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Products: Research Papers

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Filipino 2040: Environmental Resources, Shocks, and National Well-Being

The contribution of the environmental-resource sector to national well-being is the sum of natural resource depletion and environmental degradation. Inasmuch as existing resource stocks are below efficient levels, better enforcement of existing laws as well as policies that incentivize sustainable use are needed. Similarly, progressive royalty assessment of mineral resources can incentivize exploration without transferring the bulk of resource rents to private interests. In the case of pollution, the key is to face firms with the full costs of their production, e.g. through emission taxes and/or cap and trade systems. Calculating total depletion and degradation (TDD) will facilitate the calculation of green national income (GNI), a more inclusive metric of national well-being. In the same way, simultaneous optimization of disaster management policies in the face of climate change can facilitate a further improvement in national well-being, this time measured as comprehensive national income (CNI).


Creating Tourism Improvement Districts to Raise Stable Funding for Destination Marketing and Promotion

Tourism Improvement Districts (TIDs), modeled after the more well-known Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), are increasing rapidly in the U.S. With enabling legislation from state and local governments, TIDs allow hoteliers in a tourist destination to ban together to impose compulsory assessments on nearly all the hotels in the district in order to raise money to fund destination marketing. To date, research on TIDs have come almost exclusively from destination marketing organizations (DMOs), travel associations, TIDs, and consultants with vested interest in the formation and expansion of TIDs. This paper synthesizes information from available reports and attempts to provide a more balanced view of the role of TIDs in destination tourism marketing and promotion.

Working paper

The Evolution of the HI Growth Initiative

Supporting innovation as an engine of economic growth is an essential component of the state’s overall economic strategy. The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and its attached agencies, the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation (HSDC), the High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC), and the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) are responsible for advancing innovation-oriented projects that improve the living standards of Hawaii residents by generating opportunities for high-wage job creation.

Project report

Recent Trends in Hawaii's Green Economy: Agriculture, Energy and Natural Resource Management

This report provides an update to the 2012 “Foundations for Hawai‘i’s Green Economy: Economic Trends in Hawai‘i Agriculture, Energy, and Natural Resource Management.” Although economic information has long been collected for many sectors in Hawai‘i, including agriculture and energy, the 2012 project was the first to collect indicators specifically for the natural resource management (NRM) sector. With financial support from Hau‘oli Mau Loa Foundation and research assistance from The Nature Conservancy, the University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization was tasked with collecting and analyzing information from three sectors that are key to future sustainability in Hawai‘i - energy, agriculture and natural resource management.

project report

New Perspectives on Land and Housing Markets in Hawaii

Land leasing is common in Honolulu, with many owners of residential, industrial, and commercial buildings leasing land. This report examines land and housing markets in Honolulu and the mainland United States to understand better why prices and lease rents are so much higher in Honolulu than most other US cities. Three stylized facts stand out:  

  • Census data show that Hawaii home prices were already exceptionally high in 1950.
  • Over the last six decades, inflation-adjusted land and housing prices in Honolulu register small annual real increases.
  • Honolulu’s inflation-adjusted land and housing prices have been highly volatile in the medium term since the 1960s, forcing market participants to bear high levels of risk.


Making an Optimal Plan for 100% Renewable Power in Hawaii

The State of Hawaii has adopted the unprecedented goal of building a 100 percent renewable power system by 2045. This report identifies some of the central challenges in achieving this goal and uses the SWITCH power system planning model to identify solutions to these challenges. A 100% renewable power system must balance electricity supply and demand on two main time scales: diurnal (providing enough power each hour of the day) and seasonal (providing enough total energy on each day of the year). The diurnal balance could be achieved by installing large amounts of primarily solar production capacity, then using batteries, demand response, biofuels or hydrogen production to shift power production and/or consumption between day and night. The seasonal balance may be more challenging. Energy demand during days or weeks with low sunlight could be met by building extra solar and wind capacity, using biofuels, or using hydrogen produced during sunny months. Demand response will likely be less expensive than the other options for day-night energy balancing, and customer-sited solar may be competitive with utility-scale solar; consequently electric utilities may need to become energy integrators and market managers, rather than bulk power providers.It is unclear how much biofuel the State could use without compromising other environmental and energy independence objectives; consequently hydrogen energy storage merits serious consideration. SWITCH or similar models can be used to identify optimal long-term plans; however, a new incentive system is needed to encourage the State's utilities to develop and implement such plans, regardless of who will own the generating equipment.

white paper

Nowcasting Tourism Industry Performance Using High Frequency Covariates

We evaluate the short term forecasting performance of methods that systematically incorporate high frequency information via covariates. Our results indicate that including timely intra-period data into the forecasting process results in significant gains in predictive accuracy compared to relying exclusively on low frequency aggregates. Anticipating growing popularity of these tools among empirical analysts, we offer practical implementation guidelines to facilitate their adoption.

Working Paper

Facebook-to-Facebook: Online Communication and Economic Cooperation

Communication is often critical for economic cooperation and enhancement of trust. Traditionally, direct face-to-face communication has been found to be more effective than any form of indirect, mediated communication. We study whether this is still the case given that many people routinely use texting and online social media to conduct economic transactions. In our laboratory experiment, groups of participants communicate either (i) face-to-face, (ii) through the most popular online social network - Facebook, or (iii) using text messaging, before participating in a public goods or a trust game. While people talk significantly more under traditional face-to-face, discussions through Facebook and text messages prove as effective as face-to-face communication in enhancing cooperation and increasing trust. For all three media, discussions that focus on the game or use more positive emotion words are correlated with enhanced trust. It appears that young American adults are now just as adept at communicating and reducing social distance online as they are in person.



Where do Social Preferences Come From?

Where do preferences for fairness come from? We use a unique field setting to test for a spillover of sharing norms from the workplace to a laboratory experiment. Fishermen working in teams receive random income shocks (catching fish) that they must regularly divide among themselves. We demonstrate a clear correlation between sharing norms in the field and sharing norms in the lab. Furthermore, the spillover effect is stronger for fishermen who have been exposed to a sharing norm for longer, suggesting that our findings are not driven by selection effects. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that work environments shape social preferences.


Efficient Design of Net Metering Agreements in Hawaii and Beyond

In Hawaii, like most U.S. states, households installing rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems receive special pricing under net-metering agreements. These agreements allow households with rooftop solar to buy and sell electricity at the retail rate, effectively using the larger grid to store surplus generation from their panels during sunny times and return it when the sun isn’t shining. If a household generates more electricity than it consumes over the course of a month, it obtains a credit that rolls over for use in future months. Net generation supplied to the grid in excess of that consumed over the course of a full year is forfeited to the utility. 

Project Report

Balancing Opportunities and Costs in Hawaii's Increasingly Green Grid

Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy and oil-fired power plants make it the most oil dependent state in the United States. It also has the nation’s highest electricity prices, often between 3 and 4 times the national average over the last decade. These high prices, the state’s sunny and windy climate that make it amenable to increasingly economical renewable energy, plus a relatively progressive political culture have pushed the state to adopt an ambitious goal of being 100 percent renewable by 2045. Focusing mainly on the state’s largest grid on Oahu, where most people live, we discuss the cost structure of the current electricity system, the potential benefits and challenges of growing the share of renewable energy, and make a few policy suggestions. In particular, we argue that all homes and businesses should be given an opportunity to buy and sell electricity at the marginal cost of generation. Variable pricing could greatly reduce the cost of renewable energy, and perhaps seed development of Hawaii as a technology center focused on batteries and smart machines that can help shift electricity demand to align with the variable supply of solar and wind energy.

Working Paper

Intergenerational Games with Dynamic Externalities and Climate Change Experiments

Dynamic externalities are at the core of many long-term environmental problems, from species preservation to climate change mitigation. We use laboratory experiments to compare welfare outcomes and underlying behavior in games with dynamic externalities under two distinct settings: traditionally studied games with infinitely-lived decision makers, and more realistic intergenerational games. We show that if decision makers change across generations, resolving dynamic externalities becomes more challenging for two distinct reasons. First, decision makers’ actions may be short-sighted due to their limited incentives to care about the future generations’ welfare. Second, even when the incentives are perfectly aligned across generations, increased strategic uncertainty of the intergenerational setting may lead to an increased inconsistency of own actions and beliefs about the others, making own actions more myopic. Access to history and advice from previous generations may improve dynamic efficiency, but may also facilitate coordination on noncooperative action paths.


Factors Affecting EV Adoption: A Literature Review and EV Forecast for Hawaii

Electric Vehicles (EVs) reduce or negate gasoline or diesel use in vehicles through integration with the electric grid. Both plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs)—which can draw from a battery as well as liquid fuel—and battery electric vehicles (BEVs)—solely powered through electricity—provide the opportunity for power-sharing with the electric grid and can potentially ease the integration of sources of intermittent renewable energy. This is a potentially important technology to help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, local air pollution, and vehicular noise.

In this paper, we review studies informing the factors that affect EV adoption. We also review and harmonize studies that develop forecasts of EV adoption over time. We select a set of forecasts that represent low, reference, and high EV adoption and apply them to Hawaii-specific EV and car sales data to provide a preliminary forecast of potential EV adoption in Hawaii.

Read the full report on the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute website

Can Energy Efficiency Standards Reduce Prices and Improve Quality? Evidence from the US Clothes Washer Market

We examine the effect of energy efficiency standards on the clothes washers market using a constant-quality price index constructed from same-model price changes for a significant majority of clothes washer models sold in the United States between 2001 and 2011. We find constant-quality prices fell over time, while quality increased, particularly around times energy standards changed. We estimate total welfare changes by assuming the difference between average price and constant-quality price indicates average quality. Further examination shows product entry and exit are associated with changes federal standard for energy efficiency. With policy changes implicitly coordinating entry and exit, average vintage sharply falls when standards change. Controlling for individual model and time effects, we find that lower average vintage is associated with more rapidly falling prices, an effect we attribute to increased competition. We also find a strong relationship between clothes washer prices and average vintage of the same manufacturer, which indicates cannibalism explains much of the declining price of clothes washers over time. We apply the same methodology to other appliances (clothes dryer, room air conditioners and refrigerators) which did not experience simultaneous efficiency standard changes between 2001 and 2011. We see the same cannibalism in the market for clothes dryers, but not for room air conditioners or refrigerators. We also find notable improvements both in the characteristics of clothes washers that directly improve energy efficiency and those that promote convenience and space-saving. Energy efficiency standards appear to facilitate more rapid innovation and price declines.

working Paper

Vog: Using Volcanic Eruptions to Estimate the Health Costs of Particulates and SO2

Kılauea volcano is the largest stationary source of SO2 pollution in the United States of America. Moreover, the SO2 that the volcano emits eventually forms particulate matter, another major pollutant. We use this exogenous source of pollution variation to estimate the impact of particulate matter and SO2 on emergency room admissions and costs in the state of Hawai‘i. Importantly, our data on costs is more accurate than the measures used in much of the literature. We find strong evidence that particulate pollution increases pulmonary-related hospitalization. Specifically, a one standard deviation increase in particulate pollution leads to a 2-3% increase in expenditures on emergency room visits for pulmonary-related outcomes. However, we do not find strong effects for pure SO2 pollution or for cardiovascular outcomes. We also find no effect of volcanic pollution on fractures, our placebo outcome. Finally, the effects of particulate pollution on pulmonary-related admissions are most concentrated among the very young. Our estimates suggest that, since the large increase in emissions that began in 2008, the volcano has increased healthcare costs in Hawai‘i by approximately $6,277,204.


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