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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

Regulating Greenhouse Gases Sector by Sector under the Clean Air Act: How Well Does the Electric-Generating Unit Experience Translate to Petroleum Refineries?

The Environmental Protection Agency is developing performance standards to limit CO2 emissions from the electric power sector, and refineries may one day face similar regulations. If so, some of the policies for regulating carbon emissions from electric-generating units might be translatable to a greenhouse gas (GHG) performance standard for refineries. However, differences between the electric power and petroleum refining industries may be substantial enough to warrant a re-examination of key regulatory decisions in the power plant rule. This policy brief identifies the key differences and highlights their possible significance for a GHG rulemaking for petroleum refineries under the Clean Air Act. A companion working paper—Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions under Section 111(D) of the Clean Air Act: Implications for Petroleum Refineries—discusses the three major steps for rulemaking, policy design questions, potential responses, and their implications as well as examines options for tailoring discussions from power plant regulation, maximizing cost effectiveness, taking into account differences among refineries, and formatting regulation in a way that may best fit them.

Author(s): Kristie Beaudoin, Allison Donnelly, Sarah K. Adair, Brian Murray, William A. Pizer, Tim Profeta

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Climate & Energy

Clean Air Act

Policy and Design

Climate Change Policy

Energy Sector

Policy Briefs

Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions under Section 111(D) of the Clean Air Act: Implications for Petroleum Refineries

The Environmental Protection Agency is developing performance standards to limit CO2 emissions from the electric power sector, and refineries may one day face similar regulations. This paper describes the structure of the refining industry as well as the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed authority to regulate the industry’s emissions under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. It discusses the three major steps for rulemaking, policy design questions that arise at each step, potential responses, and implications for environmental outcomes, equity, and cost effectiveness. The paper concludes by highlighting key considerations for refineries, including options for tailoring discussions from power plant regulation, maximizing cost effectiveness, taking into account differences among refineries, and—given the industry’s characteristics—formatting regulation in a way that may best fit them. A companion policy brief—Regulating Greenhouse Gases Sector by Sector under the Clean Air Act: How Well Does the Electric-Generating Unit Experience Translate to Petroleum Refineries?—highlights differences between the electric power industry and the petroleum refinery industry and highlights their significance for rulemaking for the latter.

Author(s): Allison Donnelly, Kristie Beaudoin, Sarah K. Adair, Brian Murray, William A. Pizer, Tim Profeta

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Climate & Energy

Clean Air Act

Policy and Design

Working Papers

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

The EPA’s Proposed Guidelines for Regulating Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Existing Power Plants

On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed guidelines under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act for the control of carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel–fired power plants. The proposed guidelines are expected to reduce total power sector carbon emissions 30% from 2005 levels by 2030 through the setting of individual emissions targets for each state. States can choose from a range of emissions reduction strategies to develop their preferred approach for achieving their targets. This policy brief provides an overview of the proposed guidelines’ key elements.

Author(s): Jeremy M. Tarr and Sarah K. Adair

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Climate & Energy

Clean Air Act

Policy and Design

State Utility Regulation

Climate Change Policy

Energy Sector

Policy Briefs

Beyond Carbon Dioxide: Capturing Air Quality Benefits with State 111(d) Plans

With finalization of the EPA’s section 111(d) guidelines, states will make decisions about how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. These decisions could fundamentally affect the U.S. power sector and will be made in an environment of uncertainty about the timing, stringency, and compliance costs of future air quality regulations. In light of this uncertainty, states may wish to look beyond carbon dioxide when developing section 111(d) plans. The Clean Air Act allows them the flexibility to reduce carbon emissions in a way that hedges the risk of anticipated air regulations and that potentially lowers long-term compliance costs. This paper discusses these benefits, summarizes air quality regulations that could affect the power sector in the future, and describes how states can use the flexibility afforded them by section 111(d) to manage this regulatory risk. In addition, it identifies elements of state 111(d) plans that may lead to reductions in criteria pollutants.

Author(s): Jeremy Tarr and Jonas Monast

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Climate & Energy

Clean Air Act

Policy and Design

State Utility Regulation

Working Papers

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

Designing CO2 Performance Standards for a Transitioning Electricity Sector: A Multi-Benefits Framework

The U.S. electricity sector is in the midst of a significant transition driven by changes in markets, technology, and regulation, including a forthcoming obligation under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants. The broad statutory language of section 111(d) presents state regulators with an opportunity to pursue strategies that simultaneously reduce CO2 emissions and address other electricity sector needs. This report discusses challenges facing the electricity sector and the potential to implement section 111(d) compliance strategies that provide multiple benefits for the sector.

Authors: Jonas Monast and David Hoppock

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Climate & Energy

Clean Air Act

Policy and Design

State Utility Regulation

Reports

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