Political Institutions and Pollution: Evidence from Coal-Fired Power Generation

Review of Policy Research (2019)

40 Pages Posted: 9 May 2019

See all articles by Richard Clark

Richard Clark

Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science, Department of Political Science

Noah Zucker

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Johannes Urpelainen

Johns Hopkins SAIS

Date Written: April 11, 2019

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Clark, Richard and Zucker, Noah and Urpelainen, Johannes, Political Institutions and Pollution: Evidence from Coal-Fired Power Generation (April 11, 2019). Review of Policy Research (2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3370276

Richard Clark

Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science, Department of Political Science ( email )

New York, NY
United States

Noah Zucker

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

7th Floor, International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Johannes Urpelainen (Contact Author)

Johns Hopkins SAIS ( email )

1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1984
United States

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