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Optimum Tariffs and Exhaustible Resources: Theory and Evidence for Gasoline

Domestic consumption taxes on oil products largely differ across countries, ranging from very high subsidies to very high taxes. The empirical literature on the issue has highlighted the role of revenue-raising (Ramsey commodity taxation) and externalitycorrection (Pigovian taxation) motives for national taxation. Isolatedly, the theoretical literature on non-renewable-resource taxation has emphasized the role of the optimumtariff dimension of excise taxes which reflects countries’ non-cooperative exercise of their market power. This paper reconciles these two strands by comprehensively addressing the issue. First, we propose a multi-country model of national taxation with oil – modeled as a polluting exhaustible resource – and some regular commodities. Domestic welfare is maximized with respect to domestic taxes under a revenue-collection constraint. The optimal domestic tax on oil consumption not only consists of a Ramsey inverse-elasticity term and of a Pigovian term, but also of an optimum-tariff component. In fact, resource exhaustibility implies a form of supply inelasticity that magnifies optimum-tariff arguments. Second, based on a multiple regression using a data set with a large number of countries, we test the power of the optimum-tariff tax component in explaining national gasoline taxes. We find strong evidence that this component plays a crucial role in countries’ taxation of gasoline.

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Paper provided by CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich in its series CER-ETH Economics working paper series with number 12/163.

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Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:eth:wpswif:12-163
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  1. Hsiao, Cheng & Li, Qi & Racine, Jeffrey S., 2007. "A consistent model specification test with mixed discrete and continuous data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 140(2), pages 802-826, October.
  2. Julien Daubanes & Pierre Lasserre, 2011. "Optimum Commodity Taxation with a Non-Renewable Resource," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 11/151, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
  3. Krichene, Noureddine, 2002. "World crude oil and natural gas: a demand and supply model," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 557-576, November.
  4. Liski, Matti & Tahvonen, Olli, 2004. "Can carbon tax eat OPEC's rents?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 1-12, January.
  5. Rajeev K. Goel & Michael A. Nelson, 1999. "The Political Economy of Motor-Fuel Taxation," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 43-59.
  6. Rietveld, Piet & van Woudenberg, Stefan, 2005. "Why fuel prices differ," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 79-92, January.
  7. Sanjeev Gupta & Benedict J. Clements & Kevin Fletcher & Gabriela Inchauste, 2002. "Issues in Domestic Petroleum Pricing in Oil-Producing Countries," IMF Working Papers 02/140, International Monetary Fund.
  8. Lucas Bretschger & Simone Valente, 2010. "Endogenous Growth, Asymmetric Trade and Resource Taxation," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 10/132, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
  9. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz & Ladoux, Norbert, 2001. "Environmental Taxes with Heterogeneous Consumers: An Application to Energy Consumption in France," IDEI Working Papers 127, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse, revised 2002.
  10. Henrik Hammar, Asa Lofgren and Thomas Sterner, 2004. "Political Economy Obstacles to Fuel Taxation," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 1-18.
  11. Fay DUNKERLEY & Amihai GLAZER & Stef PROOST, 2010. "What drives gasoline taxes?," Center for Economic Studies - Discussion papers ces10.01, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën.
  12. Bretschger, Lucas & Valente, Simone, 2012. "Endogenous growth, asymmetric trade and resource dependence," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 64(3), pages 301-311.
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