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Wilcoxen paper on pricing carbon in the US published in Resource and Energy Economics

Dec 31, 2013

Pricing Carbon in the U.S.: A Model-Based Analysis of Power-Sector-Only Approaches

Warwick J. McKibbin, Adele C. Morris & Peter J. Wilcoxen

Resource and Energy Economics, December 2013

Peter Wilcoxen

Peter Wilcoxen

One proposed climate policy is a “power-sector-only” approach that would focus exclusively on controlling carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation. This paper uses an intertemporal computable general equilibrium model of the world economy called G-Cubed to compare a power-sector-only climate policy with two alternative economy-wide measures that either: (1) place the same price on carbon or (2) achieve the same cumulative emissions reduction as the program limited to the power sector.

The authors find that the power-sector-only approach requires a carbon price to electric utilities that is almost twice the economy-wide carbon price that would achieve the same cumulative emissions. In addition, they find that the power-sector-only policy does not produce offsetting increases in emissions in other sectors or other countries. Rather, they find that domestic carbon emissions outside the power sector fall slightly relative to baseline as higher electricity prices slow overall economic activity. Global emissions leakage is negligible as the price of oil in other currencies changes little. All three policies reduce investment in the capital-intensive energy sector, which lowers imports of durable goods and strengthens the U.S. terms of trade.