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Working Paper

Designing Nonlinear Price Schedules for Urban Water Utilities to Balance Revenue and Conservation Goals

Frank Wolak
National Bureau of Economic Research , 2016

This paper formulates and estimates a household-level, billing-cycle water demand model under increasing block prices that accounts for the impact of monthly weather variation, the amount of vegetation on the household’s property, and customer-level heterogeneity in demand due to household demographics. The model utilizes US Census data on the distribution of household demographics in the utility’s service territory to recover the impact of these factors on water demand. An index of the amount of vegetation on the household’s property is obtained from NASA satellite data.

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Journal Article

Freight Rail Costing and Regulation: The Uniform Rail Costing System

Wesley W. Wilson, Frank Wolak
Review of Industrial Organization , 2016

Railroad regulation in the post-Staggers Act regime compares the revenues earned to a measure of the “variable cost” of the shipment. While revenues are readily observed, the “variable cost” is calculated using the “Uniform Rail Costing System” (URCS) that was developed by the Interstate Commerce Commission. We characterize the properties of the URCS rail costing methodology and its role in rate regulation, and we assess whether it produces an economically valid estimate of the cost caused by a rail shipment.

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Book

The Global Coal Market: Supplying the Major Fuel for Emerging Economies

Mark C. Thurber, Richard K. Morse
Cambridge University Press , 2015

Coal has been the world's fastest-growing energy source in absolute terms for over a decade. Coal also emits more CO2 than any other fossil fuel and contributes to serious air pollution problems in many regions of the world. If we hope to satisfy the demand for affordable energy in emerging economies while protecting the environment, we need to develop a keen understanding of the market that supplies coal. This book offers an in-depth analysis of the key producers and consumers that will most influence coal production, transport, and use in the future.

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Journal Article

Simulating the interaction of a renewable portfolio standard with electricity and carbon markets

Mark C. Thurber, Trevor L. Davis, Frank A. Wolak
The Electricity Journal , 2015

The authors ran a game-based simulation of an electricity market with both an RPS and a cap-and-trade market for greenhouse gas emissions allowances. High renewable energy shares reduced and shifted the output of thermal units and pushed down both electricity and carbon prices. The markets for renewable energy, carbon allowances, and spot and forward electricity interacted in complex ways that are relevant to the behavior of actual markets.

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Policy Brief

The End of Expensive Oil?

Frank A. Wolak
Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research , 2015
The shale oil and gas revolution in the United States (U.S.) has led to a more than 4 million barrels per day increase in domestic oil production since 2008. Combined with an almost 1 million barrel per day increase from the Alberta tar sands, the surge in North American oil production has significantly reduced the region’s demand for imported oil. Increased production of shale gas in North America and the significantly lower dollar per million British thermal unit (BTU) price of natural gas versus oil have caused a number of sectors of the U.S.
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Commentary

US and China Cooperation on Climate Policy Design

Frank Wolak
Boao Review , 2014

Significant political barriers to implementing na- tional climate policies exist in both the US and China. Successful linkage of regional climate policies in the two countries can help overcome these impediments. Each country can be seen as willing to cooperate with the other to address the global climate challenge, which can help each national government overcome the resistance to formulating its own national climate policy.

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Commentary

A Revenue Neutral Carbon Tax for Stanford (Not Divesting Coal)

Frank Wolak
Los Angeles Times, Op-Ed , 2014

Last week, Stanford's Board of Trustees announced that the university would not directly invest funds from its endowment in coal mining companies.  Even the strongest advocates of this action acknowledge that it is a symbolic gesture with little direct effect on the coal industry or global greenhouse gas emissions.  But if a university administration wants to take symbolic (or real) action on climate change, is coal investment a wise choice?

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Commentary

Frank Wolak: Tight electricity regulation only sensible option

Frank Wolak
New Zealand Herald , 2014

The desire to "reboot" the New Zealand electricity supply industry is understandable, but it is almost certainly not the best course of action. As a participant in many electricity industry restructuring processes around the world, one important lesson that I have learned is that all reforms start with significant unintended defects that can only be eliminated through a rigorous ongoing analysis of market outcomes and targeted regulatory reforms.  

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Journal Article

‘Oorja’ in India: Assessing a large-scale commercial distribution of advanced biomass stoves to households

Mark C. Thurber, Himani Phadke, Sriniketh Nagavarapu, Gireesh Shrimali, Hisham Zerriffi
Energy for Sustainable Development , 2014

Replacing traditional stoves with advanced alternatives that burn more cleanly has the potential to ameliorate major health problems associated with indoor air pollution in developing countries. With a few exceptions, large government and charitable programs to distribute advanced stoves have not had the desired impact.

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Commentary

California climate policy: Showing the way for the world

Frank Wolak
San Jose Mercury News , 2013

With the continued successful operation of its greenhouse gas emissions market, California can become a global leader in the design and implementation of regional carbon polices. Moreover, if more regions use the California market as their starting point, then linking these programs together will be more straightforward and the ultimate goal of an effective global climate policy the more likely end result.

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Journal Article

The Economic and Environmental Benefits of Integrating International Coal and Natural Gas Markets

Frank Wolak
Boao Review , 2013

Unconventional natural gas and the technologies developed to extract it in the U.S. point to a possible lower carbon energy future for China that can be facilitated through international cooperation between them, improving China's reliance on domestically produced coal, and creating economic and environmental benefits for both countries as well as the rest of the world.

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Journal Article

To Promote Adoption of Household Health Technologies, Think Beyond Health

Mark C. Thurber, Christina Warner, Lauren Platt, Xander Slaski, Rajesh Gupta, Grant Miller
American Journal of Public Health , 2013

Health risks from poor malaria control, unsafe water, and indoor air pollution are responsible for an important share of the global disease burden—and they can be addressed by efficacious household health technologies that have existed for decades. However, coverage rates of these products among populations at risk remain disappointingly low. We conducted a review of the medical and public health literatures and found that health considerations alone are rarely sufficient motivation for households to adopt and use these technologies.

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Journal Article

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

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

Be Part of the Solution

Frank Wolak
EnergyBiz , 2013

If regulators and utilities want to avoid future consumer backlash from smart grid investments, they should adopt retail pricing policies best suited to maximizing the consumer benefits from smart grid technologies.

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Working Paper

Wind, Coal, and the Cost of Environmental Externalities

Alexander Galetovic, Cristián M. Muñoz
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development , 2013

Abstract

We compare the cost of generating electricity with coal and wind in Chile’s Central Interconnected System (SIC). Our estimates include the cost of marginal damages caused by coal plant emissions.

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Commentary

Viewpoints: Cap and trade should look to broader goals

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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Book

Oil and Governance: State-owned Enterprises and the World Energy Supply

Mark C. Thurber, David G. Victor, David Hults, Mark C. Thurber
Cambridge University Press , 2012

National oil companies (NOCs) produce most of the world’s oil and natural gas and bankroll governments across the globe. Although NOCs superficially resemble private-sector companies, they often behave in very different ways. To understand these pivotal state-owned enterprises and the long shadow they cast on world energy markets, the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development (PESD) at Stanford University commissioned Oil and Governance: State-owned Enterprises and the World Energy Supply.

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Working Paper

Industrial Organization of the Chinese Coal Industry

Jianjun Tu
Program on Energy and Sustainable Development , 2011

China’s annual coal production, at 3.24 billion tonnes (Gt) in 2010, accounted for nearly half of the global total.  In this comprehensive analysis of China’s coal value chain, Jianjun Tu examines the industrial organization and structure of China’s coal production, transport, and consumption.  Tu’s study shines a light on one of the world’s largest and most complex energy markets and should be read by anyone with an interest in the future of coal, climate change, or global energy markets.

Key topics covered include:

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