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When Does Regulation Distort Costs? Lessons from Fuel Procurement in US Electricity Generation

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  • Steve Cicala

Abstract

This paper evaluates changes in fuel procurement practices by coal and gas-fired power plants in the United States following state-level legislation that ended cost-of-service regulation of electricity generation. I find that deregulated plants substantially reduce the price paid for coal (but not gas) and tend to employ less capital-intensive sulfur abatement techniques relative to matched plants that were not subject to any regulatory change. Deregulation also led to a shift toward more productive coal mines. I show how these results lend support to theories of asymmetric information, capital bias, and regulatory capture as important sources of regulatory distortion. (JEL L51, L71, L94, L98, Q35, Q41, Q48)

Suggested Citation

  • Steve Cicala, 2015. "When Does Regulation Distort Costs? Lessons from Fuel Procurement in US Electricity Generation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(1), pages 411-444, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:105:y:2015:i:1:p:411-44
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20131377
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Guerriero, Carmine, 2013. "The political economy of incentive regulation: Theory and evidence from US states," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 91-107.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • L71 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Primary Products and Construction - - - Mining, Extraction, and Refining: Hydrocarbon Fuels
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities
    • L98 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Government Policy
    • Q35 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Hydrocarbon Resources
    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy

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