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Prices versus quantities: environmental regulation and imperfect competition


  • Erin Mansur



By exercising market power, a firm will distort the production, and therefore the emissions decisions, of all firms in the market. This paper examines how the welfare implications of strategic behavior depend on how pollution is regulated. Under an emissions tax, aggregate emissions do not affect the marginal cost of polluting. In contrast, the price of tradable permits is endogenous. I show when this feedback effect increases strategic firms’ output. Relative to a tax, tradable permits may improve welfare in a market with imperfect competition. As an application, I model strategic and competitive behavior of wholesalers in a Mid-Atlantic electricity market. Simulations suggest that exercising market power decreased emissions locally, thereby substantially reducing the regional tradable permit price. Furthermore, I find that had regulators opted to use a tax instead of permits, the deadweight loss from imperfect competition would have been even greater. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Erin Mansur, 2013. "Prices versus quantities: environmental regulation and imperfect competition," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 80-102, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:regeco:v:44:y:2013:i:1:p:80-102
    DOI: 10.1007/s11149-013-9219-6

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Martin L. Weitzman, 1974. "Prices vs. Quantities," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(4), pages 477-491.
    2. N. J. Ireland, 1977. "Ideal Prices vs. Prices vs. Quantities," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 44(1), pages 183-186.
    3. Erin T. Mansur, 2008. "Measuring Welfare in Restructured Electricity Markets," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 369-386, May.
    4. Shaffer, Sherrill, 1995. "Optimal Linear Taxation of Polluting Oligopolists," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 85-100, January.
    5. Stephen P. Holland & Erin T. Mansur, 2008. "Is Real-Time Pricing Green? The Environmental Impacts of Electricity Demand Variance," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 550-561, August.
    6. Mansur, Erin T, 2007. "Upstream Competition and Vertical Integration in Electricity Markets," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50(1), pages 125-156, February.
    7. Catherine D. Wolfram, 1999. "Measuring Duopoly Power in the British Electricity Spot Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 805-826, September.
    8. Erin T. Mansur, 2007. "Do Oligopolists Pollute Less? Evidence from a Restructured Electricity Market," NBER Working Papers 13511, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Buchanan, James M, 1969. "External Diseconomies, Corrective Taxes, and Market Structure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(1), pages 174-177, March.
    10. Fevrier, Philippe & Linnemer, Laurent, 2004. "Idiosyncratic shocks in an asymmetric Cournot oligopoly," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 22(6), pages 835-848, June.
    11. Stavins Robert N., 1995. "Transaction Costs and Tradeable Permits," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 133-148, September.
    12. Barrett, Scott, 1994. "Strategic environmental policy and intrenational trade," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 325-338, July.
    13. Paul L. Joskow & Edward Kohn, 2002. "A Quantitative Analysis of Pricing Behavior in California's Wholesale Electricity Market During Summer 2000," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4), pages 1-35.
    14. Misiolek, Walter S. & Elder, Harold W., 1989. "Exclusionary manipulation of markets for pollution rights," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 156-166, March.
    15. Levin, Dan, 1985. "Taxation within Cournot oligopoly," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 281-290, August.
    16. Severin Borenstein & James B. Bushnell & Frank A. Wolak, 2002. "Measuring Market Inefficiencies in California's Restructured Wholesale Electricity Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1376-1405, December.
    17. Robert W. Hahn, 1984. "Market Power and Transferable Property Rights," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 99(4), pages 753-765.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lade, Gabriel E. & Lin Lawell, C.-Y. Cynthia, 2015. "The design and economics of low carbon fuel standards," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 91-99.
    2. Daiken Mori, 2015. "Determination of efficient environmental policy instruments under uncertainty with the dominant firm model," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 35(4), pages 2637-2644.
    3. repec:eee:eneeco:v:64:y:2017:i:c:p:272-285 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:kap:regeco:v:52:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11149-017-9331-0 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Environmental regulation; Market based instruments ; Imperfect competition; Electricity restructuring; H23; L11; L94;

    JEL classification:

    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities


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