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Cap-and-Trade Climate Policy, Free Allowances, and Price-Regulated Firms

Firms subject to cost-of-service regulation cannot withhold windfall profits associated with free emissions allowances. This paper examines the efficiency and distributional impacts of two approaches to transfer free allowances to consumers: output subsidies and lump-sum payments. We employ an empirically calibrated model of the U.S. economy that features regulated monopolies in the electricity sector and many heterogeneous households. Under a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade policy, we find that using free allowances to subsidize regulated electricity prices increases aggregate welfare costs by 40-80 percent relative to lump-sum transfers. These inefficiencies are disproportionately borne by households in the tails of the income distribution.

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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 13/178.

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Length: 52 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:eth:wpswif:13-178
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  1. Goulder, Lawrence H. & Parry, Ian W. H. & Williams III, Roberton C. & Burtraw, Dallas, 1999. "The cost-effectiveness of alternative instruments for environmental protection in a second-best setting," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 329-360, June.
  2. Corbett Grainger & Charles Kolstad, 2010. "Who Pays a Price on Carbon?," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 46(3), pages 359-376, July.
  3. Sebastian Rausch & Gilbert E. Metcalf & John M. Reilly, 2011. "Distributional Impacts of Carbon Pricing: A General Equilibrium Approach with Micro-Data for Households," NBER Working Papers 17087, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Parry, Ian W. H., 2004. "Are emissions permits regressive?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 364-387, March.
  5. Gilbert E. Metcalf & Aparna Mathur & Kevin A. Hassett, 2010. "Distributional Impacts in a Comprehensive Climate Policy Package," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0752, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  6. Goulder, Lawrence H. & Hafstead, Marc A.C. & Dworsky, Michael, 2010. "Impacts of alternative emissions allowance allocation methods under a federal cap-and-trade program," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 161-181, November.
  7. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
  8. Don Fullerton & Garth Heutel, 2005. "The General Equilibrium Incidence of Environmental Taxes," NBER Working Papers 11311, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Lanz, Bruno & Rausch, Sebastian, 2011. "General equilibrium, electricity generation technologies and the cost of carbon abatement: A structural sensitivity analysis," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 1035-1047, September.
  10. Robert N. Stavins, 2008. "A Meaningful U.S. Cap-and-Trade System to Address Climate Change," Working Papers 2008.82, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
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