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Optimal Carbon Tax with a Dirty Backstop - Oil, Coal, or Renewables?

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  • Frederick Van der Ploeg
  • Cees Withagen

Abstract

Optimal climate policy is studied. Coal, the abundant resource, contributes more CO2 per unit of energy than the exhaustible resource, oil. We characterize the optimal sequencing oil and coal and departures from the Herfindahl rule. “Preference reversal” can take place. If coal is very dirty compared to oil, there is no simultaneous use. Else, the optimal outcome starts with oil, before using oil and coal together, and finally coal on its own. The “laissez-faire” outcome uses coal forever or starts with oil until it is no longer profitable to do so and then switches to coal. The optimum requires a steeply rising CO2 tax during the oil-only phase and a less steeply rising CO2 tax during the subsequent oil-coal and coal-only phases to avoid the abrupt switch from oil to coal thus leaving a lot of oil in situ. Finally, we analyze the effects on the optimal transition times and carbon tax of a carbon-free, albeit expensive backstop (solar or wind). Without a carbon tax, a prohibitive coal tax leads to less oil in situ, substantially delays introduction of renewable, and thus curbs global warming substantially. Subsidizing renewables to just below the cost of coal does not affect the oil-only phase. The gain in green welfare dominates the welfare cost of the subsidy if the subsidy gap is small and the global warming challenge is acute.

Suggested Citation

  • Frederick Van der Ploeg & Cees Withagen, 2011. "Optimal Carbon Tax with a Dirty Backstop - Oil, Coal, or Renewables?," CESifo Working Paper Series 3334, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3334
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    Cited by:

    1. Florian Habermacher, 2015. "Carbon Leakage: A Medium- and Long-Term View," CESifo Working Paper Series 5216, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Renaud Coulomb & Fanny Henriet, 2014. "The Grey Paradox: How Oil Owners Can Benefit From Carbon Regulation," Working Papers hal-00818350, HAL.
    3. Renaud Coulomb & Fanny Henriet, 2014. "The Grey Paradox: How Oil Owners Can Benefit From Carbon Regulation," PSE Working Papers hal-00818350, HAL.
    4. Habermacher, Florian & Kirchgässner, Gebhard, 2011. "Climate Effects of Carbon Taxes, Taking into Account Possible Other Future Climate Measures," Economics Working Paper Series 1110, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science, revised Feb 2014.
    5. Ines Österle, 2012. "Fossil Fuel Extraction and Climate Policy: A Review of the Green Paradox with Endogenous Resource Exploration," Working Papers 2012.13, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Herfindahl rule; Hotelling rule; non-renewable resource; dirty backstop; coal; global warming; carbon tax; renewables; tax on coal; subsidy on renewables;

    JEL classification:

    • Q30 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - General
    • Q42 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Alternative Energy Sources
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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