Research

Working Papers

Dam Spillovers: Direct costs and spillovers from environmental constraints on hydroelectric generation
2017 United States Association of Energy Economics Best Student Paper Award
Full accounting of costs and benefits are essential to policy analysis, but regulations may have effects beyond firms covered by the policy. Considering a policy mandating stream flows below hydroelectric dams, I estimate both direct costs of regulation to regulated firms and spillovers to other electricity generators in the same market. Ignoring spillovers substantially underestimates true policy costs. These regulations increase market-wide costs as much as 19.8% and cause a substantial increase in pollution externalities. Further, decomposition of the effects reveal the cost of these policies will grow as climate change exacerbates water scarcity and renewable electricity generation capacity expands.
Online Appendix
Attribute Substitution in Household Vehicle Portfolios
Revisions requested by The RAND Journal of Economics
NBER Working Paper No. 23856
With Kenneth Gillingham, Christopher R. Knittel, and David Rapson
Roughly three quarters of vehicles are purchased into multi-car households. We study whether households are willing to substitute attributes, such as fuel economy, across vehicles within their portfolio. We develop a novel strategy to separately identify idiosyncratic preferences for an attribute from these within-portfolio effects. Using the universe of household vehicle registration records in California over a six-year period, we find that two-car households exhibit strong substitution across vehicles when faced with an exogenous change to fuel intensity of a kept vehicle. This effect can erode a substantial portion of the benefit from major policies, such as Cash-for-Clunkers.

Publications

Air Quality and Error Quantity: Pollution and Performance in a High-skilled, Quality-focused Occupation
Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, October 2018
With Anthony Heyes and Soodeh Saberian
We provide the first evidence that short-term exposure to air pollution affects the work performance of a group of highly-skilled, quality-focused employees. We repeatedly observe the decision-making of individual professional baseball umpires, quasi-randomly assigned to varying air quality across time and space. Unique characteristics of this setting combined with high-frequency data disentangle effects of multiple pollutants and identify previously under-explored acute effects. We find a 1 ppm increase in 3-hour CO causes an 11.5% increase in the propensity of umpires to make incorrect calls and a 10 μg/m3 increase in 12-hour PM2.5 causes a 2.6% increase. We control carefully for a variety of potential confounders and results are supported by robustness and falsification checks. Our estimates imply a 3% reduction in productive output is associated with a change in CO concentrations equivalent to moving from the 25th to the 95th percentile of the CO-distribution in many of the largest US cities.
Online Appendix
From Cradle to Junkyard: Assessing the Life-cycle Greenhouse Gas Benefits of Electric Vehicles
Research in Transportation Economics, October 2015
With Alissa Kendall and David Rapson
U.S. programs subsidize electric vehicles (EVs) in part to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We model a suite of life cycle GHG emissions considerations to estimate the GHG abatement potential from switching from an internal combustion engine vehicle (ICE) to an EV in the continental U.S. The GHG intensity of EVs hinges on the electricity and ambient temperature when charged and operated. Both have high spatial and temporal heterogeneity, yet are typically modeled inadequately or overlooked entirely. We calculate marginal emissions, including renewables, for electricity by region and test forecasted grid composition to estimate future performance. Location and timing of charging are important GHG determinants, but temperature effects on EV performance can be equally important. On average, EVs slightly reduce GHGs relative to ICEs, but there are many regions where EVs provide a decisive benefit and others where EVs are significantly worse. The forecasted grid shifts from coal towards renewables, improving EV performance; the GHG benefit per EV in western states is roughly $425 today and $2400 in 2040.
Online Appendix

Selected Works in Progress

Adjustment on the Margin: Evaluating emissions reduction policies in the face of short-run adjustment costs
Generating Commitment Issues: Estimating Unit Commitment Costs in Wholesale Electricity Markets

In the Media

Dirty air and the human brain: Does pollution poison the mind?, Salon, December 2019
Unfair Strike Zone?, TERP Magazine, May 2019
How Pollution Can Hurt the Health of the Economy, The New York Times, November 2018
Baseball umpires aren't blind. They just have trouble breathing, study of balls and strikes shows, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 2018
Air Pollution Inside Baseball, Energy Institute at Haas Blog, July 2018
Another argument for carbon tax: How car buyers behave, The Sacramento Bee, December 2017
Californians With Fuel-Efficient Cars Fall Prey to "Diet Soda" Effect, Capital Public Radio, September 2017
California drivers suffer from 'Diet soda effect', paring Priuses with gas-guzzline SUVs, San Fransisco Chronicle, September 2017
Climate benefits from electric car equals $425, study says, San Diego Union Tribune, September 2015