Changes in U.S. energy markets, along with concerns about local and global pollution, have sparked an interest in reforms to U.S. energy policies. Some new or proposed policies address new technologies, such as fracking and distributed electricity generation; others address the environmental consequences of existing technologies. Some policies have been recently implemented; others remain proposals. At the same time, attention has focused on equity. It seems unlikely that major policy reforms can happen without an informed discussion of their distributional consequences.
The NBER, with the generous support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is carrying out a research project on the distributional consequences of new energy policies. The project is directed by Catie Hausman (University of Michigan and NBER) and Arik Levinson (Georgetown University and NBER). This call for proposals seeks contributions in the form of research papers focusing on the relationship between new energy policies and distributional equity. Papers may address distributional issues in various ways: between producers and consumers, or between individuals who differ by income, race, age, and in other ways. Papers proposing new approaches to studying the distributional consequences of policies, or assessing new underlying relationships between policies and welfare, are of particular interest.
Research questions that could be addressed include, but are not limited to:
• How equitable is the distribution of costs and benefits from climate-energy policies, such as building electrification, natural gas bans, renewable energy subsidies and mandates, and state or national clean energy standards?
• How does the rise of distributed renewable energy, such as rooftop solar, affect the tariffs utilities charge to finance their operations, and what are the distributional consequences?
• Can economics inform the design, implementation, or evaluation of recent policies such as the Justice40 Initiative?
• What have been the distributional effects of regulations governing new mineral leases for fracking, recognizing effects on land values and local employment?
• Would a national clean energy standard be more equitable than the status quo, or than alternatives such as a non-tradable state-by-state mandate or a broad-based carbon tax?
• Do carbon pricing schemes exacerbate inequalities, and if so what policies could offset those inequities?
• How does the use of discount rates or welfare weights to design energy policies affect the distribution of those policies’ costs and benefits?
• Do the distributional consequences of policy proposals affect their popularity? Is public support for a carbon tax greater if revenues are redistributed, spent financing other climate-related policies, or used to offset the costs to consumers or affected industries?
• How effective are programs designed to alleviate energy poverty, such as means-tested utility rates, increasing block pricing, disconnection moratoriums, and home weatherization programs? What program features contribute to their effectiveness?
• What lessons about energy equality today can be learned from the past, for example from New Deal policies like the Rural Electrification Act and the Public Works Administration, the oil price shocks of the 1970s, or electricity deregulation?
Proposals may describe papers in various stages of completion. They must include a clear statement of a research plan, the data to be used (if relevant), and the potential contributions. The proposed research may not be accepted and scheduled for publication before June 2023. Theoretical and empirical research projects are welcome. Projects may use tools and methods from any field of applied economics, including energy and environmental economics, industrial organization, labor economics, and public finance. Submissions are encouraged from researchers with and without NBER affiliations, from academia, government, or the private sector, from early career scholars, and from researchers from under-represented groups.
Proposals will be evaluated by a review committee comprising Lala Ma (University of Kentucky), Lucija Muehlenbachs (University of Calgary), Sheila Olmstead (University of Texas), Ed Rubin (University of Oregon), and the two project co-directors.
Authors of eight paper proposals will be invited to participate. They will present work in progress at an on-line “preconference” on May 23-24, 2022, and final papers at a capstone in-person research conference at a location to be determined on June 15-16, 2023. Authors will be invited, but not obligated, to submit completed papers to a special issue of a peer-reviewed journal in energy or environmental economics. The NBER will pay a modest honorarium to the authors and will cover hotel and economy-class conference travel for up to two authors per paper. All co-authors will be invited to attend the capstone conference.
To be considered, proposals must be submitted by 11:59pm EDT, January 28, 2022, to:
All submissions must include a conflict of interest statement indicating whether any members of the research team have ties to the energy industry or any other potential conflicts that might bear on their proposed research. Decisions of the review committee will be announced by the middle of February, 2022. Please direct questions about this project to firstname.lastname@example.org.