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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.

WORKING PAPER


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.

WORKING PAPER


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.

WORKING PAPER


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.

WORKING PAPER


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.

WORKING PAPER


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.

UHERO PROJECT REPORT


Optimal groundwater management when recharge is declining: a method for valuing the recharge benefits of watershed conservation

Demand for water will continue to increase as per capita income rises and the population grows, and climate change can exacerbate the problem through changes in precipitation patterns and quantities, evapotranspiration, and land cover—all of which directly or indirectly affect the amount of water that ultimately infiltrates back into groundwater aquifers. We develop a dynamic management framework that incorporates alternative climate-change (and hence, recharge) scenarios and apply it to the Pearl Harbor aquifer system on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. By calculating the net present value of water for a variety of plausible climate scenarios, we are able to estimate the indirect value of groundwater recharge that would be generated by watershed conservation activities. Enhancing recharge increases welfare by lowering the scarcity value of water in both the near term and the future, as well as delaying the need for costly alternatives such as desalination. For a reasonable range of parameter values, we find that the present value gain of maintaining recharge ranges from 31.1million to over1.5 billion.

Published version: Burnett, K. and Wada, C.A., 2014. Optimal groundwater management when recharge is declining: a method for valuing the recharge benefits of watershed conservation. Environmental Economics and Policy Studies. In Press.

WORKING PAPER


Global Value Chains and Trade Elasticities

Previous studies have argued that global value chains (GVCs) have increased the sensitivity of trade to external business cycle shocks. This may occur either because GVC trade is concentrated in durable goods industries, which are known to have high income elasticities (a composition effect), or because, within industries, GVC trade has a higher income elasticity than regular trade (a supply chain effect). Using Chinese trade data across customs regimes and industries during the period 1995-2009, we find evidence for the former, but not the latter.

WORKING PAPER


The Effect of Plan B on Teen Abortions: Evidence From the 2006 FDA Ruling

An increase in the availability of emergency contraception (EC) may lead to a decrease in the abortion rate. The 2006 FDA ruling, which relaxed the prescription requirement for EC for women 18 and older, allows us to apply the difference-in-difference methodology on the age-by-year-by-state abortion data to test this hypothesis. Contrary to the literature, we find a moderate reduction in abortion rates among women aged 18 and 19 after 2006 in states that were affected by the change, compared to changes in the control group. These results are robust in a number of specifications and pass the event specification test.

Published Version: Cintina, I., M. Johansen. 2014. The Effect of Plan B on Teen Abortions: Evidence from the 2006 FDA Ruling. Contemporary Economic Policy. In Press.

WORKING PAPER


Unemployment and Mortality: Evidence from the PSID

We use micro-data to investigate the relationship between unemployment and mortality in the United States using Logistic regression on a sample of over 16,000 individuals. We consider baselines from 1984 to 1993 and investigate mortality up to ten years from the baseline. We show that poor local labor market conditions are associated with higher mortality risk for working-aged men and, specifically, that a one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate increases their probability of dying within one year of baseline by 6%. There is little to no such relationship for people with weaker labor force attachments such as women or the elderly. Our results contribute to a growing body of work that suggests that poor economic conditions pose health risks and illustrate an important contrast with studies based on aggregate data.

WORKING PAPER


Integrating Demand-Management with Development of Supply-Side Substitutes

Sustaining water availability at current prices in the face of growing demand and declining resources is not possible, and scarcity is further exacerbated by falling recharge levels due to climate change, urbanization, and watershed depreciation. We discuss an integrated approach to water-resource development based on principles of sustainability science. In addition to demand management such as pricing, we consider supply-side substitutes such as desalination and wastewater recycling. The importance of integrating demand- and supply-side approaches is especially evident in the case of watershed conservation as climate adaptation. Watershed conservation reduces scarcity by improving groundwater recharge. Yet, incorrect pricing can waste those potential gains. We discuss a joint management strategy, wherein block prices for groundwater consumption and co-determined prices for watershed conservation incentivize and finance efficient profiles of both.

WORKING PAPER


Ordering Extraction from Multiple Aquifers

Optimal groundwater extraction satisfies the condition that the marginal benefits of water consumption equal the full marginal cost of extraction in each period, including the opportunity cost of future benefits foregone. But how should this well-known condition be generalized when there are multiple aquifers available? We provide an extension of the “Pearce equation” to guide the optimal ordering of resource extraction and an illustrative application wherein it is optimal to extract from the “leakiest” aquifer first, letting another aquifer increase in volume. This generalized least cost-first principle contrasts strongly with the sustainable yield approach. By including spatial dimensions, the model provides the marginal valuations of water at each time and place, such that full marginal cost pricing can incentivize users to implement the efficient program. While an untrammeled water market would fail to provide the optimal solution, regulators can facilitate efficient water trading by setting appropriate exchange rates.

WORKING PAPER


A Policy Analysis of Hawaii's Solar Tax Credit Incentive

This study uses Hawaii as an illustrative case study in state level tax credits for PV. We examine the role of Hawaii’s tax credit policy in PV deployment, including distributional and tax payer impacts. Hawaii is interesting because its electricity rates are nearly four times the national average as well as has a 35% tax credit for PV, capped at $5,000 per system. We find that PV is an excellent investment for Hawaii’s homeowners, even without the state tax credit. For the typical household, the internal rate of return with the state tax credit is about 14% and, without it, 10%. Moreover, the vast majority of installations are demanded by households with the median income and higher. We estimate that single-family homeowner’s in Hawaii may demand as much as 1,100 MW of PV. There are, however, significant grid constraints. Policy currently limits PV generation to no more than 15% of peak load for any given circuit, or approximately 3% of aggregate electricity demand. Tax credits are therefore not likely to increase the overall deployment of PV, but rather spread the cost of installation from homeowners to taxpayers and accelerate the rate at which Hawaii reaches grid restrictions.

 

Please contact Makena Coffman at makenaka@hawaii.edu for the full study. 

 


Intergenerational Equity with Individual Impatience in an OLG Model of Optimal and Sustainable Growth

Among the ethical objections to intergenerational impartiality is the violation of consumer sovereignty given that individuals are impatient. We accommodate that concern by distinguishing intra- and inter-generational discounting in an OLG model suitable for analyzing sustainability issues. Under the assumption of constant elasticity of marginal felicity, the optimum trajectory of aggregate consumption is guided, via the Ramsey condition, by the intergenerational discount rate but not the personal discount rate. In an economy with produced capital and a renewable resource, intergenerational neutrality results in a sustained growth path, without the necessity of a sustainability constraint, even in the presence of intragenerational impatience. We also find that green net national product remains constant along the optimal approach path to golden rule consumption.

Published version: Endress, L.H., Pongkijvorasin, S., Roumasset, J., Wada, C.A., 2013. Intergenerational equity with individual impatience in a model of optimal and sustainable growth. Resource and Energy Economics. In Press.

WORKING PAPER


How Have Catch Shares Been Allocated?

 A unique database was created that describes the methods used to allocate shares in nearly every major catch share fishery in the world. Approximately 54% of the major catch share fisheries in the world allocated the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) solely on the basis of historical catch records, 3% used auctions, and 6% used equal sharing rules. The remaining 37% used a combination of methods, including vessel-based rules. These results confirm the widely-held belief that nearly all catch share programs have “grandfathered” private access to fishery resources: 91% of the fisheries in the database allocated some fraction of the TAC on the basis of historical catch. This publicly available database should be a useful reference tool for policymakers, academics, and others interested in catch shares management in Hawai‘i and across the globe.

To suggest edits or additions to the database, please email lynham@hawaii.edu.

Working PaperDATA FILE (XLSX)


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