Press Release

How Your Environmental Preferences Can Affect Policy

Feb 11, 2016

Every day, Americans make consumer choices based on their environmental preferences: Do you buy a smaller but more fuel-efficient car? Do you check the energy savings labels on new kitchen appliances before a purchase? Have you ever had your home “audited” for energy savings? And do you do these things because of a conviction about contributing to the public good, or because of a rebate offer or tax break, or some combination of reasons?

Understanding environmental and energy preferences is important to policymakers—but understanding such preferences can be particularly challenging, as Resources for the Future Fellow Casey J. Wichman makes clear in his new blog post, Regulating Selfish Environmentalism. The piece is based on his related discussion paper,Incentives, Green Preferences, and Private Provision of Impure Public Goods, out today.

Wichman explains that while it is important for environmental policymakers to be able to identify public environmental and energy preferences, it is a complex and challenging undertaking in which an array of motives can contribute to public choices. For example, some of those choices may be based on environmental convictions.  Some may be due to saving money. And the real motive for some choices may be concealed (e.g., preferring savings of a fuel-efficient car rather than its full environmental bona fides).

Wichman writes that the bigger picture is that “we’re at a crossroads for environmental policy, with landmark consensus in global climate policy. . . . [G]aining a better understanding of individual behavior is a critical component of effective large-scale environmental policy design.”

Read the full blog post: Regulating Selfish Environmentalism.

Read the discussion paper: Incentives, Green Preferences, and Private Provision of Impure Public Goods.

Resources for the Future does not take intitutional positions. Please attribute any findings to the authors or the research itself. For example, use "According to research from RFF …" rather than "According to RFF …".

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Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, DC, that conducts rigorous economic research and analysis to improve environmental and natural resource policy.