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The Value of Green in Transportation Decisions


To address issues of climate change, information about greenhouse gas emissions is more and more often being presented to people. For example, labels and signs displaying pounds and kilograms of CO2 are showing up in trip planners, in car advertisements, and even in restaurant menus. This is being done under the assumption that the information about the environmental impacts of different alternatives will encourage more sustainable behavior. However, little is known about whether or not this strategy affects the choices people make. In order for people to change their behavior for the benefit of reduced emissions, they first need to place positive value on those reductions. This research aims to answer three questions regarding the efficacy of presenting people with this information: first, do people place significant value on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, second, can people consistently value a pound of CO2, and third, how does this value of green vary across the population? To answer these questions, five experiments were designed and conducted using discrete choice experiments, a framework typically used to investigate how people value reducing their travel time. UC Berkeley students and residents of the San Francisco Bay Area made stated and revealed preference transportation choices from a set of alternatives. With knowledge of the attributes of their chosen alternative as well as those of their available alternates, their choices were analyzed using logit, mixed logit, and hybrid choice models. The findings include that not only can people consistently interpret and place value on the pounds of CO2 associated with their transportation alternatives, but also that there exists a discrete distribution in the value of green. For all except one experiment, the best models indicate that while a majority of the population does not act as though they care about reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, there is a small group with a willingness to pay of $2.68 per pound of CO2.

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