Costs of alternative environmental policy instruments in the presence of industry compensation requirements

A.L. Bovenberg, L.H. Goulder, M.R. Jacobsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores how the costs of meeting given aggregate targets for pollution emissions change with the imposition of the requirement that key pollution-related industries be compensated for potential losses of profit from the pollution regulation. We apply a numerically solved general equilibrium model to compare the incidence and costs of emissions taxes, fuel (intermediate input) taxes, performance standards and mandated technologies in the absence and presence of this compensation requirement. Compensation is provided either through industry tax credits or industry-specific cuts in capital tax rates.

We analyze the added costs from the compensation requirement in terms of (1) an increase in “intrinsic abatement cost,” reflecting a lowered efficiency of pollution abatement, and (2) a “lump-sum compensation cost” that captures the efficiency costs of financing the compensation. The compensation requirement affects these components differently, depending on the policy instrument involved and the required extent of pollution abatement. As a result, it can change the cost rankings of the different instruments.

In particular, when compensation is provided through lump-sum tax credits, the lump-sum compensation cost is higher under the emissions tax than under the command-and-control policies (performance standards and mandated technologies) — a reflection of the higher compensation requirements under the emissions tax. When the required pollution reduction is modest, imposing the compensation requirement causes the emissions tax to lose its status as the least costly instrument and to become more costly than command-and-control policies. In contrast, when required abatement is extensive, the emissions tax again becomes the most cost-effective instrument because of its advantages in terms of lower intrinsic abatement cost.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1236-1253
JournalJournal of Public Economics
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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