Reducing Fossil Fuel Dominance on Public Lands by Accounting for Option Value
While the Trump administration’s goal of “energy dominance” has increased the public lands available for oil and gas development, no effort has been made to modernize the leasing system, even in the face of climate change. Our report explains how option value—which accounts for the informational value gained by delaying leasing decisions—can and should be factored into the Bureau of Land Management’s land use planning processes. Accounting for option value at multiple stages of the land use planning process would significantly improve BLM’s public lands stewardship, better protect the environment, and regain some of the economic and strategic advantages it has ceded to private developers. The report also describes case studies where BLM’s failure to consider option value has led to costly litigation and missed opportunities.
Developing a Granular Representation of End-User Electric Load Preferences using Smart Meter Data
The electric distribution grid is transitioning toward a model in which customers can themselves provide a variety of services to the grid by investing in distributed energy resources (DERs) such as distributed solar generation, programmable appliances, and energy storage. However, customers’ incentives to make these investments depend on how they are being charged for electric service. Despite the topic’s importance for the electric distribution system of the future, the body of literature on the impact of electric rate design on the proliferation of DERs is still limited. Our research improves upon common assumptions of fixed electric demand by incorporating microeconomic theory into an existing engineering simulation model.
Why Withdrawing the 2022-2025 Standards Is Economically Flawed
The Environmental Protection Agency sets greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks, and it periodically reevaluates these standards to make sure that car manufacturers can comply. In April 2018, EPA withdrew its previous determination that standards for model year 2022–2025 vehicles were appropriate and would improve public welfare, now saying that more recent information suggests that the standards are too stringent. Our policy brief shows that EPA’s claim—that new information indicates that the assumptions underlying the previous determination are unrealistic—is not supported by the evidence. In fact, the opposite is the case. Recent trends in fuel prices, vehicle sales, automaker compliance, and safety all indicate that the existing 2022–2025 standards can be met at low cost while delivering large benefits to consumers and the economy. EPA’s decision to withdraw the standards will instead cause regulatory uncertainty that will hurt the automotive sector while also harming the environment.
Most regulations seek to improve social welfare, but maximizing overall welfare may not help or protect all groups evenly. Many economists suggest handling unequal regulatory effects through the tax system. But some harms—like the disproportionately high environmental pollution felt by poor and minority communities and loss of the employment base in rural communities due to shifts in the economy—cannot be addressed by monetary compensation alone. A new article by Richard Revesz, published in the NYU Law Review, offers a blueprint for establishing a standing, broadly constituted interagency body charged with addressing serious negative consequences of regulatory measures on particular groups.
Recommendations for Reform
Federal law requires coal companies to reclaim and restore land and water resources that have been degraded by mining. But at many sites, reclamation occurs slowly, if it all. Mining companies are required to post performance bonds to ensure the successful completion of reclamation efforts should they become insolvent, but regulators have discretion to accept “self-bonds,” which allow many companies to operate without posting any surety or collateral. As the coal industry experiences financial distress and coal companies declare bankruptcy, the viability of future reclamation work is endangered. This report offers recommendations to help regulators better assess coal companies’ financial health and take steps to curtail self-bonding.
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