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Publications

Managing Dynamic Change in the Midwestern Power Sector: Power Shift Midwestern Regional Workshop

Authors: Kate Konschnik

Market-shifts, technological innovation, and clean energy policies are driving a fundamental transformation of the U.S. power sector. This proceedings describes four critical grid issues in the Midwest discussed at the Power Shift's Minnesota meeting: evolving stakeholder processes, power sector fleet transfer, the impact of electric cars on the grid, and responses to changing consumer demand. The range of potential research inspired by the discussion—including whether state regulatory processes help or hinder big shifts underway on the grid, how state climate goals affect regional generation patterns, how stakeholder processes and market trends interact, whether utilities should attempt to spark demand for electric vehicles, and whether customer demands or public policies are driving innovation—points to the sea change in the U.S. power sector.
Publications

Regional Implications of National Carbon Taxes

Author: Martin Ross

This analysis published in the journal Climate Change Economics examines impacts of nationally-imposed carbon taxes on different regions of the United States. The goal is to see what can be learned about the drivers of regional political support for and opposition to such measures. Whether at the state, regional or national levels, carbon taxes are one option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions; several state and regional programs are already under way and lowering emissions. This analysis uses a U.S. regional version of the Dynamic Integrated Economy/Energy/Emissions Model (DIEM) computable general equilibrium model to explore relationships between carbon taxes, emissions, and economic growth.

Publications

The Future of the Electricity Industry: Implications of Trends and Taxes

Author: Martin Ross

This analysis published in the journal Energy Economics examines how changes in market trends and technology costs are likely to affect electricity generation in the United States in the context of possible future carbon taxes. It uses the Dynamic Integrated Economy/Energy/Emissions Model (DIEM) electricity-sector model to examine a wide range of sensitivity cases for technology and fuel costs under different economic conditions. The model finds that carbon taxes can be an effective way to quickly lower emissions. Shifts among natural gas and renewable generation can vary significantly, depending on capital and operating costs.

Publications

The Value of Water Information: Overcoming the Global Data Drought

Authors: Albert Cho, Alex Fischer, Martin Doyle, Marc Levy, Paola Kim-Blanco, and Randolf Webb

This paper is a call to action for data users, data providers, and global decision makers concerned about water resources, climate resilience, and sustainable development. It provides an overview of hydrological monitoring systems and explains the importance of public water data to national governance, resource management, planning, and efforts to achieve global objectives such as the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Publications

A Spatially-Resolved Inventory Analysis of the Water Consumed by the Coal-to-Gas Transition of Pennsylvania

Authors: Sarah Jordaan, Lauren Patterson, Laura Diaz Anadon

In the Journal of Cleaner Production, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Lauren Patterson and her co-authors look at changes in water consumption related to transitions from coal to natural gas in Pennsylvania from 2009 to 2012. The study provides the first comprehensive representation of changing water consumption patterns associated with the state’s coal-to-gas transition at a watershed level for both extraction of the resources to the generation of electricity with coal and natural gas.

Publications

Evidence-Based Causal Chains for Linking Health, Development, and Conservation Actions

Authors: Jiangxiao Qui, Edward T. Game, Heather Tallis, Lydia Olander, Louise Glew, James, S. Kagan, Elizabeth L. Kalies, Drew Michanowicz, Jennifer Phelan, Stephen Polasky, James Reed, Erin O. Sills, Dean Urban, and Sarah Kate Weaver

Sustainability challenges for nature and people are complex and interconnected, such that effective solutions require approaches and a common theory of change that bridge disparate disciplines and sectors. Causal chains offer promising approaches to achieving an integrated understanding of how actions affect ecosystems, the goods and services they provide, and ultimately, human well-being. Although causal chains and their variants are common tools across disciplines, their use remains highly inconsistent, limiting their ability to support and create a shared evidence base for joint actions. This BioScience article presents the foundational concepts and guidance of causal chains linking disciplines and sectors that do not often intersect to elucidate the effects of actions on ecosystems and society. 

Publications

Facilitating Markets and Mitigation: A Systematic Review of Early-Action Incentives in the U.S.

Authors: Christoper S. Galik and Lydia Olander

Early action refers to activities undertaken prior to a regulatory program or generation of services prior to mitigation of impacts elsewhere. In U.S. environmental markets, early action could reduce lags in environmental performance, improve outcomes, and encourage innovation in mitigation approaches. Multiple tools have emerged for encouraging early action in environmental markets. Several tools have also been deployed in markets, providing valuable insight into their function. This article in Land Use Policy presents a systematic review of early action tools and describes their use in wetland and stream mitigation, species and habitat banking, greenhouse gas mitigation, and water quality trading. 

Publications

Reducing Fugitive Methane Emissions from the North American Oil and Gas Sector: A Proposed Science-Policy Framework

Authors: Kate Konschnik and Sarah Marie Jordaan

Atmospheric methane concentrations continue to increase globally, despite a pledge in 2016 from the leaders of the United States, Canada, and Mexico to reduce methane emissions from each country’s oil and gas sector. Additionally, the trilateral methane pledge faces more challenges as the Trump Administration seeks to reverse federal methane research and control efforts. Efforts to measure and control fugitive methane emissions do not presently proceed within a coherent framework that integrates science and policy. A new article in the journal Climate Policy suggests that collectively or individually, the countries, individual agencies, or private stakeholders could use the proposed North American Methane Reduction framework to direct research, enhance monitoring and evaluate mitigation efforts, and improve the chances that continental methane reduction targets will be achieved.

Publications

The Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers

Authors: Martin Doyle

America has more than 250,000 rivers, coursing over more than 3 million miles and serving as integral trade routes, borders, passageways, sewers, and sinks. Over the years, based on our shifting needs and values, we have harnessed their power with waterwheels and dams, straightened them for ships, drained them with irrigation canals, set them on fire, and even attempted to restore them. This environmental history tells the story of America and its rivers, from the U.S. Constitution’s roots in interstate river navigation, the origins of the Army Corps of Engineers, the discovery of gold in 1848, and the construction of the Hoover Dam and the TVA during the New Deal, to the failure of the levees in Hurricane Katrina and the water wars in the west. Along the way, it explores how rivers have often been the source of arguments at the heart of the American experiment―over federalism, sovereignty and property rights, taxation, regulation, conservation, and development.  

Publications

Benefit-Relevant Indicators: Ecosystem Services Measures That Link Ecological and Social Outcomes

Author(s): Lydia P. Olander, Robert J. Johnston, Heather Tallis, James Kagan, Lynn A. Maguire, Stephen Polasky, Dean Urban, James Boyd, Lisa Wainger, and Margaret Palmer

There is a growing movement in government, environmental NGOs, and the private sector to include ecosystem services in decision making—that is, measuring how much a change in ecological conditions affects people, social benefit, or value to society. Despite consensus around the general merit of accounting for ecosystem services, systematic guidance on what to measure and how is lacking. Current ecosystem services assessments often resort to biophysical proxies (e.g., area of wetland in a floodplain) or even disregard services that seem difficult to measure. Valuation, an important tool for assessing trade-offs and comparing outcomes, is also frequently omitted. This article in Ecological Indicators proposes the use of a new type of indicator that explicitly reflects an ecosystem’s capacity to provide benefits to society, ensuring that ecosystem services assessments measure outcomes that are demonstrably and directly relevant to human welfare. 

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