Tuesday, January 21, 2014

General Equilibrium Impacts of a Federal Clean Energy Standard

Economists have tended to view emissions pricing (e.g., cap and trade or a carbon tax) as the most cost-effective approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This paper offers a different view. Employing analytical and numerically solved general equilibrium models, the paper indicates plausible conditions under which a more conventional form of regulation—namely, the use of a clean energy standard (CES)—is more cost-effective. The models reveal that in a realistic economy with prior taxes on factors of production, the CES distorts factor markets less because it is a smaller implicit tax on factors. This advantage more than offsets the disadvantages of the CES when relatively minor reductions in emissions are called for. Numerical simulations indicate that the cost-effectiveness of the CES is sensitive to what is deemed “clean” electricity. To achieve maximal cost-effectiveness, the CES must offer significant credit to electricity generated from natural gas.

by Lawrence H. Goulder, Marc Hafstead and Roberton C. Williams III
Resources For the Future (RFF) www.RFF.org
RFF Discussion Paper 14-02; January, 2014

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