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Transition to Clean Technology


  • Daron Acemoglu

    () (Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Economics)

  • Ufuk Akcigit

    () (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

  • Douglas Hanley

    () (University of Pittsburgh)

  • William R. Kerr

    () (Harvard Business School, Entrepreneurial Management Unit)


We develop a microeconomic model of endogenous growth where clean and dirty technologies compete in production and innovation. in the sense that research can be directed to either clean or dirty technologies. If dirty technologies are more advanced to start with, the potential transition to clean technology can be di¢ cult both because clean research must climb several rungs to catch up with dirty technology and because this gap discourages research effort directed towards clean technologies. Carbon taxes and research subsidies may nonetheless encourage production and innovation in clean technologies, though the transition will typically be slow. We characterize certain general properties of the transition path from dirty to clean technology. We then estimate the model using a combination of regression analysis on the relationship between R&D and patents, and simulated method of moments using microdata on employment, production, R&D, firm growth, entry and exit from the US energy sector. The model's quantitative implications match a range of moments not targeted in the estimation quite well. We then characterize the optimal policy path implied by the model and our estimates. Optimal policy makes heavy use of research subsidies as well as carbon taxes. We use the model to evaluate the welfare consequences of a range of alternative policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Daron Acemoglu & Ufuk Akcigit & Douglas Hanley & William R. Kerr, 2014. "Transition to Clean Technology," Harvard Business School Working Papers 15-045, Harvard Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:15-045

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    carbon cycle; directed technological change; environment; innovation; optimal policy.;

    JEL classification:

    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • C65 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Miscellaneous Mathematical Tools

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