Managing the distributional effects of energy taxes and subsidy removal in Latin America and the Caribbean

Kuishuang Feng*, Klaus Hubacek, Yu Liu, Estefania Marchan, Adrien Vogt-Schilb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Energy subsidies have been criticized due to their economic inefficiency and promotion of wasteful usage of energy and associated carbon emissions. Conversely, environmental taxes are advocated as efficient policy instruments. But removing subsidies and taxing energy can be politically challenging because vulnerable households rely on low energy prices. This study analyzes the impact of energy price hikes on different income groups using an energy-extended input-output approach. Our results show that higher-income groups benefit more from low energy prices than low-income groups when tracing both direct and indirect (supply chain) effects of energy price variations. Energy subsidies are a very expensive option to transfer income to poor households. For example, in Latin America and the Caribbean, using energy subsidies would cost about $12 to transfer $1 of income to households in the poorest quintile. Recycling a small fraction of fiscal revenues from energy subsidy removal or energy taxation could be sufficient to compensate vulnerable households from the effects of price hikes. Cash transfers to poor households and targeted subsidies for public transportation or food are the most effective measures to compensate households for welfare loss.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-436
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - 1-Sep-2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Distributional impact
  • Input-output analysis
  • Carbon taxes
  • Environmental tax reform
  • Political acceptability

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