Energy and the Environment

environment drone

Energy and the Environment

At the intersection of physical sciences and policy, our researchers work to find solutions for hunger, environmental degradation, emerging energy markets and more.

Research Spotlight

white paper wolak page 1

Economic Policy Challenges Facing California's Next Governor: Electricity Policy Reform

Because Californians are likely to want to continue to lead the energy transition, the relevant policy design question is: How can the state achieve these low-carbon energy goals in a more cost- effective manner?
climateeconomics 555x370

Climate Change is Increasing the Risk of Extreme Autumn Wildfire Conditions Across California

The climate model analyses presented here suggest that continued climate change will further amplify the number of days with extreme fire weather by the end of this century, though a pathway consistent with the UN Paris commitments would substantially curb that increase.
crops from space

Sight for Sorghums: Comparisons of Satellite- and Ground-Based Sorghum Yield Estimates in Mali

Leveraging a survey experiment in Mali, this study uses plot-level sorghum yield estimates, based on farmer reporting and crop cutting, to construct and evaluate estimates from three satellite-based sensors.

Featured Scholars

fsi_bio

Ertharin Cousin

Visiting Scholar at the Center on Food Security and the Environment
close

Ertharin Cousin

Visiting Scholar at the Center on Food Security and the Environment
fsi_bio

David Lobell

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
close

David Lobell

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Director, Center on Food Security and the Environment
fsi_bio

Rosamond Naylor

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
close

Rosamond Naylor

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
William Wrigley Professor of Earth System Science
fsi_bio

Frank Wolak

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
close

Frank Wolak

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Director, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development

Upcoming Events

See all upcoming events related to our research on energy and the environment.

Publications

Filter:

Filter results Close
  • expanded
  • expanded
  • expanded
  • expanded
  • expanded
  • expanded
  • expanded
  • expanded
  • expanded
  • expanded
  • expanded
  • expanded
  • expanded
  • expanded
Working Papers

An Experimental Comparison of Carbon Pricing Under Uncertainty in Electricity Markets

Trevor L. Davis, Mark C. Thurber, Frank Wolak
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, 2020 May 25, 2020

We report on an economic experiment that compares outcomes in electricity markets subject to carbon-tax and cap-and-trade policies. Under conditions of uncertainty, price-based and quantity-based policy instruments cannot be truly equivalent, so we compared three matched carbon-tax/cap-and-trade pairs with equivalent emissions targets, mean emissions, and mean carbon prices, respectively.

Show body
Policy Briefs

Reports of the Demise of Carbon Pricing are Greatly Exaggerated

Frank Wolak
Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), 2018 August 1, 2018

Abstract

Politicians in a number of jurisdictions with cap-and-trade markets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or carbon taxes have argued that the evidence is in and the conclusion is clear: Carbon pricing doesn’t work. A number of journalists and environmental groups have jumped on the bandwagon, amplifying a misguided message.

Show body
Journal Articles

Opportunities for advances in climate change economics

Science, 2016 April 15, 2016

There have been dramatic advances in understanding the physical science of climate change, facilitated by substantial and reliable research support. The social value of these advances depends on understanding their implications for society, an arena where research support has been more modest and research progress slower. Some advances have been made in understanding and formalizing climate-economy linkages, but knowledge gaps remain [e.g., as discussed in (1, 2)].

Show body
Journal Articles

Carbon in the classroom: Lessons from a simulation of California’s electricity market under a stringent cap and trade system

Mark C. Thurber, Frank Wolak
The Electricity Journal, 2013 August 4, 2013

This paper summarizes the lessons learned from implementing a realistic, game-based simulation of California’s electricity market with a cap-and-trade market for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fixed-price forward financial contracts for energy. Sophisticated market participants competed to maximize their returns under stressed (high carbon price) market conditions. Our simulation exhibited volatile carbon prices that could be influenced by strategic behavior of market participants.

Show body
Commentary

Viewpoints: Cap and trade should look to broader goals

Frank Wolak
Sacramento Bee, 2012 November 2, 2012

To maximize environmental benefits from the rollout of its cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions, California should focus on achieving a positive demonstration effect from the program by doing as little as possible to harm the state's economy, as transparently as possible and as fast as possible.

 

Show body
Commentary

Technology Can Nudge Climate Change Politics

Charles Perrow
Bloomberg News, 2011 October 23, 2011

Reducing carbon-dioxide emissions is primarily a political problem, rather than a technological one. This fact was well illustrated by the fate of the 2009 climate bill that barely passed the U.S. House of Representatives and never came up for a vote in the Senate. The House bill was already quite weak, containing many exceptions for agriculture and other industries, subsidies for nuclear power and increasingly long deadlines for action. In the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats from coal-dependent states sealed its fate.

Show body
Working Papers

Bigger is Better: Avoided Deforestation Offsets in the Face of Adverse Selection

Arthur A. van Benthem, Suzi C. Kerr
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, 2011 March 1, 2011

Voluntary opt-in programs to reduce emissions in unregulated sectors or countries have spurred considerable discussion. Since any regulator will make errors in predicting baselines and participants will self-select into the program, adverse selection will reduce efficiency and possibly environmental integrity. In contrast, pure subsidies lead to full participation but require large financial transfers.

Show body
Policy Briefs

ESI Bulletin: The Real Drivers of Carbon Capture and Storage in China

Richard K. Morse, Varun Rai, Gang He
ESI Bulletin, 2010 November 1, 2010

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is now widely viewed as imperative for global climate stabilisation. Coal is the world’s fastest growing fossil fuel, and coal combustion is now the largest single source of anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

Show body
Working Papers

Adverse Selection in an Opt-in Emissions Trading Program: The Case of Sectoral Crediting for Transportation

Adam Millard-Ball
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, 2010 September 1, 2010

Sectoral crediting mechanisms such as sectoral no-lose targets have been proposed as a way to provide incentives for emission reductions in developing countries as part of an international climate agreement, and scale up carbon trading from the project-level Clean Development Mechanism to the sectoral level.

Show body
Working Papers

Upstream vs. Downstream CO2 Trading: A Comparison for the Electricity Context

Frank Wolak, Benjamin F. Hobbs, James Bushnell, Frank Wolak
Energy Institute at HAAS, 2010 March 1, 2010
Show body
Working Papers

Real Drivers of Carbon Capture and Storage in China and Implications for Climate Policy

Richard K. Morse, Varun Rai, Gang He
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Working Paper #88, 2009 August 1, 2009

The capture and permanent storage of CO2 emissions from coal combustion is now widely viewed as imperative for stabilization of the global climate.  Coal is the world’s fastest growing fossil fuel.  This trend presents a forceful case for the development and wide dissemination of technologies that can decouple coal consumption from CO2 emissions—the leading candidate technology to do this is carbon capture and storage (CCS). 

Show body
Working Papers

Finesses and Game-Changers in Frontier Project Development: The Case of Carbon Capture and Storage

Robert A. James
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Working Paper #87, 2009 August 1, 2009

Project development is particularly challenging in “frontier” environments where alternative technologies, conflicting laws and agencies, and uncertain benefits or risks constrain the knowledge or decisions of participants.  Carbon capture and storage (“CCS”) projects by means of geologic sequestration are pursued in such an environment.  In these circumstances, entrepreneurs can seek to employ two distinct types of tools:  the game-changer, being an improvement to the status quo for all those similarly situated, generally ac

Show body
Working Papers

Role of Carbon Capture Technologies in Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Models: A Parametric Study for the U.S. Power Sector

Varun Rai, John Bistline
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Working Paper #85, 2009 June 1, 2009

This paper analyzes the potential contribution of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the U.S.

Show body
Working Papers

Carbon Capture and Storage: An Assessment of Required Technological Growth Rates and Capital Investments

Danny Cullenward
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Working Paper #84, 2009 May 1, 2009

In this new working paper PESD research affiliate Danny Cullenward studies the required rates of growth and capital investments needed to meet various long-term projections for CCS. Using the PESD Carbon Storage Database as a baseline, this paper creates four empirically-grounded scenarios about the development of the CCS industry to 2020. These possible starting points (the scenarios) are then used to calculate the sustained growth needed to meet CO2 storage estimates reported by the IPCC over the course of this century (out to 2100).

Show body
Working Papers

Carbon Capture and Storage at Scale: Lessons from the Growth of Analogous Energy Technologies

Varun Rai, David G. Victor, Mark C. Thurber
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Working Paper #81, 2009 February 1, 2009

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a promising technology that might allow for significant reductions in CO2 emissions. But at present CCS is very expensive and its performance is highly uncertain at the scale of commercial power plants. Such challenges to deployment, though, are not new to students of technological change. Several successful technologies, including energy technologies, have faced similar challenges as CCS faces now.

Show body
Working Papers

PESD Carbon Storage Project Database

Varun Rai, Ngai-Chi Chung, Mark C. Thurber, David G. Victor
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Working Paper #76, 2008 November 13, 2008

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is among the technologies with greatest potential leverage to combat climate change. According to the PRISM analysis, a technology assessment performed by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), wide deployment of CCS after 2020 in the US power sector alone could reduce emissions by approximately 350 million tonnes of CO2 per year (Mt CO2/yr) by 2030, a conclusion echoed by the McKinsey U.S. Mid-range Greenhouse Gas Abatement Curve 2030.

Show body
Working Papers

A Realistic Policy on International Carbon Offsets

Michael Wara, David G. Victor
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Working Paper #74, 2008 April 1, 2008

As the United States designs its strategy for regulating emissions of greenhouse gases, two central issues have emerged. One is how to limit the cost of compliance while still maintaining environmental integrity. The other is how to "engage" developing countries in serious efforts to limit emissions.

Show body
Journal Articles

National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependency

David Victor, John Deutch, James R. Schlesinger
Council on Foreign Relations, 2006 October 1, 2006

National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependency, a report by the Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force on Energy, concludes that the “lack of sustained attention to energy issues is undercutting U.S. foreign policy and U.S. national security.” The report goes on to examine how America’s dependence on imported oil—which currently comprises 60 percent of consumption— increasingly puts it into competition with other energy importers, notably the rapidly growing economies of China and India.

Show body
Working Papers

Optimal intensity targets for emissions trading under uncertainty

Frank Jotzo, John C.V. Pezzey
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Working Paper #41, 2005 June 1, 2005

Uncertainty can hamper the stringency of commitments under cap and trade schemes. We assess how well intensity targets, where countries' permit allocations are indexed to future realised GDP, can cope with uncertainties in a post-Kyoto international greenhouse emissions trading scheme. We present some empirical foundations for intensity targets and derive a simple rule for the optimal degree of indexation to GDP.

Show body
Journal Articles

BP's emissions trading system

David G. Victor, Joshua C. House
Energy Policy, 2005 April 1, 2005

The stellar performance of BP's emission control program has led many observers, inside and outside BP, to ascribe success to the firm's emissions trading system. As countries and other firms have considered the adoption of trading systems they often point to BP's pioneering experience as a guiding star. Yet no study has ever explained the operation and impact of BP's trading system. Which factors truly drove the leaders of BP's business units to cut emissions? What lessons should be learned from BP's experience to guide other trading systems?

Show body