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Taxing pollution: agglomeration and welfare consequences

Berliant, Marcus and Peng, Shin-Kun and Wang, Ping (2012): Taxing pollution: agglomeration and welfare consequences.

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Abstract

This paper demonstrates that a pollution tax with a fixed cost component may lead, by itself, to stratification between clean and dirty firms without heterogeneous preferences or increasing returns. We construct a simple model with two locations and two industries (clean and dirty) where pollution is a by-product of dirty good manufacturing. Under proper assumptions, a completely stratified configuration with all dirty firms clustering in one city emerges as the only equilibrium outcome when there is a fixed cost component of the pollution tax. Moreover, a stratified Pareto optimum can never be supported by a competitive spatial equilibrium with a linear pollution tax that encompasses Pigouvian taxation as a special case. To support such a stratified Pareto optimum, however, an effective but unconventional policy prescription is to redistribute the pollution tax revenue from the dirty to the clean city residents.

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