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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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  • Bruno Lanz & Sebastian Rausch, 2013. "Cap-and-Trade Climate Policy, Free Allowances, and Price-Regulated Firms," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 13/178, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:eth:wpswif:13-178

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gilbert E. Metcalf & Aparna Mathur & Kevin A. Hassett, 2011. "Distributional Impacts in a Comprehensive Climate Policy Package," NBER Chapters,in: The Design and Implementation of U.S. Climate Policy, pages 21-34 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. 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.
    3. Parry, Ian W. H., 2004. "Are emissions permits regressive?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 364-387, March.
    4. 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.
    5. Robert N. Stavins, 2008. "A Meaningful U.S. Cap-and-Trade System to Address Climate Change," Working Papers 2008.82, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    6. Fullerton, Don & Heutel, Garth, 2007. "The general equilibrium incidence of environmental taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 571-591, April.
    7. Rausch, Sebastian & Metcalf, Gilbert E. & Reilly, John M., 2011. "Distributional impacts of carbon pricing: A general equilibrium approach with micro-data for households," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(S1), pages 20-33.
    8. Corbett Grainger & Charles Kolstad, 2010. "Who Pays a Price on Carbon?," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 46(3), pages 359-376, July.
    9. Hepburn, Cameron J. & Quah, John K.-H. & Ritz, Robert A., 2013. "Emissions trading with profit-neutral permit allocations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 85-99.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gordon, Hal & Burtraw, Dallas & Williams, Roberton, 2015. "A Microsimulation Model of the Distributional Impacts of Climate Policies," Discussion Papers dp-14-40, Resources For the Future.

    More about this item


    Climate policy; Cap-and-trade; Allowance allocation; Cost-of-service regulation; Electricity Generation.;

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • C68 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computable General Equilibrium Models
    • D58 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Computable and Other Applied General Equilibrium Models
    • Q43 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Energy and the Macroeconomy
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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