed.), Economic Costs and Consequences of Environmental Regulation, pages 129-151 W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
- Wayne B Gray & Ronald J Shadbegian, 1994.
"Pollution Abatement Costs, Regulation And Plant-Level Productivity,"
94-14, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
- Wayne B. Gray & Ronald J. Shadbegian, 1995. "Pollution Abatement Costs, Regulation, and Plant-Level Productivity," NBER Working Papers 4994, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Revesz, Richard L. & Stavins, Robert N., 2007. "Environmental Law," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier.
- Ulph, A., 1994. "Environmental policy and international trade: a survey of recent economic analysis," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 9423, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
- Bailey, Elizabeth E & Friedlaender, Ann F, 1982. "Market Structure and Multiproduct Industries," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 20(3), pages 1024-48, September.
- Nelson, Randy A & Tietenberg, Tom & Donihue, Michael R, 1993. "Differential Environmental Regulation: Effects on Electric Utility Capital Turnover and Emissions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 75(2), pages 368-73, May.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:97-12. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Fariha Kamal)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.