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The Distributional Impacts of Energy Taxes

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  • William A Pizer
  • Steven Sexton

Abstract

Taxes have long been advocated by economists for efficient pollution control, particularly in the energy sector. However, these taxes may enjoy less political support than standards-based regulation at least partly because of the common assumption that they place a greater burden on the poor than the rich. This article evaluates the validity of that assumption by reviewing the literature on the distributional impacts of energy taxes and by analyzing energy consumption surveys in select countries. The evidence suggests that energy taxes need not be as regressive as is often assumed. We find that the incidence (i.e., distributional impact) of such taxes depends upon the energy commodities that are taxed; the physical, social, and climatic characteristics of the jurisdictions in which they are implemented; and the use of energy tax revenues. We also show that the variation in household energy expenditure is greater within income groups than across income groups and that such variation is not easily reduced.

Suggested Citation

  • William A Pizer & Steven Sexton, 2019. "The Distributional Impacts of Energy Taxes," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 13(1), pages 104-123.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:renvpo:v:13:y:2019:i:1:p:104-123.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/reep/rey021
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    Cited by:

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    2. Randazzo, Teresa & De Cian, Enrica & Mistry, Malcolm N., 2020. "Air conditioning and electricity expenditure: The role of climate in temperate countries," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 273-287.
    3. Hasan, Syed Abul & Mozumder, Pallab, 2017. "Income and energy use in Bangladesh: A household level analysis," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 115-126.
    4. Bourgeois, Cyril & Giraudet, Louis-Gaëtan & Quirion, Philippe, 2021. "Lump-sum vs. energy-efficiency subsidy recycling of carbon tax revenue in the residential sector: A French assessment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 184(C).
    5. Jacobs, Bas & van der Ploeg, Frederick, 2019. "Redistribution and pollution taxes with non-linear Engel curves," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 198-226.
    6. Umed Temursho & Matthias Weitzel & Toon Vandyck, 2020. "Distributional impacts of reaching ambitious near-term climate targets across households with heterogeneous consumption patterns: A quantitative macro-micro assessment for the 2030 Climate Target Plan," JRC Working Papers JRC121765, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
    7. Maria Alice Moz-Christofoletti & Paula Carvalho Pereda, 2021. "Winners and losers: the distributional impact of a carbon tax in Brazil," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2021_08, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).
    8. Stephie Fried & Kevin Novan & William Peterman, 2018. "The Distributional Effects of a Carbon Tax on Current and Future Generations," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 30, pages 30-46, October.
    9. Renström, Thomas I. & Spataro, Luca & Marsiliani, Laura, 2021. "Can subsidies rather than pollution taxes break the trade-off between economic output and environmental protection?," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(C).
    10. Paula Pereda & Maria Alice Christofoletti, 2019. "Heterogeneous welfare and emission effects of energy tax policies in Brazil," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2019_32, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).
    11. Tovar Reaños, Miguel A., 2020. "Initial incidence of carbon taxes and environmental liability. A vehicle ownership approach," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 143(C).
    12. Holmström, Bengt & Honkapohja, Seppo & Huhtala, Anni & Hyytinen, Ari & Kauhanen, Antti & Koski, Heli & Kuusi, Tero & Maliranta, Mika & Nilsson Hakkala, Katariina & Poutvaara, Panu & Rouvinen, Petri & , . "Suomen kasvu (Finnish Economic Growth)," ETLA B, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, number 278.
    13. Liu, Weihua & Long, Shangsong & Xie, Dong & Liang, Yanjie & Wang, Jinkun, 2021. "How to govern the big data discriminatory pricing behavior in the platform service supply chain?An examination with a three-party evolutionary game model," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 231(C).
    14. José M. Labeaga & Xavier Labandeira & Xiral López-Otero, 2018. "Energy Tax Reform and Poverty Alleviation in Mexico," Working Papers 1801, Universidade de Vigo, Departamento de Economía Aplicada.
    15. Boqiang Lin & Zhijie Jia, 2020. "Supply control vs. demand control: why is resource tax more effective than carbon tax in reducing emissions?," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 7(1), pages 1-13, December.
    16. Lekavičius, V. & Bobinaitė, V. & Galinis, A. & Pažėraitė, A., 2020. "Distributional impacts of investment subsidies for residential energy technologies," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 130(C).
    17. Sommer, Stephan & Mattauch, Linus & Pahle, Michael, 2020. "Supporting carbon taxes: The role of fairness," Ruhr Economic Papers 873, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H22 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Incidence
    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy

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