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What Can We Learn from the Grand Policy Experiment? Lessons from SO2 Allowance Trading

  • Robert N. Stavins

The most ambitious application ever attempted of a market-based approach to environmental protection has been for the control of acid rain under the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990, which established a sulfur dioxide allowance trading program. This essay identifies lessons that can be learned from this grand experiment in economically oriented environmental policy. The author examines positive political economy lessons, asking why this system was adopted from acid-rain control in 1990, and he considers normative lessons that can be learned from the program's structure and performance, focusing on lessons for the design and implementation of future systems.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.12.3.69
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 12 (1998)
Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
Pages: 69-88

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:12:y:1998:i:3:p:69-88
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.12.3.69
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  1. Stavins Robert N., 1995. "Transaction Costs and Tradeable Permits," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 133-148, September.
  2. Conrad, Klaus & Kohn, Robert E, 1996. "The US market for SO2 permits : Policy implications of the low price and trading volume," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(12), pages 1051-1059, December.
  3. Parry, Ian W. H. & Williams, Roberton III & Goulder, Lawrence H., 1999. "When Can Carbon Abatement Policies Increase Welfare? The Fundamental Role of Distorted Factor Markets," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 52-84, January.
  4. Stavins, Robert & Keohane, Nathaniel & Revesz, Richard, 1997. "The Positive Political Economy of Instrument Choice in Environmental Policy," Discussion Papers dp-97-25, Resources For the Future.
  5. Don Fullerton & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 1997. "Environmental Controls, Scarcity Rents, and Pre-Existing Distortions," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 9703, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  6. Cansier, Dieter & Krumm, Raimund, 1997. "Air pollutant taxation: an empirical survey," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 59-70, October.
  7. JAY S. COGGINS & John R. Swinton, 1994. "The Price of Pollution: A Dual Approach to Valuing SO2 Allowances," Wisconsin-Madison Agricultural and Applied Economics Staff Papers 378, Wisconsin-Madison Agricultural and Applied Economics Department.
  8. Paul L. Joskow & Richard Schmalensee & Elizabeth M. Bailey, 1996. "Auction Design and the Market for Sulfur Dioxide Emissions," NBER Working Papers 5745, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Hahn, Robert W, 1989. "Economic Prescriptions for Environmental Problems: How the Patient Followed the Doctor's Orders," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 95-114, Spring.
  10. Stavins, Robert N., 1996. "Correlated Uncertainty and Policy Instrument Choice," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 218-232, March.
  11. Milliman, Scott R. & Prince, Raymond, 1989. "Firm incentives to promote technological change in pollution control," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 247-265, November.
  12. Adam Jaffe & Richard Newell & Robert Stavins, 2002. "Environmental Policy and Technological Change," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 22(1), pages 41-70, June.
  13. Montgomery, W. David, 1972. "Markets in licenses and efficient pollution control programs," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 395-418, December.
  14. McCubbins, Mathew D & Noll, Roger G & Weingast, Barry R, 1987. "Administrative Procedures as Instruments of Political Control," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 243-77, Fall.
  15. Lawrence H. Goulder & Ian W.H. Parry & Dallas Burtraw, 1997. "Revenue-Raising versus Other Approaches to Environmental Protection: The Critical Significance of Preexisting Tax Distortions," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 28(4), pages 708-731, Winter.
  16. 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.
  17. Thomas A. Barthold, 1994. "Issues in the Design of Environmental Excise Taxes," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 133-151, Winter.
  18. Jaffe Adam B. & Stavins Robert N., 1995. "Dynamic Incentives of Environmental Regulations: The Effects of Alternative Policy Instruments on Technology Diffusion," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages S43-S63, November.
  19. Renee Rico, 1995. "The U.S. allowance trading system for sulfur dioxide: An update on market experience," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 5(2), pages 115-129, March.
  20. Doucet, Joseph A. & Strauss, Todd, 1994. "On the bundling of coal and sulfur dioxide emissions allowances," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(9), pages 764-770, September.
  21. Joskow, Paul L & Schmalensee, Richard, 1998. "The Political Economy of Market-Based Environmental Policy: The U.S. Acid Rain Program," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(1), pages 37-83, April.
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