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Sulfur Dioxide Control by Electric Utilities: What Are the Gains from Trade?

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  • Curtis Carlson
  • Dallas Burtraw
  • Maureen Cropper
  • Karen L. Palmer

Abstract

Title IV of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) established a market for transferable sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission allowances among electric utilities. This market offers firms facing high marginal abatement costs the opportunity to purchase the right to emit SO2 from firms with lower costs, and this is expected to yield cost savings compared to a command-and-control approach to environmental regulation. This paper uses econometrically estimated marginal abatement cost functions for power plants affected by Title IV of the CAAA to evaluate the performance of the SO2 allowance market. Specifically, we investigate whether the much-heralded fall in the cost of abating SO2, compared to original estimates, can be attributed to allowance trading. We demonstrate that, for plants that use low-sulfur coal to reduce SO2 emissions, technical change and the fall in prices of low-sulfur coal have lowered marginal abatement cost curves by over 50 percent since 1985. The flexibility to take advantage of these changes is the main source of cost reductions, rather than trading per se. In the long run, allowance trading may achieve cost savings of $700$800 million per year compared to an "enlightened" command-and-control program characterized by a uniform emission rate standard. The cost savings would be twice as great if the alternative to trading were forced scrubbing. However, a comparison of potential cost savings in 1995 and 1996 with modeled costs of actual emissions suggests that most trading gains were unrealized in the first two years of the program.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 108 (2000)
Issue (Month): 6 (December)
Pages: 1292-1326

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:108:y:2000:i:6:p:1292-1326

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References

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  1. Burtraw, Dallas & Lile, Ron, 1998. "State-Level Policies and Regulatory Guidance for Compliance in the Early Years of the SO2 Emission Allowance Trading Program," Discussion Papers dp-98-35, Resources For the Future.
  2. Dallas Burtraw & Alan Krupnick & Erin Mansur & David Austin & Deirdre Farrell, 1998. "Costs And Benefits Of Reducing Air Pollutants Related To Acid Rain," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 16(4), pages 379-400, October.
  3. Charles D. Kolstad & Michelle H. L. Turnovsky, 1998. "Cost Functions And Nonlinear Prices: Estimating A Technology With Quality-Differentiated Inputs," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(3), pages 444-453, August.
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  5. Bohi, Douglas R. & Burtraw, Dallas, 1992. "Utility investment behavior and the emission trading market," Resources and Energy, Elsevier, vol. 14(1-2), pages 129-153, April.
  6. Gollop, Frank M & Roberts, Mark J, 1985. "Cost-minimizing Regulation of Sulfur Emissions: Regional Gains in Electric Power," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(1), pages 81-90, February.
  7. Burtraw, Dallas, 1995. "Cost Savings sans Allowance Trades? Evaluating the SO2 Emission Trading Program to Date," Discussion Papers dp-95-30-rev, Resources For the Future.
  8. Don Fullerton & Gilbert Metcalf, 1997. "Environmental Controls, Scarcity Rents, and Pre-Existing Distortions," NBER Working Papers 6091, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Gollop, Frank M & Roberts, Mark J, 1983. "Environmental Regulations and Productivity Growth: The Case of Fossil-Fueled Electric Power Generation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(4), pages 654-74, August.
  10. Morgenstern, Richard & Harrington, Winston & Nelson, Per-Kristian, 1999. "On the Accuracy of Regulatory Cost Estimates," Discussion Papers dp-99-18, Resources For the Future.
  11. Winebrake, James J. & Farrell, Alexander E. & Bernstein, Mark A., 1995. "The clean air act's sulfur dioxide emissions market: Estimating the costs of regulatory and legislative intervention," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 239-260, November.
  12. Burtraw, Dallas & Krupnick, Alan & Austin, David & Farrell, Deirdre & Mansur, Erin, 1997. "The Costs and Benefits of Reducing Acid Rain," Discussion Papers dp-97-31-rev, Resources For the Future.
  13. Ellerman, A. Denny & Montero, Juan-Pablo, 1998. "The Declining Trend in Sulfur Dioxide Emissions: Implications for Allowance Prices," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 26-45, July.
  14. Lawrence H. Goulder & Ian W. H. Parry & Dallas Burtraw, 1996. "Revenue-Raising vs. Other Approaches to Environmental Protection: The Critical Significance of Pre-Existing Tax Distortions," NBER Working Papers 5641, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Fullerton, Don & McDermott, Shaun P. & Caulkins, Jonathan P., 1997. "Sulfur Dioxide Compliance of a Regulated Utility," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 32-53, September.
  16. Bohi, Douglas R., 1994. "Utilities and state regulators are failing to take advantage of emission allowance trading," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 20-27, March.
  17. Rubin, Jonathan D., 1996. "A Model of Intertemporal Emission Trading, Banking, and Borrowing," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 269-286, November.
  18. Denny Ellerman, 1998. "Note on The Seemingly Indefinite Extension of Power Plant Lives, A Panel Contribution," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2).
  19. Atkinson, Scott E & Kerkvliet, Joe, 1989. "Dual Measures of Monopoly and Monopsony Power: An Application to Regulated Electric Utilities," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 71(2), pages 250-57, May.
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  1. The Promise and Problems of Pricing Carbon
    by Robert Stavins in An Economic View of the Environment on 2011-10-30 18:22:34
  2. The Promise and Problems of Pricing Carbon
    by Robert Stavins in An Economic View of the Environment on 2011-10-30 18:22:34

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  1. > Environmental and Natural Resource Economics > Environmental Economics > Economics of acidification
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