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Cap and Dividend: How to Curb Global Warming while Protecting the Incomes of American Families

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  • Matthew Riddle
  • James Boyce

Abstract

This essay examines the distributional effects of a “cap-and-dividend" policy for reducing carbon emission in the United States: a policy that auctions carbon permits and distributes the revenue to the public on an equal per capita basis. The aim of the policy is to reduce U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the main pollutant causing global warming, while at the same time protecting the real incomes of middle-income and lower-income American families. The number of permits is set by a statutory cap on carbon emissions that gradually diminishes over time. The sale of carbon permits will generate very large revenues, posing the critical question of who will get the money. The introduction of carbon permits – or, for that matter, any policy to curb emissions – will raise prices of fossil fuels and have a regressive impact on income distribution, since fuel expenditures represent a larger fraction of income for lower-income households than for upper-income households. The net effect of carbon emission-reduction policies depends on who gets the money that households pay in higher prices. We find that a cap-and-dividend policy would have a strongly progressive net effect. Moreover, the majority of U.S. households would be net winners in purely monetary terms: that is, their real incomes, after paying higher fuel prices and receiving their dividends, would rise. From the standpoints of both distributional equity and political feasibility, a cap-and-dividend policy is therefore an attractive way to curb carbon emissions.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew Riddle & James Boyce, 2007. "Cap and Dividend: How to Curb Global Warming while Protecting the Incomes of American Families," Working Papers wp150, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  • Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp150
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Jenkins, Jesse D., 2014. "Political economy constraints on carbon pricing policies: What are the implications for economic efficiency, environmental efficacy, and climate policy design?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 467-477.
    2. Paul, Anthony & Burtraw, Dallas & Palmer, Karen, 2008. "Compensation for Electricity Consumers Under a U.S. CO2 Emissions Cap," Discussion Papers dp-08-25, Resources For the Future.
    3. Burtraw, Dallas & Sekar, Samantha, 2013. "Two World Views on Carbon Revenues," Discussion Papers dp-13-32, Resources For the Future.
    4. Dallas Burtraw & David A. Evans, 2009. "Tradable rights to emit air pollution ," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 53(1), pages 59-84, January.
    5. Jesse D. Jenkins & Valerie J. Karplus, 2016. "Carbon pricing under binding political constraints," WIDER Working Paper Series 044, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    6. Burtraw, Dallas & Evans, David A., 2009. "Tradable rights to emit air pollution," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 53(1), March.
    7. Farley, Joshua & Costanza, Robert & Flomenhoft, Gary & Kirk, Daniel, 2015. "The Vermont Common Assets Trust: An institution for sustainable, just and efficient resource allocation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 71-79.
    8. Roberton C. Williams III & Hal Gordon & Dallas Burtraw & Jared C. Carbone & Richard D. Morgenstern, 2015. "The Initial Incidence of a Carbon Tax Across Income Groups," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 68(1), pages 195-214, March.
    9. James Boyce & Matthew Riddle, 2010. "CLEAR Economics: State-Level Impacts of the Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal Act on Family Incomes and Jobs," Published Studies clear_boyce_revised_july2, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    10. James Boyce & Matthew Riddle, 2008. "Keeping the Government Whole: The Impact of a Cap-and-Dividend Policy for Curbing Global Warming on Government Revenue and Expenditure," Working Papers wp188, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
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    12. Gordon, Hal & Burtraw, Dallas & Williams, Roberton, 2015. "A Microsimulation Model of the Distributional Impacts of Climate Policies," Discussion Papers dp-14-40, Resources For the Future.
    13. Burtraw, Dallas & Sweeney, Richard & Walls, Margaret, 2009. "The Incidence of U.S. Climate Policy: Alternative Uses of Revenues From a Cap-and-Trade Auction," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 62(3), pages 497-518, September.
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    15. Gerald Epstein, 2014. "Restructuring finance to promote productive employment," European Journal of Economics and Economic Policies: Intervention, Edward Elgar Publishing, vol. 11(2), pages 161-170, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Global warming; fossil fuels; climate change; carbon permits; cap-and-rebate; cap-and-auction; cap-and-trade;

    JEL classification:

    • H22 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Incidence
    • 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
    • Q52 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Pollution Control Adoption and Costs; Distributional Effects; Employment Effects
    • 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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