Political Institutions and Pollution: Evidence from Coal-Fired Power Generation
Review of Policy Research (2019)
40 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2019
Date Written: April 11, 2019
What is the relationship between political institutions and air pollution generated by the power sector? Here we focus on the association between democracy and power generated from coal, the most polluting of all fossil fuels. Using a new dataset on coal-fired power plants commissioned between 1980 and 2016 in 71 countries, we find that the relationship between democracy and coal varies according to the environmental Kuznets curve logic. Democratic political institutions at lower levels of economic development are correlated with increased commissioning of coal power plants, as governments seek to appeal to an electorate prioritizing economic growth and affordable energy access. As a country becomes richer, democracy comes to have a negative association with coal power, as clean air becomes a more salient issue for the public.
Keywords: air pollution, coal, environmental Kuznets curve, environmental politics, political institutions power sector
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