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The SO2 Allowance Trading System: The Ironic History of a Grand Policy Experiment

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  • Stavins, Robert Norman
  • Schmalensee, Richard

Abstract

Two decades have passed since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 launched a grand experiment in market-based environmental policy: the SO2 cap-and-trade system. That system performed well but created four striking ironies. First, by creating this system to reduce SO2 emissions to curb acid rain, the government did the right thing for the wrong reason. Second, a substantial source of this system’s cost-effectiveness was an unanticipated consequence of earlier railroad deregulation. Third, it is ironic that cap-and-trade has come to be demonized by conservative politicians in recent years, since this market-based, cost-effective policy innovation was initially championed and implemented by Republican administrations. Fourth, court decisions and subsequent regulatory responses have led to the collapse of the SO2 market, demonstrating that what the government gives, the government can take away.

Suggested Citation

  • Stavins, Robert Norman & Schmalensee, Richard, 2012. "The SO2 Allowance Trading System: The Ironic History of a Grand Policy Experiment," Scholarly Articles 9368024, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:hrv:hksfac:9368024
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. de Perthuis, Christian & Trotignon, Raphael, 2014. "Governance of CO2 markets: Lessons from the EU ETS," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 100-106.
    2. Chan, Hei Sing (Ron) & Li, Shanjun & Zhang, Fan, 2013. "Firm competitiveness and the European Union emissions trading scheme," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 1056-1064.
    3. Lecuyer, Oskar & Quirion, Philippe, 2013. "Can uncertainty justify overlapping policy instruments to mitigate emissions?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 177-191.
    4. Hancevic, Pedro Ignacio, 2016. "Environmental regulation and productivity: The case of electricity generation under the CAAA-1990," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 131-143.
    5. Richard Schmalensee & Robert Stavins, 2015. "Lessons Learned from Three Decades of Experience with Cap-and-Trade," NBER Working Papers 21742, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Jonathan M. Lee, 2015. "The Impact of Heterogeneous NOx Regulations on Distributed Electricity Generation in U.S. Manufacturing," Working Papers 15-12, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    7. Meleo, Linda, 2014. "On the determinants of industrial competitiveness: The European Union emission trading scheme and the Italian paper industry," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 535-546.
    8. Christopher R. Knittel & Konstantinos Metaxoglou & Andre Trindade, 2015. "Natural Gas Prices and Coal Displacement: Evidence from Electricity Markets," NBER Working Papers 21627, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Yagi, Michiyuki & Hidemichi, Fujii & Hoang, Vincent & Managi, Shunsuke, 2015. "Environmental efficiency of energy, materials, and emissions," MPRA Paper 65358, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Evangelina Dardati & Julio Riutort, 2016. "Cap-and-Trade and Financial Constraints: Is Investment Independent of Permit Holdings?," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 65(4), pages 841-864, December.
    11. Endre Tvinnereim, 2014. "The bears are right: Why cap-and-trade yields greater emission reductions than expected, and what that means for climate policy," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 127(3), pages 447-461, December.
    12. Simon Quemin, 2016. "Intertemporal abatement decisions under ambiguity aversion in a cap and trade," Working Papers 1604, Chaire Economie du climat.
    13. Wiser, Ryan & Bolinger, Mark & Heath, Garvin & Keyser, David & Lantz, Eric & Macknick, Jordan & Mai, Trieu & Millstein, Dev, 2016. "Long-term implications of sustained wind power growth in the United States: Potential benefits and secondary impacts," Applied Energy, Elsevier, pages 146-158.
    14. repec:oup:renvpo:v:11:y:2017:i:1:p:59-79. is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Oskar Lecuyer & Philippe Quirion, 2016. "Interaction between CO2 emissions trading and renewable energy subsidies under uncertainty: feed-in tariffs as a safety net against over-allocation," Working Papers 2016.14, FAERE - French Association of Environmental and Resource Economists.
    16. repec:wbk:wbpubs:28576 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Katherine Simpson & Frans P de Vries & Paul Armsworth & Nick Hanley, 2017. "Designing markets for biodiversity offsets: lessons from tradable pollution permits," Discussion Papers in Environment and Development Economics 2017-04, University of St. Andrews, School of Geography and Sustainable Development.
    18. Paula Kivimaa & Mikael Hildén & Dave Huitema & Andrew Jordan & Jens Newig, 2015. "Experiments in Climate Governance. Lessons from a Systematic Review of Case Studies in Transition Research," SPRU Working Paper Series 2015-36, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
    19. Michel Damian, 2015. "A new political economy of climate change," ECONOMICS AND POLICY OF ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2015(2), pages 5-14.
    20. repec:eee:enepol:v:106:y:2017:i:c:p:129-137 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. He, Qingxin & Lee, Jonathan M., 2016. "The effect of coal combustion byproducts on price discrimination by upstream industries," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 11-24.
    22. Werner Antweiler, 2017. "Emission trading for air pollution hot spots: getting the permit market right," Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Springer;Society for Environmental Economics and Policy Studies - SEEPS, vol. 19(1), pages 35-58, January.
    23. Michel Damian, 2016. "A new political economy of climate change," Post-Print hal-01334773, HAL.
    24. Burtraw, Dallas & Woerman, Matt, 2013. "Economic ideas for a complex climate policy regime," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(S1), pages 24-31.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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