Short run effects of a price on carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. electric generators

Adam Newcomer, Seth A. Blumsack, Jay Apt, Lester B. Lave, M. Granger Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


The price of delivered electricity will rise if generators have to pay for carbon dioxide emissions through an implicit or explicit mechanism. There are two main effects that a substantial price on CO 2 emissions would have in the short run (before the generation fleet changes significantly). First consumers would react to increased price by buying less, described by their price elasticity of demand. Second, a price on CO 2 emissions would change the order in which existing generators are economically dispatched, depending on their carbon dioxide emissions and marginal fuel prices. Both the price increase and dispatch changes depend on the mix of generation technologies and fuels in the region available for dispatch, although the consumer response to higher prices is the dominant effect. We estimate that the instantaneous imposition of a price of $35 per metric ton on CO 2 emissions would lead to a 10% reduction in CO 2 emissions in PJM and MISO at a price elasticity of-0.1. Reductions in ERCOT would be about one-third as large. Thus, a price on CO 2 emissions that has been shown in earlier work to stimulate investment in new generation technology also provides significant CO 2 reductions before new technology is deployed at large scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3139-3144
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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