The effects of energy tax policy on markets and the environment
The Federal government supports energy investment and production through the tax code and spending programs administered by the Department of Energy (DOE). In 2016, energy-related tax preferences cost an estimated $18.4 billion, while relevant DOE spending programs cost $5.9 billion.
DOE programs advance knowledge benefits, which the private sector underproduces because companies cannot capture all the benefits for themselves. Early-stage research and development (R&D) has the largest “knowledge spillovers,” yet DOE direct investments in applied (late stage) energy research is more than double those in basic (early stage) research. Tax preferences may encourage knowledge benefits for nascent technologies but deter investment in R&D in new technologies that find it harder to compete with incumbents receiving preferential tax treatment.