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Suggested Subsidies are Sub-optimal Unless Combined with an Output Tax

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  • Fullerton Don

    ()
    (University of Texas at Austin)

  • Mohr Robert D.

    ()
    (University of New Hampshire)

Abstract

Because of difficulties measuring pollution, many prior papers suggest a subsidy to some observable method of reducing pollution. We take three such papers as examples, and we extend each of them to show how welfare under the suggested subsidy can be increased by the addition of an output tax. While the suggested subsidy reduces damage per unit of output, it also decreases the firm's cost of production and the equilibrium break-even price. It might therefore increase output – unless combined with an output tax. While this general point has appeared in prior literature, it has been overlooked in specific applications. We illustrate the applicability of a tax-subsidy combination in three very different models of different environmental problems. Using one example, we show that a properly-constructed subsidy-tax combination is equivalent to a Pigovian tax. Another example is a computational model, extended here to show that the policy combination can yield a welfare gain that is more than three times the gain from using the subsidy alone. The third example is a theoretical model, used to show that the subsidy alone increases production and thus could increase total pollution. An additional output tax offsets this increase in production.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy.

Volume (Year): 2 (2003)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 1-22

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Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:contributions.2:y:2003:i:1:n:1

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References

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  1. Bovenberg, A.L. & Mooij, R.A. de, 1994. "Environmental levies and distortionary taxation," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-152985, Tilburg University.
  2. Sullivan, Arthur M., 1987. "Policy options for toxics disposal: Laissez-faire, subsidization, and enforcement," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 58-71, March.
  3. Deacon Robert T., 1995. "Assessing the Relationship between Government Policy and Deforestation," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 1-18, January.
  4. Stranlund, John K., 1997. "Public Technological Aid to Support Compliance to Environmental Standards," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 228-239, November.
  5. Fullerton Don & West Sarah E, 2010. "Tax and Subsidy Combinations for the Control of Car Pollution," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-33, February.
  6. Isaac Ehrlich, 1974. "Participation in Illegitimate Activities: An Economic Analysis," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 68-134 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Maia David & Bernard Sinclair-Desgagné, 2006. "Revisiting the Environmental Subsidy in the Presence of an Eco-Industry," Working Papers 2006/04, INRA, Economie Publique.
  2. Borger, Bruno De, 2011. "Optimal congestion taxes in a time allocation model," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 79-95, January.
  3. Stephen P. Holland, 2009. "Taxes and Trading versus Intensity Standards: Second-Best Environmental Policies with Incomplete Regulation (Leakage) or Market Power," NBER Working Papers 15262, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Mohr, Robert D., 2006. "Environmental performance standards and the adoption of technology," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 238-248, June.

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