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Distributional Effects of Environmental and Energy Policy: An Introduction

  • Don Fullerton

This chapter reviews literature on the distributional effects of environmental and energy policy. In particular, many effects of such policy are likely regressive. First, it raises the price of fossil-fuel-intensive products, expenditures on which are a high fraction of low-income budgets. Second, if abatement technologies are capital-intensive, then any mandate to abate pollution may induce firms to use more capital. If demand for capital is raised relative to labor, then a lower relative wage may also hurt low-income households. Third, pollution permits handed out to firms bestow scarcity rents on well-off individuals who own those firms. Fourth, low-income individuals may place more value on food and shelter than on incremental improvements in environmental quality. If high-income individuals get the most benefit of pollution abatement, then this effect is regressive as well. Fifth, low-income renters miss out on house price capitalization of air quality benefits. Well-off landlords may reap those gains. Sixth, transition effects could well hurt the unemployed who are already at some disadvantage. These six effects might all hurt the poor more than the rich. This paper discusses whether these fears are valid, and whether anything can be done about them.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14241.

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Date of creation: Aug 2008
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14241
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  7. Mendelsohn, Robert & Dinar, Ariel & Williams, Larry, 2006. "The distributional impact of climate change on rich and poor countries," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(02), pages 159-178, April.
  8. Maloney, Michael T & McCormick, Robert E, 1982. "A Positive Theory of Environmental Quality Regulation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 99-123, April.
  9. Bovenberg, A.L. & Goulder, L.H. & Gurney, D.J., 2003. "Efficiency Costs of Meeting Industry-Distributional Constraints under Environmental Permits and Taxes," Discussion Paper 2003-86, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  10. Louis Kaplow, 2004. "On the (Ir)Relevance of Distribution and Labor Supply Distortion to Government Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 159-175, Fall.
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  12. Robison, H David, 1985. "Who Pays for Industrial Pollution Abatement?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(4), pages 702-06, November.
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  16. James M. Poterba, 1991. "Is the Gasoline Tax Regressive?," NBER Working Papers 3578, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. West, Sarah E., 2004. "Distributional effects of alternative vehicle pollution control policies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 735-757, March.
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  21. Gayer, Ted, 2000. "Neighborhood Demographics and the Distribution of Hazardous Waste Risks: An Instrumental Variables Estimation," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 17(2), pages 131-55, March.
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  23. Gianessi, Leonard P & Peskin, Henry M & Wolff, Edward, 1979. "The Distributional Effects of Uniform Air Pollution Policy in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 281-301, May.
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  26. Alberini, Anna & Cropper, Maureen & Krupnick, Alan & Simon, N.B.Nathalie B., 2004. "Does the value of a statistical life vary with age and health status? Evidence from the US and Canada," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 769-792, July.
  27. Robert Mendelsohn & William D. Nordhaus & Daigee Shaw, 1993. "Measuring the Impact of Global Warming in Agriculture," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1045, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
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