Volatility and Uncertainty in Environmental Policy
Environmental policy is increasingly implemented via market mechanisms. While this is in many ways a great success for the economics profession, a number of questions remain. In this dissertation, I empirically explore the question of what will happen as environmental outcomes are coupled to potentially volatile market phenomena, whether policies can insulate environmental outcomes and market shocks, and policymakers should act to mitigate such volatility. I use a variety of empirical methods including reduced form and structural econometrics as well as theoretical models to consider a variety of policy, market, and institutional contexts. The effectiveness of market interventions depends on the context and on the policy mechanism. In particular, energy markets are characterized by low demand elasticities and kinked supply curves which are very flat below a capacity constraint (elastic) and very steep above it (inelastic). This means that a quantity-based policy that acts on demand, such as releasing additional pollution emission allowances from a reserved fund would be an effective way to constrain price shocks in a cap-and-trade system. However, a quantity-based policy that lowers the need for inframarginal supply, such as using ethanol as an oil product substitute to mitigate oil shocks, would be ineffective. Similarly, the benefits of such interventions depends on the macroeconomic impacts of price shocks from the sector. Relatedly, I show that a liability rule designed to reduce risk from low-probability, high-consequence oil spills have very low compliance costs.
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