Reforming Gas Pipeline Review
Natural gas plays an outsized role in the U.S. economy. Under the Natural Gas Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) is responsible for overseeing the orderly development of interstate natural gas pipelines, which facilitate the transmission of natural gas throughout the country. FERC can approve the pipeline only if it finds that it is required by the “public convenience and necessity.” Although FERC should consider a range of factors to determine whether a pipeline will serve the public interest, in practice, it looks primarily to the contracts between a developer and its customers for the purchase of pipeline capacity. If a developer can demonstrate that there is a party willing to pay to use its pipeline, FERC rarely asks questions and almost always finds “public” need. This pipeline-by-pipeline approach to natural gas transmission build-out leads to the construction of unnecessary, underused pipelines, which in turn increases ratepayer costs and decreases consumer welfare. Climate change further increases the risk that pipelines will become obsolete as cities and states move toward electrification. Relying on economic theory, legal history, and policy analysis, we make the case for FERC’s adoption of regional gas transmission planning.
Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are a precursor to ground-level ozone, a pernicious pollutant that is harmful to human health and ecosystems. Despite decades of regulations and a sharp decline in NOx emissions, episodic high-ozone events prevent many areas from attaining air quality standards. Theoretically, spatially or temporally differentiated emissions prices could be more cost effective at reducing such events than a uniform price. To test this prediction, with data from EPA and NOAA spanning 2001–2019, this working paper uses novel empirical strategies to estimate (1) the link between hourly emissions and high-ozone events and (2) hourly marginal abatement costs. These estimates form the basis for simulations that compare uniform and differentiated emissions pricing. Consistent with economic theory, differentiated pricing is substantially more cost effective at reducing high-ozone events, but this advantage depends on the accuracy of the estimated NOx–ozone relationship.
Gas Service and the Energy Transition
In Massachusetts, achieving the state’s decarbonization target in a cost-effective manner will likely require the refusal of new gas service in addition to the termination of existing gas service in certain buildings and its replacement with electric service. The scope of utilities’ legal obligation to serve their customers will be central to those efforts. This brief analyzes the contours of this obligation by examining the relevant Massachusetts statutes, regulations, Public Utility Commission decisions, and case law.
In recent years, numerous federal agencies have made a controversial claim: that projects locking in fossil fuels over the long term will decrease aggregate greenhouse gas emissions, or that their effects on total emissions will be limited. In many of those cases, however, agencies have reached this counter-intuitive conclusion using a flawed consideration of energy substitution. This report identifies some of the recurring problems with agency analysis of energy substitution and offers best practices to apply moving forward.
Tools for Justice40 and Equitable Deep Decarbonization
This brief summarizes some of the major points of discussion from our May 2022 conference, “Advancing Energy Justice: Tools for Justice40 and Equitable Deep Decarbonization.” The event brought together federal agency staff working to implement Justice40 with researchers to discuss how academic research can be more responsive to communities’ needs. This brief summarizes the varied views expressed by conference participants and is not intended to be a consensus or recommendation document.
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