Australian Health & Human Capital Economics Seminar | Is Air Pollution Regulation Too Stringent? Evidence from US Offset Markets by Reed Walker
Welcome back to the Virtual Australian Health & Human Capital Economics Seminar Series, which goes into its second year. This event is organised by A/Professor Victoria Baranov (UMelb), Dr Sarah Walker (UNSW), Professor Stefanie Schurer (USyd), Dr Rebecca McKibbin (USyd), Professor Adeline Delavande (UTS), and Professor Brenda Gannon (UQ).
The seminar series is open to the public. Sign up HERE for mailing list.
Is Air Pollution Regulation Too Stringent? Evidence from US Offset Markets
University of California, Berkeley
Wednesday 26 October
10.00am – 11.00am
Abstract: This paper describes a framework to estimate the marginal cost of air pollution regulation, then applies it to assess whether a large set of existing U.S. air pollution regulations have marginal costs exceeding their marginal benefits. The approach utilizes an important yet underexplored provision of the Clean Air Act requiring new or expanding plants to pay incumbents in the same or neighbouring counties to reduce their pollution emissions. These “offset” regulations create several hundred decentralized, local markets for pollution that differ by pollutant and location. We describe conditions under which offset transaction prices are close to the marginal cost of pollution abatement, and we compare estimates of the marginal benefit of abatement from leading air quality models to offset prices. We find that for most regions and pollutants, the marginal benefits of pollution abatement exceed mean offset prices more than ten-fold. In at least one market, however, estimated marginal benefits are below offset prices. Marginal abatement costs are increasing rapidly in real terms. Notably, our revealed preference estimates of marginal abatement costs differ enormously from typical engineering estimates. Some evidence suggests that using price rather than existing quantity regulation in these markets may increase social welfare.