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Biofuels Policies and Welfare: Is the Stick of Mandates Better Than the Carrot of Subsidies?

  • Lapan, Harvey E.
  • Moschini, GianCarlo

Significant government support for biofuels has led to rapid growth in U.S. ethanol production and research to develop more advanced biofuels. In this paper we construct a general equilibrium, open economy model that captures the rationale typically invoked to justify government intervention in this setting: to alleviate the environmental impact of energy consumption and to decrease U.S. energy dependence on foreign sources. The model is used to study both the positive and normative implications of alternative policy instruments, including the subsidies and mandates specified by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. From a positive perspective, we find that biofuels mandates are equivalent to a combination of fuel taxes and biofuels subsidies that are revenue neutral. From a welfare perspective, we show that biofuels mandates dominate biofuels subsidies, and that combining fuel taxes (rather than subsidies) with mandates would be welfare enhancing.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 13076.

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Date of creation: 09 Jun 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:13076
Contact details of provider: Postal: Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070
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  1. Stephen P. Holland & Jonathan E. Hughes & Christopher R. Knittel, 2009. "Greenhouse Gas Reductions under Low Carbon Fuel Standards?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 106-46, February.
  2. Parry, Ian & Small, Kenneth, 2002. "Does Britain or the United States Have the Right Gasoline Tax?," Discussion Papers dp-02-12-, Resources For the Future.
  3. Hertel, Thomas & Tyner, Wally & Birur, Dileep, 2008. "Biofuels for all? Understanding the Global Impacts of Multinational Mandates," GTAP Working Papers 2809, Center for Global Trade Analysis, Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University.
  4. Harry de Gorter & David R. Just, 2008. "The Economics of a Blend Mandate for Biofuels," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(3), pages 738-750.
  5. Rajagopal, Deepak & Zilberman, David, 2007. "Review of environmental, economic and policy aspects of biofuels," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4341, The World Bank.
  6. Searchinger, Timothy & Heimlich, Ralph & Houghton, R. A. & Dong, Fengxia & Elobeid, Amani & Fabiosa, Jacinto F. & Tokgoz, Simla & Hayes, Dermot J. & Yu, Hun-Hsiang, 2008. "Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change," Staff General Research Papers 12881, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
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