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Some Inconvenient Truths About Climate Change Policy: The Distributional Impacts of Transportation Policies

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Listed:
  • Stephen P. Holland
  • Jonathan E. Hughes
  • Christopher R. Knittel
  • Nathan C. Parker

Abstract

Instead of efficiently pricing greenhouse gases, policy makers have favored measures that implicitly or explicitly subsidize low carbon fuels. We simulate a transportation-sector cap & trade program (CAT) and three policies currently in use: ethanol subsidies, a renewable fuel standard (RFS), and a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS). Our simulations confirm that the alternatives to CAT are quite costly—2.5 to 4 times more expensive. We provide evidence that the persistence of these alternatives in spite of their higher costs lies in the political economy of carbon policy. The alternatives to CAT exhibit a feature that make them amenable to adoption|a right skewed distribution of gains and losses where many counties have small losses, but a smaller share of counties gain considerably—as much as $6,800 per capita, per year. We correlate our estimates of gains from CAT and the RFS with Congressional voting on the Waxman-Markey cap & trade bill, H.R. 2454. Because Waxman-Markey (WM) would weaken the RFS, House members likely viewed the two policies as competitors. Conditional on a district's CAT gains, increases in a district's RFS gains are associated with decreases in the likelihood of voting for WM. Furthermore, we show that campaign contributions are correlated with a district's gains under each policy and that these contributions are correlated with a Member's vote on WM.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen P. Holland & Jonathan E. Hughes & Christopher R. Knittel & Nathan C. Parker, 2011. "Some Inconvenient Truths About Climate Change Policy: The Distributional Impacts of Transportation Policies," Working Papers 1116, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:mee:wpaper:1116
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Anderson, Soren T., 2012. "The demand for ethanol as a gasoline substitute," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 151-168.
    2. Alberto Salvo & Cristian Huse, 2011. "Is Arbitrage Tying the Price of Ethanol to that of Gasoline? Evidence from the Uptake of Flexible-Fuel Technology," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 119-148.
    3. Michael I. Cragg & Yuyu Zhou & Kevin Gurney & Matthew E. Kahn, 2013. "Carbon Geography: The Political Economy Of Congressional Support For Legislation Intended To Mitigate Greenhouse Gas Production," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(2), pages 1640-1650, April.
    4. Anderson, Soren T. & Kellogg, Ryan & Sallee, James M., 2013. "What do consumers believe about future gasoline prices?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 383-403.
    5. Randall S. Kroszner & Philip E. Strahan, 1999. "What Drives Deregulation? Economics and Politics of the Relaxation of Bank Branching Restrictions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1437-1467.
    6. Wright, Gavin, 1974. "The Political Economy of New Deal Spending: An Econometric Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 56(1), pages 30-38, February.
    7. Stephen P. Holland, 2009. "Taxes and Trading versus Intensity Standards: Second-Best Environmental Policies with Incomplete Regulation (Leakage) or Market Power," NBER Working Papers 15262, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. 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 106-146, February.
    9. 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.
    10. Hansen, LeRoy, 2007. "Conservation Reserve Program: Environmental Benefits Update," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 36(02), pages 267-280, October.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Christopher R. Knittel & Ryan Sandle, 2011. "Cleaning the Bathwater with the Baby: The Health Co-Benefits of Carbon Pricing in Transportation," Working Papers 1115, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
    2. Lade, Gabriel E. & Lin, C.-Y. Cynthia & Smith, Aaron, 2015. "Ex Post Costs and Renewable Identification Number (RIN) Prices under the Renewable Fuel Standard," Discussion Papers dp-15-22, Resources For the Future.
    3. Drabik, Dusan, 2011. "The Theory of Biofuel Policy and Food Grain Prices," Working Papers 126615, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
    4. Lade, Gabriel & Lin, C.-Y. Cynthia & Smith, Aaron, 2014. "Policy Uncertainty under Market-Based Regulations: Evidence from the Renewable Fuel Standard," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 170673, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    5. Joseph S. Shapiro, 2016. "Trade Costs, CO2, and the Environment," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 220-254, November.
    6. de Gorter, Harry & Drabik, Dusan, 2015. "The Distinct Economic Effects of the Ethanol Blend Wall, RIN Prices and Ethanol Price Premium due to the RFS," Working Papers 250020, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
    7. GianCarlo Moschini & Harvey Lapan & Hyunseok Kim, 2017. "The Renewable Fuel Standard in Competitive Equilibrium: Market and Welfare Effects," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 99(5), pages 1117-1142.
    8. Jussila Hammes , Johanna, 2014. "A biofuel mandate and a low carbon fuel standard with ‘double counting’," Working papers in Transport Economics 2014:19, CTS - Centre for Transport Studies Stockholm (KTH and VTI).
    9. Christopher R. Knittel, 2012. "Reducing Petroleum Consumption from Transportation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 93-118, Winter.
    10. Stephen P. Holland & Jonathan E. Hughes & Christopher R. Knittel & Nathan C. Parker, 2013. "Unintended Consequences of Transportation Carbon Policies: Land-Use, Emissions, and Innovation," NBER Working Papers 19636, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. repec:eee:enepol:v:111:y:2017:i:c:p:235-245 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Barla, Philippe & Proost, Stef, 2012. "Energy efficiency policy in a non-cooperative world," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(6), pages 2209-2215.
    13. Derek Lemoine, 2017. "Escape from Third-Best: Rating Emissions for Intensity Standards," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 67(4), pages 789-821, August.
    14. Gabriel E. Lade & C.Y. Cynthia Lin Lawell & Aaron Smith, 2016. "Policy Shocks and Market-Based Regulations: Evidence from the Renewable Fuel Standard," Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) Publications 16-wp565, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents
    • K0 - Law and Economics - - General
    • K2 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law
    • L5 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy
    • L7 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Primary Products and Construction
    • L9 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities

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