NOTE: for papers on State-Contingent Emission Pricing (i.e. the temperature-indexed tax) see this page.
A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE ECONOMICS OF CARBON PRICING
A lot of people are talking about carbon pricing these days, but few people seem to have studied the underlying economics in any depth. The design of market-based instruments is definitely an area where seemingly obscure technicalities have large practical implications. I was invited by the University of Calgary School of Public Policy to write a survey paper on the economics of carbon pricing and the resulting report has been published as
PIPELINE UNCERTAINTY AND THE MARKET VALUE OF CANADIAN ENERGY FIRMS
Elmira Aliakbari and I looked at the question of whether unanticipated events that have bearing on whether pipeline projects get approved affects the market value of Canadian oil and gas firms. The working paper version of our study is here:
CLIMATIC VARIATIONS AND THE MARKET VALUE OF INSURANCE FIRMS
Bin Hu and I published a study looking at how climate variations, in particular indicators of extreme weather, have historically affected the share prices of major insurance firms. The insurance industry has raised the concern that climate change poses a financial risk due to higher payouts for weather-related disasters. However, if extreme weather is increasing, presumably that means they have an opportunity to sell more insurance products as well, which may increase profitability. In our paper:
EMISSION PRICING: In 2007 I was asked to talk about emission pricing at a conference organized by Queen’s University. This powerpoint deck gives a quick overview and introduced the state-contingent pricing concept. For more on that topic see this page.
NORTH AMERICA vs EUROPE: In 2007 I gave a talk at Wilfrid Laurier University's Viessmann European Research Centre, comparing US and European approaches to climate change. My point was that while they have outlined different objectives, the constraints are so tight that the outcomes are pretty much the same.
MITIGATION VERSUS COMPENSATION: This little paper sets out an argument that if we are unable to tell, ex post, whether a given weather event was due to global warming or not, we are unlikely ever to be able to compute the marginal damages due to carbon dioxide emissions. As such, we are better off planning to compensate victims ex post rather than trying to mitigate damages ex ante. If I was smarter and less distracted I would develop it into a more formal revision to the Integrated Assessment Model approach, which assumes away all the uncertainty over attribution.
DOUBLE-DIVIDEND SIMULATIONS: This paper came out of my PhD thesis work, using a computable general equilibrium model to show that revenue-neutral carbon taxes can achieve some emission reductions at no net macroeconomic cost. It wouldn’t get us to the Kyoto target, but I do believe that a low carbon tax of up to about $20 per tonne, if fully recycled into payroll and income tax cuts, would not harm the economy. Of course it wouldn’t reduce emissions much either.
CANADA'S BIOFUELS POLICY BLUNDER
Doug Auld and I wrote a study for the MacDonald Laurier Institute on biofuels policy in Canada. The bottom line is that they fail basic cost-benefit tests, costing about $3 for every $1 in benefits (including emission reductions) at best. But it's difficult even to make the case that they reduce GHG emissions at all.
Associated with this paper we published an op-ed in the Post.
ASSESSING THE PROSPECTS FOR A BINDING, EFFECTIVE, GLOBAL CLIMATE TREATY
I was an invited speaker at the 2014 Global Business Forum in Banff, Alberta, September 18-19. I was asked to be on a panel discussing climate and energy policies. The format allowed me about 10 minutes to present my perspective on these issues to an audience of CEOs, business leaders, a few academics and other VIPs from Canada and around the world. I decided to eschew powerpoint and simply give a short speech, which is available here.
THE HIGH PRICE OF LOW EMISSIONS: I wrote a report for the Ottawa-based MacDonald-Laurier Institute on the difficulties of reducing GHG's from motor vehicles in Canada.
The bottom line is that if a moderate carbon tax were introduced (i.e. at around $25/tonne) driving habits in Canada would not change much. If policymakers decide that's not good enough and try to force large changes in driving habits anyway, the result will be high costs that outweigh the benefits, including environmental benefits. So if transport-related policies are being considered, the prospect of GHG emission reductions should not be considered a trump card that overrides other cost-benefit considerations.
WUWT-TV PRESENTATION: I appeared on Anthony Watts' 24-hour web telethon on November 15 2012, speaking on "Energy, Pollution Control and Economic Growth." The video is online here. There are a few sound glitches, Skype being what it is, but generally the transmission quality was decent.
CANADA'S CLIMATE POLICY OPTIONS: In 2007 the Ottawa Economics Association invited me to address the question of Canada’s options on global warming policy, on the eve of the new Conservative government’s announcement. In this paper I explain why pricing instruments are preferred to quantity targets, and what the literature says about the approximate marginal damages due to CO2 emissions.
THE KYOTO PROTOCOL: During the debate over whether Canada should ratify Kyoto, Randy Wigle and I published (through the CD Howe Institute) a critical review of the federal government’s work on implementation costs. A little later I was asked to discuss the government’s plans as they were reflected (or not) in the 2003 budget, for a conference at Queen’s University.
REGULATING CO2: In 2001 I wrote this paper for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (they paid me a thousand bucks) explaining why cap and trade and similar methods for controlling CO2 emissions are bad ideas. I will have a new report for CEI this year going into more detail in light of the proposals before the US Congress.