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Unintended Consequences of Transportation Carbon Policies: Land-Use, Emissions, and Innovation

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

Abstract

Renewable fuel standards, low carbon fuel standards, and ethanol subsidies are popular policies to incentivize ethanol production and reduce emissions from transportation. Compared to carbon trading, these policies lead to large shifts in agricultural activity and unexpected social costs. We simulate the 2022 Federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and find that energy crop production increases by 39 million acres. Land- use costs from erosion and habitat loss are between $277 and $693 million. A low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) and ethanol subsidies have similar effects while costs under an equivalent cap and trade (CAT) system are essentially zero. In addition, the alternatives to CAT magnify errors in assigning emissions rates to fuels and can over or under-incentivize innovation. These results highlight the potential negative efficiency effects of the RFS, LCFS and subsidies, effects that would be less severe under a CAT policy.

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  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19636
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Gabriel E Lade & C -Y Cynthia Lin Lawell & Aaron Smith, 2018. "Policy Shocks and Market-Based Regulations: Evidence from the Renewable Fuel Standard," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 100(3), pages 707-731.
    2. Kovács, Olivér, 2017. "Az ipar 4.0 komplexitása - II [The Complexity of Industry 4.0 - Part 2]," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(9), pages 970-987.
    3. Whistance, Jarrett & Thompson, Wyatt & Meyer, Seth, 2017. "Interactions between California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard and the National Renewable Fuel Standard," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 447-455.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q4 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics

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