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Making Sure the Blue Economy is Green

Given the growing and seemingly limitless capacity to industrialize the oceans, there is a need to reimagine how to effectively measure, monitor and sustainably manage this seventy-one percent of the Earth's surface. In a commentary for the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, the Nicholas Institute's John Virdin and co-authors write that we are now at an inflection point in history, where we no longer look to the ocean solely for protein and waterways, but also as a source for many more aspects of our increasingly industrialized society. While much of our focus has been terrestrially based where impacts are easier to identify, the authors write, greater attention is needed on the industrialization of our oceans, which have long been considered as a source of inexhaustible resources and reservoirs for unwanted terrestrially generated waste. 

Authors: Jay S. Golden, John VirdinDouglas NowacekPatrick HalpinLori Bennear, and Pawan G. Patil

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Ocean and Coastal Policy

Environmental Economics

Journal Articles

North Carolina’s Ocean Economy: A First Assessment and Transitioning to a Blue Economy

North Carolina’s ocean and coastal areas and their resources shape a unique and important segment of the state’s economy, particularly for its eastern region. From seafood and commercial fishing opportunities, to access to global markets through shipping and transport, and finally tourism and recreation, thousands of jobs and billions in revenue for the state depend on the ocean and coast. Yet to date, this segment of North Carolina’s economy has not been identified as a discrete contributor in the state. This working paper provides a first assessment of the existing information available to measure the size and extent of North Carolina’s ocean economy, and proposes next steps to transition to a blue economy.

Authors: Jane Harrison, Amy Pickle, Tibor Vegh, and John Virdin

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Blue Economy

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

State Policy

Working Papers

Potential Pathways: Future of the Electricity Sector in the Southeast—Workshop Summary, October 5, 2016, Durham, North Carolina

The electricity sector is rapidly changing due to the shale gas revolution, a precipitous decline in coal generation, steep declines in the cost of solar generation, the proliferation of smart grid technologies, and a suite of new environmental regulations. On October 5, 2016, Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Duke University Energy Initiative co-hosted a one-day workshop that brought together experts on the electricity sector in the Southeast—including representatives of electric utilities, other market participants, nonprofit organizations, and energy and environmental agencies—to discuss factors affecting the region’s electricity sector. The main topics were future demand uncertainty, the ways that technology innovation could affect business models and regulatory structures, and the role of nuclear energy in the Southeast’s electricity future. This proceedings describes the main ideas that emerged from the workshop. It concludes with issues ripe for future research.

Author: Danielle A. Arostegui

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Climate and Energy

Environmental Economics

Energy Sector

Proceedings

Sharing Groundwater: A Robust Framework and Implementation Roadmap for Sustainable Groundwater Management in California

This working paper offers a framework and roadmap for development of a robust groundwater-sharing system consistent with California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires communities in priority areas to prepare groundwater sustainability plans. The proposed system draws on global experience. Robustness is its signature feature. Opportunities are maximized by a suite of robust local governance, allocation, and administrative arrangements. Additionally, the proposed system incentivizes innovation, stimulates investment, and facilitates low-cost adjustment to changes in groundwater demand. Among the dynamic components underlying this sharing system are a share register that records ownership and transfers of ownership in the basin’s available shares. These unit shares are fungible; each represents a proportional stake in access to the basin’s groundwater resources. Volumetric allocations are made in proportion to the number of shares held during determined periods throughout the water year.  These allocations are recorded in bank-like water accounts, affording account holders an efficient means to manage their resource but also ensuring that they cannot use more than is available. Unused water can be saved for later use. At the start of the transition to the new system, users are given an allocation buffer so that they have flexibility and time to adjust. Those who want to can make quick non-contestable trades at low cost.

Authors: Mike Young and Bryce McAteer

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Environmental Markets

Western

Water Policy

Environmental Economics

State Policy

Working Papers

Fish and Invertebrate Flow-Biology Relationships to Support the Determination of Ecological Flows for North Carolina

Following recent droughts in North Carolina, the General Assembly convened an Ecological Flows Science Advisory Board to develop a strategy for establishing flow regimes that could protect the ecological integrity in the streams and rivers of North Carolina. A new article in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association describes the method developed to characterize fish and invertebrate responses to flow alterations in the state of North Carolina to aid in setting ecologically sensitive flows that achieve appropriate environmental objectives.

Authors: Jennifer Phelan, Tom Cuffney, Lauren Patterson, Michele Eddy, Robert Dykes, Sam Pearsall, Chris Goudreau, Jim Mead and Fred Tarver

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Water Policy

State Policy

Journal Articles

Flow-Biology Relationships Based on Fish Habitat Guilds in North Carolina

The health of freshwater animal and plant life is dependent on streamflow, yet identification of the flow regimes required to maintain ecological integrity remains challenging to states in the U.S. seeking to establish ecological flows that achieve environmental objectives. A new article in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association tests the relationship between decreases in streamflow and Shannon-Weaver diversity index of fish species for four flow-based habitat guilds: riffle, riffle-run, pool-run, and pool in North Carolina. The study finds that species who prefer shallow habitats, such as riffles and riffle-runs were the most sensitive to decreases in streamflow, while using all fish data greatly underestimated the response of fish species to decreases in flow. Since ecological flows are designed to protect the integrity and diversity of aquatic ecosystems, ecological flows should be established to protect those species most sensitive to changes in flow.

Authors: Lauren Patterson, Jennifer Phelan, Chris Goudreau and Robert Dykes

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Water Policy

State Policy

Journal Articles

Evaluating Flow Metric-Based Stream Classification Systems to Support the Determination of Ecological Flows in North Carolina

Streamflow is a main determinant of the ecological health of rivers and streams. Assignment of streams to classes is suggested as an initial step in the process of establishing ecological flow standards that ensure the appropriate environmental objectives are achieved. A new article in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association evaluated a hydrological model with two distinct hydroecological river classification systems of stream classes in North Carolina and found that stream classification was inconsistent between all three models and highly dependent on the period of record of the underlying data. Based on these results, it was surmised that classification systems based on streamflow metrics are not a reliable approach for guiding ecological flow determinations.

Authors: Michele C. Eddy, Jennifer Phelan, Lauren Patterson, Jessie Allen and Sam Pearsal

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Water Policy

State Policy

Journal Articles

Valuing Climate Damages: Updating Estimation of the Social Cost of Carbon Dioxide

To estimate the social cost of carbon dioxide for use in regulatory impact analyses, the federal government should use a new framework that would strengthen the scientific basis, provide greater transparency, and improve characterization of the uncertainties of the estimates, says a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report also identifies a number of near- and longer-term improvements that should be made for calculating the social cost of carbon. The social cost of carbon (SC-CO2) is an estimate, in dollars, of the net damages incurred by society from a 1 metric ton increase in carbon dioxide emissions in a given year. The SC-CO2 is intended to be a comprehensive estimate of the net damages from carbon emissions—that is, the net costs and benefits associated with climate change impacts such as changes in net agricultural productivity, risks to human health, and damage from such events as floods.  As required by executive orders and a court ruling, government agencies use the SC-CO2 when analyzing the impacts of various regulations, including standards for vehicle emissions and fuel economy, regulation of emissions from power plants, and energy efficiency standards for appliances. 

Authors: Maureen L. Cropper, Richard G. Newell, Myles Allen, Maximilian Auffhammer, Chris E. Forest, Inez Y. Fung,  James K. Hammitt, Henry D. Jacoby, Robert E. Kopp, William Pizer, Steven K. Rose, Richard Schmalensee, and John P. Weyant

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Carbon Tax

Climate and Energy

Environmental Economics

Journal Articles

The Uncertain Future of Nuclear Power in the Southeast: Implications of an Aging Fleet for Electricity Sector Planning and Emissions

Nuclear power provides about one-quarter of the electricity in the Southeast and the majority of the region’s non-fossil generation. Beginning around 2030, nuclear plants in the Southeast, as in the rest of the country, will start to reach the end of their initial operating license extensions to 60 years, at which point they must receive an additional license extension or retire. How many nuclear units will seek and receive a second license extension is unknown. Replacing existing nuclear capacity with new nuclear capacity requires approximately 10 to 15 years. If a high percentage of nuclear units in the Southeast do retire at 60 years, it is unlikely that the units can simultaneously be replaced with new units given the long lead times and limited applications for new nuclear plants at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Given these circumstances, southeastern states may want to start planning for the potential loss of their largest carbon-free generation source now. This policy brief explores how the potential loss of existing nuclear power plants in the Southeast interacts with region’s other electricity sector challenges—among them, increasing natural gas dependence, demand uncertainty, and emerging technology—and it proposes steps states can take to address these challenges.

Authors: David Hoppock and Sarah Adair

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Climate and Energy

Environmental Economics

Energy Sector

Policy Briefs

Revisiting the NAAQS Program for Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act

The future is uncertain for the regulation of greenhouse gases from power plants, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which covers existing plants. The rule is under review in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court has indicated its interest in hearing the case. Moreover, during his presidential campaign, president-elect Donald Trump promised to “scrap” the Clean Power Plan. If the rule is overturned or is severely weakened, whether through litigation or executive action, stakeholders are likely to litigate to seek to force the EPA to use other authorities under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

This working paper examines the opportunities and challenges associated with regulation of greenhouse gases under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) program, drawing a comparison with the Clean Power Plan’s approach under a different section of the Clean Air Act. The paper offers no opinion on the Clean Power Plan litigation, nor does it advocate for the Clean Power Plan or the NAAQS approach. Its focus is on understanding how the NAAQS program might incorporate greenhouse gases in in the event that the EPA pursues that approach.

Authors: Christina Reichert, Franz Litz, Jonas Monast, Tim Profeta, and Sarah Adair

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Climate and Energy

Clean Air Act

Environmental Economics

State Policy

Working Papers

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