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The Conversation: Carl Bonham on the Annual Hawaii Forecast

Posted August 11, 2014 | Categories: Media

UHERO Executive Director and Professor of Economics Carl Bonham appears on The Conversation to talk about UHERO's latest Annual Hawaii Forecast: Hawaii Growth Slows as Global Risks Rise.

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Annual Hawaii Forecast: Hawaii Growth Slows As Global Risks Rise

Posted August 8, 2014 | Categories: Forecasts

The stall in tourism has slowed the Hawaii economy, and no other sector has yet emerged to provide offsetting stimulus. Construction has been slow to take over as a growth driver, but this will change as we move into 2015. Barring adverse economic developments outside Hawaii, this should be sufficient to support restrained growth in employment and some improvement in household income.

A summary of this forecast is available as a service to the public. For more detailed analysis, subscribe to UHERO's Forecast Project.

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A Hurricane’s Long-Term Economic Impact: the Case of Hawaii’s Iniki

The importance of understanding the macro-economic impact of natural disasters cannot be overstated. Hurricane Iniki, that hit the Hawaiian island of Kauai on September 11th, 1992, offers an ideal case study to better understand the long-term economic impacts of a major disaster. Iniki is uniquely suited to provide insights into the long-term economic impacts of disaster because (1) there is now seventeen years of detailed post-disaster economic data and (2) a nearby island, Maui, provides an ideal control group. Hurricane Iniki was the strongest hurricane to hit the Hawaiian Islands in recorded history, and wrought an estimated 7.4 billion (2008 US$) in initial damage. Here we show that Kauai’s economy only returned to pre-Iniki levels 7-8 years after the storm; though 17 years later, it has yet to recover in terms of its population and labor force. As we document, these long-term adverse impacts of disasters are ‘hidden.’ They are not usually treated as ‘costs’ of disasters, and are ignored when cost-benefit analysis of mitigation programs is used, or when countries, states, and islands attempt to prepare, financially and otherwise, to the possibility of future events.

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In the Eye of the Storm: Coping with Future Natural Disasters in Hawaii

Hurricane Iniki, that hit the island of Kauai on September 11th, 1992, was the strongest hurricane that hit the Hawaiian Islands in recorded history, and the one that wrought the most damage, estimated at 7.4 billion (in 2008 US$). We provide an assessment of Hawaii’s vulnerability to disasters using a framework developed for small islands. In addition, we provide an analysis of the ex post impact of Iniki on the economy of Kauai. Using indicators such as visitor arrivals and agricultural production, we show that Kauai’s economy only returned to pre-Iniki levels 7-8 years after the storm. Today, it has yet to recover in terms of population growth. As an island state, Hawaii is particularly susceptible to the occurrence of disasters. Even more worrying, Hawaii’s dependence on tourism, narrow export base, high level of imports and relatively small agricultural sector make Hawaii much more likely to struggle to recover in the aftermath. By thoroughly learning from Kauai’s experience and the state’s vulnerabilities, we hope we can better prepare for likely future disaster events.

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The Growing Importance of Tourism in the Global Economy and International Affairs

For tourism-dependent countries and destinations, tourism’s share of GDP can exceed twice the world average. Today, international tourism receipts exceed $1 billion per year in some 90 nations. Worldwide, domestic tourism is typically several times larger. Tourism truly has become a global economic and social force.

- by Carl Bonham and James Mak

Full Published Article: Bonham, Carl, and Mak, James. "The Growing Importance of Tourism in the Global Economy and International Affairs." Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, 22 July 2014.


Incentivizing interdependent resource management: watersheds, groundwater, and coastal ecology

Managing water resources independently may result in substantial economic losses when those resources are interdependent with each other and with other environmental resources. We first develop general principles for using resources with spillovers, including corrective taxes (subsidies) for incentivizing private resource users. We then analyze specific cases of managing water resources, in particular the interaction of groundwater with upstream or downstream resource systems.

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Groundwater Economics without Equations

In many parts of the world, irrigation and groundwater consumption are largely dependent on groundwater. Minimizing the adverse effects of water scarcity requires optimal as well as sustainable groundwater management. A common recommendation is to limit groundwater extraction to maximum sustainable yield (MSY). Although the optimal welfare-maximizing path of groundwater extraction converges to MSY in some cases, MSY generates waste in the short and medium term due to ambiguity regarding the transition to the desired long-run stock level and failure to account for the full costs of the resource. However, the price that incentivizes optimal consumption often exceeds the physical costs of extracting and distributing groundwater, which poses a problem for public utilities facing zero excess-revenue constraints. We discuss how the optimal price can be implemented in a revenue-neutral fashion using an increasing block pricing structure. The exposition is non-technical. More advanced references on groundwater resource management are also provided.

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The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Watershed Management

Efficient management of groundwater resource systems requires careful consideration of relationships — both positive and negative — with the surrounding environment. The removal of and protection against “bad” and "ugly" natural capital such as invasive plants and feral animals and the enhancement of “good” capital (e.g. protective fencing) are often viewed as distinct management problems. Yet environmental linkages to a common groundwater resource suggest that watershed management decisions should be informed by an integrated framework. We develop such a framework and derive principles that govern optimal investment in the management of two types of natural capital — those that increase recharge and those that decrease recharge — as well as groundwater extraction itself. Depending on the initial conditions of the system and the characteristics of each type of natural capital, it may make sense to remove bad capital exclusively, enhance good capital exclusively, or invest in both activities simultaneously until their marginal benefits are equal.

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Optimal Joint Management of Interdependent Resources: Groundwater vs. Kiawe (Prosopis pallida)

Local and global changes continue to influence interactions between groundwater and terrestrial ecosystems. Changes in precipitation, surface water, and land cover can affect the water balance of a given watershed, and thus affect both the quantity and quality of freshwater entering the ground. Groundwater management frameworks often abstract from such interactions. However, in some cases, management instruments can be designed to target simultaneously both groundwater and an interdependent resource such as the invasive kiawe tree (Prosopis pallid), which has been shown to reduce groundwater levels. Results from a groundwater-kiawe management model suggest that at the optimum, the resource manager should be indifferent between conserving a unit of groundwater via tree removal or via reduced consumption. The model’s application to the Kona Coast (Hawai‘i) showed that kiawe management can generate a large net present value for groundwater users. Additional data will be needed to implement full optimization in the resource system.

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The Conversation: Carl Bonham on the County Forecast

Posted May 23, 2014 | Categories: Media

 UHERO Executive Director and Professor of Economics Carl Bonham appears on The Conversation to talk about UHERO's latest County Forecast: Despite Lull in Tourism, County Expansions Continue.

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UHERO County Forecast: Despite Lull in Tourism, County Expansions Continue

Posted May 23, 2014 | Categories: Forecasts

Moderate economic expansion will continue in each of Hawaii’s counties. Last year’s tourism weakness continued in the first quarter of this year, and incremental gains for 2014 will be slight. Beyond this year, available capacity will limit further visitor industry growth. The construction expansion has proceeded further on Oahu than the elsewhere in the state, but it is also poised to contribute growth momentum to all counties going forward. In the broader economy, job growth will continue to bring down unemployment rates and will set the stage for a return to more satisfactory growth in personal income.

A summary of this forecast is available as a service to the public. For more detailed analysis, subscribe to UHERO's Forecast Project.

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Cost Implications of GHG Regulation in Hawai‘i

The State of Hawai‘i and the U.S. are developing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction regulations in parallel. The State requires that economy-wide GHG emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by the year 2020 and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is developing new source performance standards (NSPS) for new electricity generation units. The State Department of Health has proposed rules that would reduce existing large emitting electricity generating units by 16% from 2010 levels. The NSPS proposes GHG concentration limits for new electricity units.

We use a comprehensive model of Hawai‘i’s electricity sector to study the potential cost and GHG impacts of State and Federal GHG regulations. Given uncertainty about the final form and implementation of these regulations, we adopt a series of scenarios that bracket the range of possible outcomes. First we consider the State’s GHG cap (for existing units) and NSPS (for new units) being implemented at the facility level. Next, we consider the implications of allowing for partnering to meet the State GHG cap and the NSPS at a system-wide level. We also consider the case where the State GHG cap is extended to apply to both existing and new units. The current proposed State GHG rules exclude biogenic sources of emissions. We address the impacts of this decision through sensitivity analysis and explore the impact of GHG policy on new coal-fired units.

We find that regulating GHGs at the facility level leads to greater reductions in GHG emissions but at higher cost. Over the 30-year period that we study, when biogenic sources of emissions are ignored, facility level implementation of policy will add $3 billion to the cost of electricity generation at an average cost of $180/ton of GHG abatement. If biogenic sources of emissions are included within the accounting framework, abatement costs rise to $340/ton.

Overall, we find that the high cost of Hawai‘i’s current electricity generation provides a strong incentive to move towards less costly alternatives – in this consideration, primarily wind and rooftop PV. This leads to a reduction in GHG emissions. However, this finding would not hold if fuel prices were substantively lower than current levels, either from falling prices or fuel-switching to lower cost products. Regardless, the qualitative implications about the optimal structure of GHG policy are robust to changing assumptions about fuel prices. Implementing GHG policy at the facility level leads to relatively higher levels of GHG emissions reductions, though at substantially higher cost. If a greater level of GHG emissions reduction is desired, the least cost policy is to lower the level of the GHG cap while still allowing for the greatest flexibility in achieving targets.

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Globalization and Wage Convergence: Mexico and the United States

Neoclassical trade theory suggests that factor price convergence should follow increased commercial integration. Rising commercial integration and foreign direct investment followed the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Mexico. This paper evaluates the degree of wage convergence between Mexico and the United States between 1988 and 2011. We apply a synthetic panel approach to employment survey data and a more descriptive approach to Census data from Mexico and the US. First, we find no evidence of long-run wage convergence among cohorts characterized by low migration propensities although this was, in part, due to large macroeconomic shocks. On the other hand, we do find some evidence of convergence for workers with high migration propensities. Finally, we find evidence of convergence in the border of Mexico vis-à-vis its interior in the 1990s but this was reversed in the 2000s.

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Hawaii Construction Forecast: Construction Upturn On Track

Posted March 28, 2014 | Categories: Forecasts

Hawaii’s construction expansion continues apace. New condo towers in Kakaako are spurring double-digit growth in permits for residential construction. A sharp rise in commercial construction, much of it in resort areas, is on the horizon. Public spending on infrastructure has also leapt upward, as the State works to address shortfalls that have built up in recent years. And with recent federal court victories, the way ahead is now clear for Honolulu rail rapid transit. Now in its third year of recovery, the construction industry is positioned for healthy growth over the next several years.

A summary of this forecast is available as a service to the public. For more detailed analysis, subscribe to UHERO's Forecast Project.

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PURPA and the Impact of Existing Avoided Cost Contracts on Hawai'i’s Electricity Sector

The United States has been trying to reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuel since the 1970s. Domestic fossil fuel supply initially peaked in 1970, and the oil crises of 1973 and 1979 accelerated domestic policy and investments to develop renewable sources of energy (Joskow, 1997). One such policy—passed in 1978 by the U.S. Congress—was the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA).

In this policy brief, we identify the existing PURPA-based contracts in Hawai'i and use a Hawai'i-specific electric sector generation planning model, The Hawai'i Electricity Model (HELM), to estimate the impact that PURPA contracts have on both total system cost and the mix of generation technologies. We study a variety of scenarios under the maintained assumption that the state will achieve the Hawai'i Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires that 40% of electricity sales are generated using renewable sources by the year 2030.

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