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Environmental Benefit-Cost Analysis and the National Accounts

Nicholas Muller

Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, 2018, vol. 9, issue 1, 27-66

Abstract: This paper demonstrates a new connection between benefit-cost analysis (BCA) and the national income and product accounts. The article computes an augmented measure of output, which is defined as gross domestic product (GDP) less environmental pollution damage. Environmental policy BCA is incorporated directly into the adjusted measure of output in two ways. In a particular time period, damages from pollution emissions are deducted from market GDP in a standard with-and-without policy comparison. Second, secular changes in damages, output (GDP), and correspondingly, in the adjusted measure of output are employed to estimate augmented rates of growth. Comparison to a no-policy counterfactual then yields the effect of the policy on the augmented measure of environmentally adjusted value added (EVA) growth. The empirical results suggest that, in the 30 states that adopted flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) technology between 2005 and 2011, augmented output grew 0.12% more quickly than in a no-scrub counterfactual. Augmented output growth in four states was at least 0.20% more rapid because of the installation of scrubbers. The paper reports that benefits-per-capita from FGD were mildly progressive and that counties with relatively large African American populations incur large benefits from FGD installation.

Date: 2018
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