this chapter examines practical issues that arise in constructing actual accounts based on available data and tools. As will be seen, the practical is likely to fall far short of the ideal.

Pollution Abatement and Control Expenditures

One particular entry in the environmental accounts—pollution abatement and control expenditures—has been the subject of detailed investigation by BEA for many years. These items are shown for 1987 in rows 5-12 of Table 4-1. The Bureau of the Census began collecting these data and BEA reporting them in 1972 (with some breaks in the series); these efforts were suspended in 1995 because of budget cuts. Reporting of these costs does not extend the accounts, but rather reorganizes the existing accounts to provide a better indication of the interaction between the environment and the economy.

The limitations of these data are well recognized and were discussed in Chapter 2. Many of the costs included in the data overstate the cost of pollution control, while other pollution-reducing costs are omitted because they involve changes in processes. There is also controversy about the extent to which stringent pollution control regulations may have a chilling effect on innovation and technological change. Finally, little thought has been given to the appropriate treatment of purchases of emission permits, which are likely to become a more important feature of environmental regulation in the future. Despite their limitations, however, data on pollution abatement are likely to be among the most precise of the data in the environmental accounts, and they have been extremely useful for understanding trends and levels in control costs and for examining how environmental programs have affected productivity. The panel finds that the data on pollution abatement expenditures are valuable and, as noted in the final section of this chapter, recommends that funds be provided to improve the design and recommence collecting these data.

Other Sectors of the Proposed Accounts

As reported by BEA, the quality of actual entries in published supplemental accounts for Phase II and III assets ranges from relatively good to conceptually defective.1 For Phase II assets, estimates within the category ''developed land" are described as "of uneven quality" (p. 45). According to BEA, agricultural land values are "relatively good and are based on U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates of farm real estate

1  

All quotations in this section are from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (1994a).



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