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

  • Philip E. Graves

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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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2010/wp-cesifo-2010-08/cesifo1_wp3144.pdf
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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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  1. Roback, Jennifer, 1982. "Wages, Rents, and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1257-78, December.
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  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Charles R. Plott & Kathryn Zeiler, 2007. "Exchange Asymmetries Incorrectly Interpreted as Evidence of Endowment Effect Theory and Prospect Theory?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(4), pages 1449-1466, September.
  11. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-61, November.
  12. 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, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-48, December.
  13. Kuminoff, Nicolai V., 2008. "Recovering Preferences from a Dual-Market Locational Equilibrium," 2008 Conference (52nd), February 5-8, 2008, Canberra, Australia 5989, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
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