Efficiency Costs of Meeting Industry-Distributional Constraints under Environmental Permits and Taxes

A.L. Bovenberg, L.H. Goulder, D.J. Gurney

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Many pollution-related industries wield strong political influence and can e.ectively veto policy initiatives that would harm their profits.A politically realistic approach to environmental policy therefore seems to require the alleviation of significant profitlosses to these industries.The regulatory authority can do this by freely allocating some emissions permits or by exempting some inframarginal emissions from a pollution tax.However, such policies compel the government to forego an e.cient potential revenue source and to rely more heavily on ordinary distortionary taxes.As a result, achieving distributional objectives comes at a cost in terms of e.ciency.Using analytically and numerically solved equilibrium models, we analyze the e.- ciency costs implied by the distributional constraint that adverse impacts on profits in particular industries must be avoided.Both models indicate that the e.ciency cost implied by this constraint dwarfs the other e.ciency costs when the required amount of abatement is very small.When the abatement requirement becomes more extensive, however, the cost of this constraint diminishes relative to the other e.ciency costs of pollution-control.We also calculate the compensation ratio: the share of potential policy revenue that the government must forego to protect the industries in question.We show how this ratio is a.ected by the extent of abatement, supply and demand elasticities, and the potential for end-of-pipe treatment.One definition of this ratio corresponds to the share of pollution permits that must be freely allocated to prevent profit-losses in the targeted industries.Numerical simulations of sulfur dioxide pollution-control suggest that the Bush Administration s Clear Skies Initiative would exceed this ratio, freely allocating more permits than necessary to preserve profits.Our models also highlight significant di.erences between gross and net policy revenues: when abatement is extensive, a large fraction of the revenue collected from emissions permits or taxes is o.set by the revenue-loss from erosion of the base of existing factor taxes.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
Number of pages58
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper


  • efficiency
  • costs
  • environmental tax
  • pollution
  • environmental policy


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