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Economic Effects of Legislation to Reduce Greenhouse-Gas Emissions
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 as well as emissions in other countries. Achieving such reductions would probably involve transforming the U.S. economy from one that runs on CO2-emitting fossil fuels to one that increasingly relies on nuclear and renewable fuels, accomplishing substantial improvements in energy efficiency, or implementing the large-scale capture and storage of CO2 emissions.This report discusses one option for reducing emissions in a cost-effective manner: 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 from fossil fuels and for energy-intensive goods, which would in turn provide incentives for households and businesses to use less carbon-based energy and to develop energy sources that emitsmaller amounts of CO2. Changes in the 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 some but not allof those income shifts by authorizing the government to sell CO2 emission allowances and using the revenues to compensate certain households or businesses, or to give allowances away to some households or businesses. Tables and figures.
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