Research

Publications

1) Burkhardt, J., Wiser, R., Darghouth, N., Dong, C. G., & Huneycutt, J. (2015). Exploring the impact of permitting and local regulatory processes on residential solar prices in the United States. Energy Policy, 78, 102-112.

2) The Dollars and Sense of Ballot Propositions: Estimating Willingness to Pay Using Aggregate Voting Data, with Nathan Chan (Colby College): Revise and Resubmit at the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists. Current Draft

Abstract: This paper develops a general approach for estimating willingness to pay (WTP) for public goods using referendum voting data, and we demonstrate the approach by applying it to a series of referenda in California spanning a wide array of public goods. We find a range of annual WTP values from $2.21 per person for water quality, flood control, and coastal protection to $38.85 per person for public school funding. Comparing estimated mean and median WTP values provides an upper bound on prices that would still ensure passage of successful propositions. Conversely, this comparison provides an estimate of the hypothetical decrease in prices that would have been necessary to ensure passage of unsuccessful propositions. Our methods estimate the relative effects of prices, income, and ideology on the support for public goods. We show that both ideology and economic costs have significant impacts, which stands in contrast to previous work that contends that voting patterns are driven purely by fiscal costs. Our work is useful on two fronts: we develop a new revealed preference approach for estimating WTP for public goods, and we provide ex-post benefit-cost analysis for policies that occur
through referenda.

Working Papers

1) Incomplete Regulation in an Imperfectly Competitive Market: The Impact of the Renewable Fuel Standard on U.S. Oil Refineries

Abstract: Failing to account for imperfect competition, multi-product firms, or both when setting environmental policies can have unintended and unexpected welfare effects. I estimate how policy uncertainty and technology constraints that caused unexpected increases in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) credit price affected U.S. oil refinery wholesale prices, markups, marginal costs, and production decisions. I employ a production function approach, combined with confidential refinery level data, to jointly estimate markups and marginal costs without relying on standard structural assumptions regarding consumer demand or competition. I find that increases in the RFS credit price increased markups and marginal costs for regulated fuels – gasoline and ultra-low sulfur diesel – and decreased markups for non-regulated fuels in 2013-2014. This implies that the RFS credit price was more than fully passed onto gasoline and ultra-low-sulfur diesel prices during this period. I find that refineries also reallocated production to non-regulated fuels in response to increases in the RFS credit price, leading to $35-$179 million in leaked emissions damages. Finally, I use the pass-through and markup results to estimate the incidence of policy uncertainty. I find that the burden of the RFS credit price is borne nearly 16 times more by gasoline consumers than producers.

2) How do Residential Consumers Respond to Critical Peak Pricing? Experimental Evidence on the Role of Information and Incentives, with Ken Gillingham (Yale) and Praveen Kopalle (Dartmouth)

Abstract: Residential electricity prices do not usually respond to wholesale prices and thus are disconnected from the marginal cost of generation. This study examines a field experiment in Texas that includes both pricing and informational interventions to encourage energy conservation during summer peak load days. Using data at the appliance-minute-level, we estimate a price elasticity of electricity demand of -0.17, and find that over 60 percent of this response can be attributed to air conditioning. Moreover, we find that several informational interventions, including those relying on moral suasion, do not lead to energy conservation. By disentangling the price elasticity at the appliance-level, these results show that behavior changes are limited to a few appliances, highlighting the mechanisms underlying consumer response to pricing.

3) Peer Effects in Water Conservation: Evidence from Consumer Migration, with Ken Gillingham (Yale) and Bryan Bollinger (Duke) (In Review) Current Draft drylandscape17.

Abstract: Social interactions are widely understood to influence consumer decisions in many choice settings. This paper identifies causal peer effects in water  conservation utilizing variation from consumer migration. After using a machine learning approach to classify extremely high-resolution remote sensing data, we show that the water conservation effects can be attributed to peer effects in the diffusion of dry landscaping. We provide evidence that without a price signal, peer effects are muted, highlighting an important relationship between information transmission and prices. These results inform water use policy in many areas of the world threatened by recurring drought conditions.

4) The Effects of Medical and Recreational Marijuana Dispensary Openings on Local Crime and Traffic Violations, with Chris Goemans (CSU), Current Draft: Marijuana

Abstract: This paper uses a unique event-study design to estimate the effect of medical and recreational marijuana dispensary openings on local crime rates and traffic violations. We find no evidence that the opening of new medical or recreational dispensaries affects violent crime in Denver, Colorado, an important finding in light of increased political debate surrounding legalization. Conversely, we find that the introduction of new dispensaries increases vehicle break-ins and hit-and-runs but decreases DUIs and drug and alcohol related crimes within a half-mile radius of a new dispensary, but the effects dissipate within six months and as the concentration of dispensaries increases. Our findings suggest new dispensaries crowd out hard drug sales and associated criminal activity, which indicates that legal marijuana sales and hard drug sales are local substitutes.

5) Heterogeneity in the Price Elasticity of Demand for Commercial Water, with Chris Goemans (CSU) and Matthew Flyr (CSU)

Abstract: While commercial water demand in many Western cities continues to increase, drought severity and frequency is predicted to worsen. These opposing forces heighten the need for increased understanding  regarding the structure and nature of commercial water demand. Despite an abundance of empirical studies on residential water demand, there are limited commercial sector studies, and those that do exist typically do not explore demand elasticity heterogeneity. In this paper, we estimate commercial water demand elasticity employing a novel instrumental variables approach. We then present evidence that firms respond to lagged average price rather than marginal price. Finally, we find notable differences in elasticity among different categories of businesses and among businesses of different demand variance levels. The findings in this paper are particularly important as utility providers across the country consider how to cope with growing demand and limited water supply.

Work in Progress

1) The Effect of Pollution on Crime: Evidence from Wildfires, with Jude Bayham (CSU), Ander Wilson (CSU), Jesse Berman (UMN), Ellison Carter (CSU)

2) Global Trade and Welfare Implications of Climate-Induced Wild Catch Fishery Decline, with Amanda Countryman (CSU), Dale Manning (CSU), Duy Nong (CSU), Travis Warziniack (USFS)

3) Willingness to Pay for Conformity, with Nathan Chan (UMass)

 

 

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