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Distribution of Revenues from a Cap-and-Trade Program for CO2 Emissions: Testimony Before the Committee on Finance, U.S. Senate
Douglas W. Elmendorf (au)
Statement of Douglas W. Elmendorf, Dir., Congressional Budget Office (CBO), on the distribution of revenues that could be generated by a cap-and-trade program for reducing U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). Human activities are producing increasingly large quantities of greenhouse gases, especially CO2. The potential cost of reducing the effect of climate change may be significant because it would entail substantial reductions in global emissions over the coming decades. U.S. emissions currently account for roughly 20% of global emissions. As a result, substantially reducing global emissions would probably entail large reductions in U.S. emissions. Achieving such reductions would be likely to involve transforming the U.S. economy from one that runs on CO2-emitting fossil fuels to one that relies on nuclear and renewable fuels, improvements in energy efficiency, or the large-scale capture and storage of CO2 emissions. One option for reducing emissions in a cost-effective manner is to establish a carefully designed cap-and-trade program. Under such a program, the government would set gradually tightening limits on emissions, issue rights (or allowances) consistent with those limits, and then let firms trade the allowances among themselves. Such a cap-and-trade program would lead to higher prices for energy and energy-intensive goods, which would in turn provide incentives for households and businesses to use less energy and to develop energy sources that emit smaller amounts of CO2. Higher relative prices for energy and energy-intensive goods would also shift income among households at different points in the income distribution and across industries and regions of the country. Policymakers could counteract those income shifts by authorizing the government to sell CO2 emission allowances and using the revenues to compensate certain households or businesses, or by giving allowances away to certain households or businesses. Figures.
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