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Too Much Coal, Too Little Oil

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  • Frederick van der Ploeg
  • Cees Withagen

Abstract

Optimal climate policy is studied. Coal, the abundant resource, contributes more CO2 per unit of energy than the exhaustible resource, oil. We characterize the optimal sequencing oil and coal and departures from the Herfindahl rule. "Preference reversal" can take place. If coal is very dirty compared to oil, there is no simultaneous use. Else, the optimal outcome starts with oil, before using oil and coal together, and finally coal on its own, The "laissez-faire" outcome uses coal forever or starts with oil until it is no longer profitable to do so and then switches to coal. The optimum requires a steeply rising CO2 tax during the oil-only phase and a less steeply rising CO2 tax during the subsequent oil-coal and coal-only phases to avoid the abrupt switch from oil to coal thus leaving a lot of oil in situ. Finally, we analyze the effects on the opitamal transition times and carbon tax of a carbon-free, albeit expensive backstop (solar or wind). Without a carbon tax, a prohibitive coal tax leads to less oil in situ, substantially delays introduction of renewable, and thus curbs global warming substantially. Subsidizing renewables to just below the cost of coal does not affect the oil-only phase. The gain in green welfare dominates the welfare cost of the subsidy if the subsidy gap is small and the global warming challenge is acute.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies, University of Oxford in its series OxCarre Working Papers with number 056.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:oxf:oxcrwp:056

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Keywords: Herfindahl rule; Hotelling rule; non-renewable resource; dirty backstop; coal; global warming; carbon tax; renewables; tax on coal; subsidy on renewables;

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References

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  1. Frederick Van der Ploeg & Cees A. Withagen, 2010. "Is There Really a Green Paradox?," CESifo Working Paper Series 2963, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Mikhail Golosov & John Hassler & Per Krusell & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2011. "Optimal Taxes on Fossil Fuel in General Equilibrium," NBER Working Papers 17348, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Kemp, Murray C & Long, Ngo Van, 1980. "On Two Folk Theorems Concerning the Extraction of Exhaustible Resources," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(3), pages 663-73, April.
  4. Ulph, Alistair & Ulph, David, 1994. "The Optimal Time Path of a Carbon Tax," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(0), pages 857-68, Supplemen.
  5. Hoel, Michael & Kverndokk, Snorre, 1996. "Depletion of fossil fuels and the impacts of global warming," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 115-136, June.
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  7. Chakravorty, Ujjayant & Krulce, Darrell L, 1994. "Heterogeneous Demand and Order of Resource Extraction," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(6), pages 1445-52, November.
  8. Acemoglu, Daron & Aghion, Philippe & Bursztyn, Leonardo & Hemous, David, 2011. "The Environment and Directed Technical Change," CEPR Discussion Papers 8660, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Hans-Werner Sinn, 2008. "Public policies against global warming: a supply side approach," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 15(4), pages 360-394, August.
  10. Thomas Eichner & Rüdiger Pethig, 2009. "Carbon leakage, the green paradox and perfect future markets," Volkswirtschaftliche Diskussionsbeiträge 136-09, Universität Siegen, Fakultät Wirtschaftswissenschaften, Wirtschaftsinformatik und Wirtschaftsrecht.
  11. Groth, Christian & Schou, Poul, 2007. "Growth and non-renewable resources: The different roles of capital and resource taxes," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 80-98, January.
  12. Gerard Gaudet & Michel Moreaux & Stephen W. Salant, 2001. "Intertemporal Depletion of Resource Sites by Spatially Distributed Users," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 1149-1159, September.
  13. Farzin, Y H & Tahvonen, O, 1996. "Global Carbon Cycle and the Optimal Time Path of a Carbon Tax," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 48(4), pages 515-36, October.
  14. Frederick van der Ploeg & Cees Withagen, 2010. "Growth and the Optimal Carbon Tax: When to switch from exhaustible resources to renewables?," OxCarre Working Papers 055, Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies, University of Oxford.
  15. Olli Tahvonen, 1997. "Fossil Fuels, Stock Externalities, and Backstop Technology," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 30(4), pages 855-74, November.
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