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Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
John K. Stranlund
Christine L. Crago
Economic Policy | Economic Theory | Environmental Policy
This dissertation contains three original essays in the economic theory of environmental regulation. The main motivations for this work are two problems: the design of greenhouse gas (GHG) policies when emissions of these gases interact with so-called co-pollutants and the design of hybrid price and quantity policies to deal with the uncertainty in the benefits and costs of controlling GHG emissions.
Abstract Concerns about how best to control GHGs have generated intense interest in the co-benefits and adverse side-effects of climate policies. Efforts to reduce CO2 emissions can reduce emissions of flow pollutants that are emitted along with CO2, which provides a co-benefit of climate policy. However, it is not always the case that efforts to reduce CO2 emissions have positive co-benefits.
The challenge of climate change has also intensified research in policy design under uncertainty about the benefits and costs of controlling GHG emissions. Literature on this problem suggest that a carbon tax is more efficient than carbon trading. However, given that many existing GHG control policies feature tradable permit markets, there have been a lot of interest and innovation in hybrid schemes. The most popular form of these hybrids involves tradable emissions permits with price controls.
While there is a significant literature on designing hybrid price and quantity environmental regulations under uncertainty, and another literature on regulating multiple interacting pollutants, no one has addressed the design of an emission markets with price controls for a pollutant that interacts with a co-pollutant in emission control. In Chapter 2, we investigate the optimal regulation of a pollutant given its abatement interaction with another pollutant under asymmetric information about firms’ abatement costs. The co-pollutant is regulated, but perhaps not efficiently. Our focus is on optimal instrument choice in this setting, and we derive rules for determining whether a pollutant should be regulated with an emissions tax, tradable permits, or an emissions market with price controls. The policy choices depend on the relative slopes of the damage functions for both pollutants and the aggregate marginal abatement cost function, including whether the pollutants are complements or substitutes in abatement and whether the co-pollutant is controlled with a tax or tradable permits.
In Chapter 3, we extend the model in Chapter 2 by allowing a pollutant to interact with a co-pollutant in both abatement and damage. In this situation, we examine the expected performance of optimal price-based regulations for the primary pollutant. We find that, given exogenous but possibly inefficient regulation of a co-pollutant, an optimal permit market, an optimal tax, and an optimal permit market with price controls all produce the same expected emissions for the primary pollutant, which deviates from its ex ante optimal emissions if the co-pollutant is regulated inefficiently. This deviation depends on 1) the interactions of the two pollutants in abatement costs and damages, 2) the deviation of the expected emissions of the co-pollutant from its ex ante optimal emissions, and 3) whether it is regulated with a fixed number of tradable permits or an emissions tax.
Another important concern about permit trading has been how much regulations induce investments in abatement capital or technology. As concern about cost containment has increased, the effects of cost-containment policies on abatement investments have gained attention among researchers. In Chapter 4 we examine the effects of a hybrid policy on investment in abatement capital. We construct a dynamic stochastic model to study the decision to invest in irreversible abatement capital under an emissions market with price controls. We consider investment decisions in an emissions market with price controls, and compare these to the decisions in a market without price controls. We found that a price floor tends to increase the opportunity of investment while a price ceiling always reduces the opportunity of investment by imposing an upper bound of investment intervals. Under a hybrid regulation there exists an upper bound of abatement capital stock such that no additional investment occurs. No such upper bound exists for a pure permit trading. On the other hand, there may exist investment opportunities for low marginal abatement costs under a hybrid policy that are not available under a pure permit trading. However, when investments are required under both regulations, increases in capital stock under a hybrid regulation are likely to be less than under pure permit trading.
Son, Insung, "THREE ESSAYS ON THE THEORY OF ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATION: HYBRID PRICE AND QUANTITY POLICIES AND REGULATION IN THE PRESENCE OF CO-POLLUTANTS" (2017). Doctoral Dissertations. 1126.