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Emissions Trading in the Presence of Price-Regulated Polluting Firms: How Costly Are Free Allowances?

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  • Bruno Lanz and Sebastian Rausch

Abstract

We study whether to auction or to freely distribute emissions allowances when some firms participating in emissions trading are subject to price regulation. We show that free allowances allocated to price-regulated firms effectively act as a subsidy to output, distort consumer choices, and generally induce higher output and emissions by price-regulated firms. This provides a cost-effectiveness argument for an auction-based allocation of allowances (or equivalently an emissions tax). For real-world economies such as the Unites States, in which about 20 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions are generated by price-regulated electricity producers, our quantitative analysis suggests that free allowances increase economy-wide welfare costs of the policy by 40-80 percent relative to an auction. Given large disparities in regional welfare impacts, we show that the inefficiencies are mainly driven by the emissions intensity of electricity producers in regions with a high degree of price regulation.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruno Lanz and Sebastian Rausch, 2016. "Emissions Trading in the Presence of Price-Regulated Polluting Firms: How Costly Are Free Allowances?," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1).
  • Handle: RePEc:aen:journl:ej37-1-lanz
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    Cited by:

    1. Gordon, Hal & Burtraw, Dallas & Williams, Roberton, 2015. "A Microsimulation Model of the Distributional Impacts of Climate Policies," Discussion Papers dp-14-40, Resources For the Future.

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