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Regulating Existing Power Plants under the Clean Air Act: Present and Future Consequences of Key Design Choices

In June 2014, the EPA released its proposal for rules to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel power plants, triggering considerable debate on the proposal’s environmental and economic consequences and on alternatives highlighted by the proposal and by other stakeholders. One question not addressed by this debate is this: What if the EPA regulations turn out to be inadequate to address future mitigation goals? That is, what will the landscape for future policies look like if these regulations turn out to be just an interim measure? This analysis explores the long-term consequences of several key regulatory design choices, including mass-based versus rate-based standards, tradable versus non-tradable standards, and differentiated versus single standards. It finds that these consequences may be significant: differentiated standards lead to relatively greater investment in coal retrofits; non-tradable standards lead to relatively greater retirement of coal capacity. It may be the case that key policy choices entail one set of tradeoffs if proposed EPA rules are viewed as relatively permanent and final and another set of tradeoffs if the rules are viewed as an interim solution.

Authors: Brian C. Murray, William A. Pizer, and Martin Ross

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Environmental Economics

Climate Change Policy

Energy Sector

Modeling

Working Papers

Mangrove Ecosystem Services Valuation: State of the Literature

A growing body of literature provides estimates of ecosystem services values derived from mangroves. If this literature is to be useful in decision making, it must have a solid foundation of value estimates. This paper identifies gaps in data and knowledge regarding mangrove ecosystem services valuations and recommends ways that future research could advance understanding of mangrove ecology, ecosystem services valuation, and conservation. 

Authors: Tibor Vegh, Megan Jungwiwattanaporn, Linwood Pendleton, and Brian Murray

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Oceans & Coasts

Marine Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services

Marine

Environmental Economics

Working Papers

Synthesis and Review: Advancing Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Quantification

Reducing emissions of agricultural greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as methane and nitrous oxide, and sequestering carbon in the soil or in living biomass can help reduce the impact of agriculture on climate change while imporving productivity. A new article in a special focus issue of Environmental Research Letters synthesizes the current findings on the state of the capacity for agricultural GHG quantification. It concludes that strategic investment in quantification can lead to significant global improvement in agricultural GHG estimation in the near term.

Author(s): Lydia P. Olander, Eva Wollenberg, Francesco N. Tubiello, and Martin Herold

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Climate & Energy

Agriculture

Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

National

Journal Articles

Completing the Energy Innovation Cycle: The View from the Public Utility Commission

Achieving a widespread adoption of innovative electricity generation technologies involves a complex system of research, development, demonstration, and deployment, with each phase then informing future developments. Despite a number of non-regulatory programs at the federal level to support this process, the innovation premium—the increased cost and technology risk often associated with innovative generation technologies—creates hurdles in the state public utility commission (PUC) process. This article in the Hastings Law Journal examines how and why innovative energy technologies face challenges in the PUC process, focusing on case studies where PUCs have approved or denied utility proposals to deploy high cost, first-generation energy technologies. It concludes with an outline of possible strategies to address PUC concerns by allocating the innovation premium beyond a single utility's ratepayers.

Author(s): Jonas Monast and Sarah Adair 

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Climate & Energy

Policy and Design

State Utility Regulation

Environmental Economics

Climate Change Policy

Energy Sector

States & Regions

State Policy

Journal Articles

Land Use in a Future Climate Agreement

The second options assessment report, Land Use in a Future Climate Agreement, is in support of the ADP negotiations on a post-2020 agreement and focuses specifically on the role of emissions and removals from land use. It is part of a series of option reports funded by the U.S. Department of State but is not in support of, or reflecting, U.S. Government positions and is the sole work of an independent author team. 

Author(s): Manuel Estrada, Donna Lee, Brian Murray, Robert O'Sullivan, Jim Penman, and Charlotte Streck

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Climate & Energy

Policy and Design

Land

Environmental Economics

International

REDD

Reports

Alternative Approaches for Addressing Non-Permanence in Carbon Projects: An Application to Afforestation and Reforestation under the Clean Development Mechanism

Afforestation and reforestation (A/R) projects generate greenhouse gas reduction credits by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through biophysical processes and storing it in terrestrial carbon stocks. One feature of A/R activities is the possibility of non-permanence, in which stored carbon is lost though natural or anthropogenic disturbances. The risk of non-permanence is currently addressed in Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) A/R projects through temporary carbon credits. To evaluate other approaches to address reversals and their implications for policy and investment decisions, the authors assess the performance of multiple policy and accounting mechanisms using a forest ecosystem simulation model parameterized with observational data on natural disturbances . The analysis, featured in the journal Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, finds that location, project scale, and system dynamics all affect the performance of different risk mechanisms. It also find that there is power in risk diversification. Risk management mechanisms likewise exhibit a range of features and tradeoffs among risk conservatism, economic returns, and other factors. Rather than relying on a single approach, a menu-based system could be developed to provide entities the flexibility to choose among approaches, but care must be taken to avoid issues of adverse selection.

Author(s): Christopher Galik, Brian Murray, Stephen Mitchell, Phil Cottle

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Climate & Energy

Policy and Design

Environmental Economics

Climate Change Policy

Natural Resources

Journal Articles

How Effective are U.S. Renewable Energy Subsidies in Cutting Greenhouse Gases?

The federal tax code provides preferential treatment for the production and use of renewable energy. This analysis in The American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings provides estimates of the subsidies' effects on greenhouse gas emissions developed in a recent National Research Council (NRC) report. Due to lack of estimates of the impact of tax provisions on greenhouse gas emissions, new modeling studies were commissioned. The studies found, at best, a small impact of subsidies in reducing greenhouse gas emissions; in some cases, emissions increased. The NRC report also identified the need to capture the complex interactions among subsidies, pre-existing regulations, and commodity markets.
 
Author(s): Brian Murray, Maureen L. Cropper, Francisco C. de la Chesnaye, and John M. Reilly

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Climate & Energy

Environmental Economics

Energy Sector

Journal Articles

Carbon Market Lessons and Global Policy Outlook

Although markets for trading carbon emission credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have stalled in United States federal policy-making, carbon markets are emerging at the state level within the U.S. and around the world, teaching us more about what does and doesn't work. Authors discuss in a Policy Forum piece in Science key lessons from a decade of experience with carbon markets.

Author(s): Richard Newell, William Pizer, Daniel Raimi

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Climate & Energy

Policy and Design

Science

Environmental Economics

Natural Resources

International

National

State Policy

Journal Articles

Environmental and Natural Resource Economics: An Encyclopedia

Economic markets and environmental outcomes are inextricably linked. Given the number and scope of environmental problems we face today, everyone from high school students to policy makers to concerned citizens should understand how the economy works and grasp how meltdowns—both economic and environmental in nature—can be avoided. Environment and Natural Resource Economics: An Encyclopedia offers the critical information needed to comprehend these complex issues. The entries cover topics in a manner parallel to how environmental economics is commonly taught, addressing basic concepts, environmental policy, natural resource economics, market failure, exhaustible and renewable resources, benefit-cost analysis, and applied welfare economics. Additionally, the book includes entries on key concepts of economics, movements, events, organizations, important individuals, and research areas relevant to the study of environmental and natural resource economics. Two chapters, "Pigouvian Taxes," and "Kenneth Boulding," were penned by Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Director for Economic Analysis Brian Murray.

Author(s): Brian Murray

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Climate & Energy

Environmental Economics

Energy Sector

Natural Resources

Books

Biogas in the United States: An Assessment of Market Potential in a Carbon-Constrained Future

Using biogas as a fossil fuel substitute can mitigate the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Therefore, biogas is an attractive renewable energy source in a carbon-constrained future. Although pipeline-quality biogas can augment the natural gas market supply, its long-term potential has been little studied. This report aims to answer the question of whether, and under what conditions, a substantial, decentralized domestic biogas market could develop in the United States by 2040. It finds that (1) biogas could be expanded to supply perhaps 3–5% of the total natural gas market at projected prices of $5–6/MMBtu, (2) the largest potential biogas is thermal gasification of agriculture and forest residues and biomass, (3) using biogas for electricity generation may be more profitable than supplying it to the pipeline, and (4) because market signals have not spurred widespread adoption of biogas, policy incentives are necessary to increase its use.

Author(s): Brian C. Murray, Christopher S. Galik, and Tibor Vegh

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Low Carbon Technologies

Environmental Economics

Climate Change Policy

Energy Sector

Natural Resources

Modeling

Reports

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