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Lobbying for Emissions Allowances: A New Perspective on the Political Economy of the US Acid Rain Program


  • Julien A. Hanoteau

    () (Groupe d’Economie Mondiale, Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Paris)


This paper shows empirically that the choice between auction and grandfathering for the distribution of pollution permits is not neutral in presence of political market failures as it motivates rent-seeking. We model the distribution of free permits in the US sulfur emissions trading system as an endogenous sharing rule and we test this relation using PAC contribution as a measure of political influence. We find that shareholder interests of the US power sector influenced the distribution of permits as they were motivated by a windfall gain despite profit regulation in their sector and thanks to a climate of regulatory uncertainty when the law was discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Julien A. Hanoteau, 2003. "Lobbying for Emissions Allowances: A New Perspective on the Political Economy of the US Acid Rain Program," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, vol. 93(1), pages 289-314, January-F.
  • Handle: RePEc:rpo:ripoec:v:93:y:2003:i:1:p:289-314

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Montgomery, W. David, 1972. "Markets in licenses and efficient pollution control programs," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 395-418, December.
    2. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1994. "Protection for Sale," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 833-850, September.
    3. Paul L. Joskow & Nancy L. Rose & Catherine Wolfram, 1996. "Political Constraints on Executive Compensation: Evidence from the Electric Utility Industry," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(1), pages 165-182, Spring.
    4. Stavins Robert N., 1995. "Transaction Costs and Tradeable Permits," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 133-148, September.
    5. Nitzan, Shmuel, 1991. "Collective Rent Dissipation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(409), pages 1522-1534, November.
    6. 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.
    7. Parry, Ian W. H. & Williams, Roberton III & Goulder, Lawrence H., 1999. "When Can Carbon Abatement Policies Increase Welfare? The Fundamental Role of Distorted Factor Markets," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 52-84, January.
    8. Joskow, Paul L & Schmalensee, Richard, 1998. "The Political Economy of Market-Based Environmental Policy: The U.S. Acid Rain Program," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(1), pages 37-83, April.
    9. Buchanan, James M & Tullock, Gordon, 1975. "Polluters' Profits and Political Response: Direct Controls Versus Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(1), pages 139-147, March.
    10. Bohi, Douglas R. & Burtraw, Dallas, 1992. "Utility investment behavior and the emission trading market," Resources and Energy, Elsevier, vol. 14(1-2), pages 129-153, April.
    11. 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. Niels Anger & Christoph Böhringer & Andreas Lange, 2015. "The political economy of energy tax differentiation across industries: theory and empirical evidence," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 78-98, February.
    2. Julien Bueb & Sonia Schwartz, 2011. "Strategic manipulation of a pollution permit market and international trade," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 39(3), pages 313-331, June.
    3. Sanz, Nicolas & Schwartz, Sonia, 2013. "Are pollution permit markets harmful for employment?," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 374-383.
    4. Sonia Schwartz, 2009. "Comment distribuer les quotas de pollution ?. Une revue de la littérature," Revue d'économie politique, Dalloz, vol. 119(4), pages 535-568.
    5. Niels Anger & Emmanuel Asane-Otoo & Christoph Böhringer & Ulrich Oberndorfer, 2016. "Public interest versus interest groups: a political economy analysis of allowance allocation under the EU emissions trading scheme," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 16(5), pages 621-638, October.
    6. Amlendu Kumar Dubey, 2010. "Initial Allocation of Emissions Permits in the Two-Sided Matching Framework," Journal of Quantitative Economics, The Indian Econometric Society, vol. 8(1), pages 95-104, January.
    7. Anger, Niels & Böhringer, Christoph & Oberndorfer, Ulrich, 2008. "Public Interest vs. Interest Groups: Allowance Allocation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme," ZEW Discussion Papers 08-023, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law
    • Q28 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Government Policy


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