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Welfare Impacts of Alternative Biofuel and Energy Policies

  • Cui, Jingbo
  • Lapan, Harvey E.
  • Moschini, GianCarlo
  • Cooper, Joseph

We employ an open economy general equilibrium model to investigate the effects of government energy policy, with an emphasis on corn-based ethanol, on the U.S. economy. The model specification incorporates world and domestic markets, assumes pollution costs from fuel consumption, and allows endogenous determination of equilibrium quantities and prices for oil, corn and ethanol. The model is calibrated to represent a recent benchmark data set for 2009 and is used to simulate the positive and normative effects of alternative policies. We find that a second best policy of a fuel tax and ethanol subsidy approximates fairly closely the welfare gains associated with the first-best policy of an optimal carbon tax and tariffs on traded goods. The largest economic gains to the U.S. economy from these energy policies arise from the impact of the policies on U.S. terms of trade, particularly in the oil market. We also find that, conditional on the current fuel tax, an optimal ethanol mandate is superior to an optimal ethanol subsidy. In the benchmark case, the optimal ethanol mandate is about 18 billion gallons.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers Archive with number 31618.

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Date of creation: 08 Jun 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in American Journal of Agricultural Economics, October 2011, vol. 93 no. 5, pp. 1235-1256
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:31618
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Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070

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  1. Richard S.J. Tol, 2007. "The Social Cost Of Carbon: Trends, Outliers And Catastrophes," Working Papers FNU-144, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Aug 2007.
  2. Harry de Gorter & David R. Just, 2007. "The Welfare Economics of a Biofuel Tax Credit and the Interaction Effects with Price Contingent Farm Subsidies," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(2), pages 477-488.
  3. Richard S. J. Tol, 2009. "The Economic Effects of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 29-51, Spring.
  4. Richard S. J. Tol, 2010. "The Economic Impact of Climate Change," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 11(s1), pages 13-37, 05.
  5. Lapan, Harvey E. & Moschini, GianCarlo, 2009. "Biofuels Policies and Welfare: Is the Stick of Mandates Better Than the Carrot of Subsidies?," Staff General Research Papers Archive 13076, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 Archive 12881, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  8. Hope, C. & Newbery, D., 2006. "Calculating The Social Cost Of Carbon," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0749, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  9. 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.
  10. Amani Elobeid & Simla Tokgoz, 2008. "Removing Distortions in the U.S. Ethanol Market: What Does It Imply for the United States and Brazil?," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 90(4), pages 918-932.
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