Distributional Effects of Environmental and Energy Policy

Many effects of environmental and energy policy are likely to disproportionately burden those with low income. First, it raises the price of fossil-fuel-intensive products that constitute a high fraction of low-income budgets (like gasoline, heating fuel and electricity). Second, the handout of pollution permits to firms provides value to those who own them. Third, low-income individuals may place more value on food and shelter than on improvements in environmental quality, so high-income individuals may get the most benefit of pollution abatement. Fourth, air quality improvements may raise the value of houses owned by landlords, rather than helping renters. These effects might all hurt the poor more than the rich. This book brings together the seminal economics literature that studies whether these fears are valid and whether anything can be done about them.