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The Future of U.S. Carbon-Pricing Policy

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  • Robert Stavins

Abstract

There is widespread agreement among economists – and a diverse set of other policy analysts – that at least in the long run, an economy-wide carbon pricing system will be an essential element of any national policy that can achieve meaningful reductions of CO2 emissions cost-effectively in the United States. There is less agreement, however, among economists and others in the policy community regarding the choice of specific carbon-pricing policy instrument, with some supporting carbon taxes and others favoring cap and trade mechanisms. This prompts two important questions. How do the two major approaches to carbon pricing compare on relevant dimensions, including but not limited to efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and distributional equity? And which of the two approaches is more likely to be adopted in the future in the United States? This paper addresses these questions by drawing on both normative and positive theories of policy instrument choice as they apply to U.S. climate change policy, and draws extensively on relevant empirical evidence. The paper concludes with a look at the path ahead, including an assessment of how the two carbon-pricing instruments can be made more politically acceptable.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Stavins, 2019. "The Future of U.S. Carbon-Pricing Policy," NBER Working Papers 25912, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25912
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    3. Blanco, Christian C. & Caro, Felipe & Corbett, Charles J., 2020. "Do carbon abatement opportunities become less profitable over time? A global firm-level perspective using CDP data," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 138(C).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q40 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - General
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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