Asymmetric adaptations to energy price changes
The effectiveness of policies to reduce the use of energy depend on the elasticity of substitution between the various inputs and on the rate of technological progress. This paper presents a theoretical model emphasising energy investments’ characteristics of uncertainty and irreversibility that result in testable hypotheses concerning the relative values of substitution parameters and rates of technological change in periods of high and increasing energy prices and in periods of low prices. Estimation results for a panel of sectors of the Dutch economy show that the elasticity of substitution between energy and other inputs is low in periods of low energy prices, whereas it is significantly higher in the preceding period of high and increasing energy prices. Furthermore, energy-saving technological progress in periods of high and increasing energy prices is also significantly higher than if energy prices are low and falling. The regression results suggest that, due this asymmetric response of firms to changes in energy prices, taxing energy in the current period of low energy prices will not yield substantial reductions in energy use of Dutch industry.
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