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US Household Support for Non-Fossil Fuel Based Energy R and D: Accounting for Uncertainty, News Media Coverage and Possible Nuclear “Poison Pill” Effects

Hui Li, Robert P. Berrens, Hank C. Jenkins-Smith, Carol L. Silva


Public preferences across the mix of non-fossil fuel-based energy research and development (R and D) options, including a possible development path with increased nuclear energy, are likely to be complex. Preferences may reflect information (media coverage) and proximity effects (e.g. to nuclear clean-up sites), and are potentially fraught with uncertainty. To explore these issues, we use a three-year contingent valuation survey (telephone and Internet) from 2006 to 2008 using an advisory referendum for a National Energy Research and Development Fund to estimate annual US household willingness to pay (WTP). Objectives of this analysis include: (i) combining survey data with extensive secondary information sources to explore news media coverage, and proximity effects of distance to the nearest nuclear clean-up site, and (ii) improving WTP modelling via a preference simulation approach (PSA) to a follow-up uncertainty question. Results indicate the presence of a small nuclear “poison pill” effect overall, which decays as distance from a nuclear clean-up site increases. No effect is found for an index of recent energy-related news media coverage. Finally, improved incorporation of uncertainty using PSA produces conservative WTP estimates with much tighter confidence intervals.


contingent valuation, energy research and development, nuclear energy, preference uncertainty.

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