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Energy Efficiency Versus Human Lives

The controversy over the cost of government regulation has led to an even more fundamental policy dispute. Those concerned about the cost of rules concerning safety, environment, health and so on (which are regularly spun out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and their kin) generally seek to test the costs of these regulations against their benefits. Will the proposed rule, they ask, reduce the incidence of some disease or hazard sufficiently to be "worth" doing? Will the benefits to society, measured in dollar value of saved lives and lowered health and other costs, at least equal the costs of implementing the rule? Needless to say, the debate over how to measure many of the variables, especially the value of human life, is often heated.But those arguments are trivial compared with disputes between advocates of applying some cost-benefit test and those morally repelled by the procedure. Arguing that human lives and health cannot be valued in dollars, these groups most prominently, the Naderites-contend that better highway safety, cleaner air and water, safer working environments, and the like are absolute goods.

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Energy Specializations: Energy Efficiency

JEL Codes: Q51: Valuation of Environmental Effects, Q52: Pollution Control Adoption and Costs; Distributional Effects; Employment Effects, Q28: Renewable Resources and Conservation: Government Policy, Q21: Renewable Resources and Conservation: Demand and Supply; Prices, Q41: Energy: Demand and Supply; Prices, Q48: Energy: Government Policy

Keywords: Energy efficiency, Energy policy

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol1-No4-6

Published in Volume 1, Number 4 of the bi-monthly journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.


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