Distributional Effects of Environmental and Energy Policy: An Introduction

19 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2008 Last revised: 6 Dec 2013

See all articles by Don Fullerton

Don Fullerton

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Finance; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Date Written: August 2008

Abstract

This chapter reviews literature on the distributional effects of environmental and energy policy. In particular, many effects of such policy are likely regressive. First, it raises the price of fossil-fuel-intensive products, expenditures on which are a high fraction of low-income budgets. Second, if abatement technologies are capital-intensive, then any mandate to abate pollution may induce firms to use more capital. If demand for capital is raised relative to labor, then a lower relative wage may also hurt low-income households. Third, pollution permits handed out to firms bestow scarcity rents on well-off individuals who own those firms. Fourth, low-income individuals may place more value on food and shelter than on incremental improvements in environmental quality. If high-income individuals get the most benefit of pollution abatement, then this effect is regressive as well. Fifth, low-income renters miss out on house price capitalization of air quality benefits. Well-off landlords may reap those gains. Sixth, transition effects could well hurt the unemployed who are already at some disadvantage. These six effects might all hurt the poor more than the rich. This paper discusses whether these fears are valid, and whether anything can be done about them.

Suggested Citation

Fullerton, Don, Distributional Effects of Environmental and Energy Policy: An Introduction (August 2008). NBER Working Paper No. w14241. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1231690

Don Fullerton (Contact Author)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Finance ( email )

1206 South Sixth Street
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
(217) 244-3621 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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