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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

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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?
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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.
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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

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Ertharin Cousin

Visiting Scholar at the Center on Food Security and the Environment
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Ertharin Cousin

Visiting Scholar at the Center on Food Security and the Environment
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David Lobell

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
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David Lobell

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

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
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Rosamond Naylor

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

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
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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

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Working Paper

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

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Policy Brief

Frank Wolak
Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), 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.

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Journal Article

Science, 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)].

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Journal Article

Mark C. Thurber, Frank Wolak
The Electricity Journal, 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.

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Commentary

Frank Wolak
Sacramento Bee, 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.

 

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Commentary

Charles Perrow
Bloomberg News, 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.

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Working Paper

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

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Policy Brief

Richard K. Morse, Varun Rai, Gang He
ESI Bulletin, 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.

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Working Paper

Adam Millard-Ball
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, 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.

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Working Paper

Frank Wolak, Benjamin F. Hobbs, James Bushnell, Frank Wolak
Energy Institute at HAAS, 2010
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