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The cost-effectiveness of alternative instruments for environmental protection in a second-best setting

  • Goulder, Lawrence H.
  • Parry, Ian W. H.
  • Williams III, Roberton C.
  • Burtraw, Dallas

This paper uses analytical and numerical general equilibrium models to study the costs of achieving pollution reductions under a range of environmental policy instruments in a second-best setting with pre-existing factor taxes. We compare the costs and efficiency impacts of emissions taxes, emissions quotas, fuels taxes, performance standards, and mandated technologies, and explore how costs change with the magnitude of pre-existing taxes and the extent of pollution abatement. We find that the presence of distortionary taxes raises the costs of pollution abatement under each instrument relative to its costs in a first-best world. This extra cost is an increasing function of the magnitude of pre-existing tax rates. For plausible values of pre-existing tax rates and other parameters, the cost increase for all policies is substantial (35 % or more). The impact of pre-existing taxes is large for non-auctioned emissions quotas, the cost increase can be several hundred percent. Earlier work on instrument choice emphasized the potential reduction in compliance cost from converting fixed emissions quotas into tradeable emissions permits. Our results show the regulator's decision to auction or grandfather emissions rights can have important cost impacts. Similarly, the choice of how to recycle revenues from environmentally motivated taxes can be as important to cost as whether the tax takes the form of an emissions tax or fuel tax, particularly when modest emissions reductions are involved. In both first- and second-best settings, the cost differences across instruments depend on the extent of pollution abatement under consideration. Total abatement costs differ markedly at low levels of abatement. Strikingly, for all instruments except the fuel tax these costs converge to the same value as abatement levels approach 100 percent.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 72 (1999)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 329-360

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:72:y:1999:i:3:p:329-360
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  9. Ballard, Charles L. & Medema, Steven G., 1993. "The marginal efficiency effects of taxes and subsidies in the presence of externalities : A computational general equilibrium approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 199-216, September.
  10. 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.
  11. Bovenberg, A.L. & de Mooij, R.A., 1994. "Environmental levies and distortionary taxation," Other publications TiSEM 4b32deaa-ec2f-4de7-b59b-9, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
  12. A. Lans Bovenberg & Lawrence H. Goulder, 1994. "Optimal Environmental Taxation in the Presence of Other Taxes: General Equilibrium Analyses," NBER Working Papers 4897, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Parry, Ian W. H., 1997. "Environmental taxes and quotas in the presence of distorting taxes in factor markets," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 203-220, August.
  14. Bovenberg, A Lans & van der Ploeg, Frederick, 1992. "Environmental Policy, Public Finance and the Labour Market in a Second-best World," CEPR Discussion Papers 745, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  16. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1990. "Supply-Side Economics: An Analytical Review," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(2), pages 293-316, April.
  17. Lawrence H. Goulder & Ian W. H. Parry & Roberton C. Williams III & Dallas Burtraw, 1998. "The Cost-Effectiveness of Alternative Instruments for Environmental Protection in a Second-Best Setting," NBER Working Papers 6464, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Fullerton, Don & Metcalf, Gilbert E., 2001. "Environmental controls, scarcity rents, and pre-existing distortions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 249-267, May.
  19. Victor R. Fuchs & Alan B. Krueger & James M. Poterba, 1998. "Economists' Views about Parameters, Values, and Policies: Survey Results in Labor and Public Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1387-1425, September.
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  25. Roberton C. Williams, 2000. "Environmental Tax Interactions When Pollution Affects Health or Productivity," NBER Working Papers 8049, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Lawrence H. Goulder & Ian W. H. Parry & Dallas Burtraw, 1996. "Revenue-Raising vs. Other Approaches to Environmental Protection: The Critical Significance of Pre-Existing Tax Distortions," NBER Working Papers 5641, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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