Karen Palmer (12/5/18)

Karen Palmer

Resources for the Future

“Quantities with Prices”

Abstract: Environmental policy with uncertainty is often posed as a choice of price versus quantity instruments. Quantity targets are typically preferred, but paradoxically employ architecture derived from the first-best global framework that applies imperfectly to the partial equilibrium policy setting. In practice, climate policies are incremental and multi-faceted, combining economic and regulatory approaches with limited geographic scope that do not balance global benefits and costs, but nonetheless are envisioned as a noncooperative sequence of actions enabling more efficient and comprehensive global policy. This paper recognizes and evaluates price responsive emissions allowance supply schedules emerging in existing trading programs. We use simulation modeling and laboratory experiments to explore a supply schedule in a regional market. A supply schedule usefully shares the risks and benefits with respect to emissions control costs between economic and environmental interests, preserving the role for technology and energy policies that are expected to lower costs over time. Full Paper

Thibault Fally (11/7/18)

Thibault Fally

University of California, Berkeley

“Per Capita Income, Consumption Patterns, and CO2 Emissions”

Abstract: This paper investigates the role of income-driven differences in consumption patterns in explaining and projecting energy demand and CO2 emissions. We develop and estimate a general equilibrium model with non-homothetic preferences across a large set of countries and sectors, and trace embodied energy consumption through intermediate use and trade linkages. Consumption of energy goods is less than proportional to income in rich countries, and more income-elastic in low-income countries. While income effects are weaker for embodied energy, we find a significant negative relationship between income elasticity and CO2 intensity across all goods. These income-driven differences in consumption choices can partially explain the observed inverted-U relationship between income and emissions across countries, the so-called environmental Kuznet curve. Relative to standard models with homothetic preferences, simulations suggest that income growth leads to lower emissions in high-income countries and higher emissions in some low-income countries, with only modest reductions in world emissions on aggregate. Full Paper


Joshua Blonz (9/26/18)

Joshua Blonz

Resources for the Future

“Measuring Inefficiencies When Agents Break their Principals’ Rules: The Case of Energy Efficiency Retrofits”

Abstract: In this paper, I quantify the negative welfare consequences resulting from the misalignment of incentives between principals and agents in the context of a home energy efficiency retrofit program. I show that contractors (agents) working on behalf of an electric utility (the principal) deliberately authorize ineligible upgrades to increase their own compensation. I exploit variation in contract structure to show that larger incentives lead to higher levels of agent misreporting. Using household-level monthly panel data, I find that each ineligible upgrades reduces welfare by $104 and saves half as much electricity as upgrades that follow program guidelines. I extend the principal-agent model to quantify the costs and benefits of the contract structure used in the appliance upgrade program, finding that the existing contract structure reduces program welfare benefits by one fifth. My results provide novel evidence of how agent incentives can reduce the efficacy of public policy, and they are the first to identify and measure how the principal-agent problem can reduce the savings of energy efficiency programs.


Erica Myers (10/24/18)

Erica Myers

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Heterogeneous Misperceptions of Energy Costs: Implications for Measurement and Policy Design”

Abstract: How consumers perceive different aspects of product cost, such as sales tax, shipping and handling charges, and energy operating expenses among others, have important welfare implications for policy.  In this paper, we estimate heterogeneous perceptions of energy costs in the U.S. appliance market using a revealed preference approach. We recover a non-parametric distribution and  show that while the largest share of consumers correctly perceives energy costs, a significant share undervalues them, and smaller shares either significantly overvalues or does not pay attention to them. These patterns are strikingly similar across income groups. We simulate the welfare effects of policies targeting externalities in the presence of heterogeneous misperceptions and show that standards largely outperform taxes. Standards’ key advantage is that they reduce variance in energy operating, which ameliorates the distortionary effects from potential misperceptions. Full Paper