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Do Americans Consume Too Little Natural Gas? An Empirical Test of Marginal Cost Pricing

  • Lucas W. Davis
  • Erich Muehlegger

This paper measures the extent to which prices exceed marginal costs in the U.S. natural gas distribution market during the period 1991-2007. We find large departures from marginal cost pricing in all 50 states, with residential and commercial customers facing average markups of over 40%. Based on conservative estimates of the price elasticity of demand these distortions impose hundreds of millions of dollars of annual welfare loss. Moreover, current price schedules are an important pre-existing distortion which should be taken into account when evaluating carbon taxes and other policies aimed at addressing external costs.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15885.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15885.

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Date of creation: Apr 2010
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Publication status: published as RAND Journal of Economics, 2010, 41(4), 791-810.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15885
Note: EEE IO PE
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  1. W. Kip Viscusi & Joseph E. Harrington & John M. Vernon, 2005. "Economics of Regulation and Antitrust, 4th Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 4, volume 1, number 026222075x, December.
  2. P. Joskow, 1974. "Inflation and Environmental Concern: Structural Change in the Process of Public Utility Price Regulation," Working papers 128, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. Kira Markiewicz & Nancy L. Rose & Catherine Wolfram, 2004. "Do Markets Reduce Costs? Assessing the Impact of Regulatory Restructuring on U.S. Electric Generation Efficiency," NBER Working Papers 11001, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Ng, Charles K & Seabright, Paul, 2001. "Competition, Privatisation and Productive Efficiency: Evidence from the Airline Industry," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 591-619, July.
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