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Autonomous efficiency improvement or income elasticity of energy demand: Does it matter?

  • Webster, Mort
  • Paltsev, Sergey
  • Reilly, John

Observations of historical energy consumption, energy prices, and income growth in industrial economies exhibit a trend in improving energy efficiency even when prices are constant or falling. Two alternative explanations of this phenomenon are: a productivity change that uses less energy and a structural change in the economy in response to rising income. It is not possible to distinguish among these from aggregate data, and economic energy models for forecasting emissions simulate one, as an exogenous time trend, or the other, as energy demand elasticity with respect to income, or both processes for projecting energy demand into the future. In this paper, we ask whether and how it matters which process one uses for projecting energy demand and carbon emissions. We compare two versions of the MIT Emissions Prediction and Policy Analysis (EPPA) model, one using a conventional efficiency time trend approach and the other using an income elasticity approach. We demonstrate that while these two versions yield equivalent projections in the near-term, that they diverge in two important ways: long-run projections and under uncertainty in future productivity growth. We suggest that an income dependent approach may be preferable to the exogenous approach.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Energy Economics.

Volume (Year): 30 (2008)
Issue (Month): 6 (November)
Pages: 2785-2798

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Handle: RePEc:eee:eneeco:v:30:y:2008:i:6:p:2785-2798
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/eneco

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  1. Sue Wing, Ian & Eckaus, Richard S., 2007. "The implications of the historical decline in US energy intensity for long-run CO2 emission projections," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(11), pages 5267-5286, November.
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  7. Mustafa H. Babiker & Gilbert E. Metcalf & John Reilly, 2002. "Tax Distortions and Global Climate Policy," NBER Working Papers 9136, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Scott, Michael J. & Sands, Ronald D. & Edmonds, Jae & Liebetrau, Albert M. & Engel, David W., 1999. "Uncertainty in integrated assessment models: modeling with MiniCAM 1.0," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(14), pages 855-879, December.
  9. Henry D. Jacoby & Richard S. Eckaus & A. Denny Ellerman & Ronald G. Prinn & David M. Reiner & Zili Yang, 1997. "CO2 Emissions Limits: Economic Adjustments and the Distribution of Burdens," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 31-58.
  10. Andy S. Kydes, 1999. "Energy Intensity and Carbon Emission Responses to Technological Change: The U.S. Outlook," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 93-121.
  11. Richard B. Howarth & Lee Schipper, 1991. "Manufacturing Energy Use in Eight OECD Countries: Trends through 1988," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4), pages 15-40.
  12. Stephen C Peck & Thomas J. Teisberg, 1992. "CETA: A Model for Carbon Emissions Trajectory Assessment," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 55-78.
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