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Tax Policies for Low-Carbon Technologies

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  • Gilbert E. Metcalf

Abstract

The U.S. tax code provides a number of subsidies for low-carbon technologies. I discuss the difficulties of achieving key policy goals with subsidies as opposed to using taxes to raise the price of pollution-related activities. In particular, subsidies lower the cost of energy (on average) rather than raising it. Thus consumer demand responses work at cross purposes to the goal of reducing emissions (especially as average cost pricing is used for electricity). Second, it is difficult to achieve technology neutrality with subsidies -- here defined as an equal subsidy cost per ton of CO2 avoided. Third, many subsidies are inframarginal. Finally, subsidies often suffer from unintended interactions with other policies. I conclude with some observations on the use of price-based instruments. In particular I discuss how a carbon tax could be designed to achieve environmental goals of emission caps over a control period.

Suggested Citation

  • Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2009. "Tax Policies for Low-Carbon Technologies," NBER Working Papers 15054, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15054 Note: EEE PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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 106-146, February.
    2. Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2006. "Federal Tax Policy Towards Energy," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0612, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    3. Lucas W. Davis & Matthew E. Kahn, 2008. "International Trade in Used Durable Goods: The Environmental Consequences of NAFTA," NBER Working Papers 14565, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert Main, 2013. "Subsidizing Non-Polluting Goods vs. Taxing Polluting Goods for Pollution Reduction," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 41(4), pages 349-362, December.
    2. Aldy, Joseph Edgar, 2011. "A Preliminary Review of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Clean Energy Package," Scholarly Articles 5688917, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
    3. Eimear Leahy & Richard Tol, 2012. "Greener homes: an ex-post estimate of the cost of carbon dioxide emission reduction using administrative micro-data from the Republic of Ireland," Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Springer;Society for Environmental Economics and Policy Studies - SEEPS, vol. 14(3), pages 219-239, July.
    4. Kim, Wook & Chattopadhyay, Deb & Park, Jong-bae, 2010. "Impact of carbon cost on wholesale electricity price: A note on price pass-through issues," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 35(8), pages 3441-3448.
    5. Balázs Égert, 2011. "France's Environmental Policies: Internalising Global and Local Externalities," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 859, OECD Publishing.
    6. Johnson, Erik Paul, 2014. "The cost of carbon dioxide abatement from state renewable portfolio standards," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 332-350.
    7. Schmidt, Tobias S. & Battke, Benedikt & Grosspietsch, David & Hoffmann, Volker H., 2016. "Do deployment policies pick technologies by (not) picking applications?—A simulation of investment decisions in technologies with multiple applications," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(10), pages 1965-1983.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy

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