On Balance

 November 28, 2018

 By Brad Wong

 If you had billions of dollars to make the world a better place, and could spend it however you wanted, how would you maximize your impact? This is not just a thought experiment, but a daily concern for the world’s governments, philanthropists, and multilateral institutions. Since 2004, Copenhagen Consensus has been using cost-benefit analysis to help decision makers identify highly effective interventions. While most cost-benefit analysis seeks the best solution for a single problem, Copenhagen Consensus takes a wider view, looking across all major domains for policies that improve social welfare.

 November 14, 2018

 By Thomas J. Kniesner and Galib Rustamov 

 Nudges are all the rage in behavioral economics and public policy applications around the world because of their potential for doing good at little or no cost. Economists, including Kip Viscusi (2018), have begun examining previously unexplored sides of nudges including some involving energy consumption. An often employed nudge in the area of conserving energy and reducing pollution is the home energy report, where after a home energy survey a household receives a message, usually monthly, that compares its energy use to that of neighbors and suggests ways to reduce electric or gas use and, in turn, its carbon footprint. Each month the consuming unit can also see how its energy use compares to its own past usage too. The subtleties of the benefits of home energy surveys and home energy reports is the subject of a recent article, "Differential and Distributional Effects of Energy Efficiency Surveys: Evidence from Electricity Consumption," available open access at the Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis.

 October 24, 2018

 By Emile Quinet

 Cambridge Elements has created a series on Public Economics, edited by Robin Boadway, Frank Cowell and Massimo Florio. This is part of a major project by Cambridge University Press, which is intended to provide peer-reviewed analytical surveys and frontier topics in all the disciplines. We happily note that the first published “Element” in this series is Cost Benefit Analysis, by Per-Olov Johansson and Bengt Kriström (2018). Cost-Benefit Analysis is available as a free download for a limited time, and is for sale (relatively inexpensively) in print at Cambridge and at online booksellers, such as Barnes and Noble. The Element is just above eighty pages (plus a short technical annex and a long list of references).

 October 10, 2018

 By Mark Febrizio

 On September 24, 2018, experts gathered at the George Washington University (GW) to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866Regulatory Planning and Review—and discuss the implications of its provisions and future prospects. The Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis (SBCA) cosponsored the event with the GW Regulatory Studies Center, ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, and the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. (Additional information on the event, including commentaries by the speakers, and videos when they become available, are posted on the GW website.)

 September 12, 2018

 By Clark Nardinelli

 A new article in the Fall Issue of the Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis (JBCA),  “Some Pitfalls of Practical Benefit-Cost Analysis,”  describes common pitfalls that well-meaning analysts fall into. Over the past 23 years I have worked on and supervised hundreds of benefit-cost analyses. Most of these analyses have dealt with public health regulations proposed by the Food and Drug Administration, although on occasion I have reviewed analyses from other government agencies and academia. I’ve seen these pitfalls occur many times and at one time or another I’ve been guilty of most of them.

August 28, 2018

By Clark Nardinelli and Susan Dudley

Next month marks the 25th anniversary of Executive Order (EO) 12866, which requires U.S. federal agencies, “in deciding whether and how to regulate, [to] assess all costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives, including the alternative of not regulating.” It further states that, “in choosing among alternative regulatory approaches, agencies should select those approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public health and safety, and other advantages; distributive impacts; and equity), unless a statute requires another regulatory approach.”

August 14, 2018

By Sonja Kolstoe

Gothenburg, Sweden hosted the 2018 World Congress for Environmental and Resource Economists, which met from June 25-29, 2018. The five-day conference was held at the School of Business, Economics, and Law, which is part of the University of Gothenburg. The conference was made possible by the joint effort of three major economics associations: the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (AERE), the East Asian AERE (EAAERE), and the European AERE (EAERE).

August 1, 2018 

By Joseph Cordes 

As the feasibility of using benefit-cost analysis (BCA) as a practical tool of policy analysis has increased, so too has the need for materials to aid those of us who are called upon to teach BCA. Teaching Benefit-Cost Analysis: Tools of the Trade, edited by Scott Farrow (Professor of Economics, University of Maryland, Baltimore County), is a distinctive and welcome addition to the collection of such materials.

July 13, 2018 

By Art Fraas

Under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was required to establish standards limiting air toxics emissions from industrial plants. An article in the latest issue of the Journal of Benefit Cost Analysis  (JBCA), “Retrospective Analyses Are Hard: A Cautionary Tale from EPA's Air Toxics Regulations,” takes a retrospective look at 5 of the largest rules issued by EPA in the initial round of air toxics rulemaking over the period 1995 to 2000. For the rules examined, our estimates suggest mixed results, in terms of the reductions in emissions that were achieved. However, our efforts during the project also reinforce the difficulty of obtaining adequate plant emissions data, even where there is an established database--in this case, the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI).

June 27, 2018

By Deborah Aiken

One of the reasons I look forward each year to the annual conference of the Society for Benefit Cost Analysis is connecting with fellow economists who have chosen careers in my specialty, which has evolved to be regulatory policy and analysis. I enjoy sharing and hearing everyone’s war stories and appreciate the advice I receive from those who have “been there, done that” and hope that I add value when I offer the same to new economists working to influence the policy process.

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