Reports

  • The Social Cost of Carbon Initative

    Researchers in this initiative are leading a team of distinguished economists and scientists to improve the science behind estimates of the social cost of carbon—the means by which the US federal government, state governments, and foreign governments account for climate change in their actions—through a process that ensures the highest levels of scientific quality and transparency and builds the scientific foundation for future estimates.

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  • Making the Most of Distributed Energy Resources: Subregional Estimates of the Environmental Value of Distributed Energy Resources in the United States

    Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), like rooftop solar and battery storage, have the potential to generate significant social benefits by displacing pollution-emitting electricity generators. Accurately compensating DERs for this environmental and public health value, which some regulators and experts call the “E-Value,” is imperative for making the most out of DERs’ potential.

    This report provides a new set of hourly E-Values for the whole United States, broken down into 19 subregions, using an open-source reduced-order dispatch model. The patterns uncovered by these estimates can help policymakers design economically efficient DER policies to reduce air pollution from electricity generators.

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  • SOCIAL COST OF CARBON: Identifying a Federal Entity to Address the National Academies’ Recommendations Could Strengthen Regulatory Analysis

    This report examines, among other objectives: (1) how the federal government’s current estimates of the social cost of carbon compare to its prior estimates and (2) how the federal government plans to address the recommendations of the National Academies. GAO reviewed executive orders, OMB guidance, and regulatory impact analyses and interviewed OMB, EPA, NHTSA, and BLM officials and staff who had conducted such analyses. GAO recommends that OMB identify a federal entity responsible for addressing the National Academies’ recommendations.

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  • Pipeline Approvals and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    In light of growing public awareness of the environmental effects of pipeline projects, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has faced competing pressures regarding how to balance the need for new natural gas pipelines with their environmental consequences. Concerns about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and resulting climate change effects have become a flashpoint in the debate. Our report examines the legal context surrounding FERC’s evaluation of the environmental impacts of proposed interstate natural gas pipelines. We look at FERC’s obligations under the Natural Gas Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as potential improvements the agency can make to its analyses to better inform policy makers and the public about the impacts of proposed projects.

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  • Opportunities for Valuing Climate Impacts in U.S. States

    With an absence of federal leadership on climate change, many states have worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their own, often by incorporating a broader range of considerations into electricity policy. This Institute for Policy Integrity report assesses the potential to expand the valuation of climate damages in state electricity policy using Social Cost of Carbon metrics. We examine existing statutes and regulations in all 50 states to identify opportunities for valuing climate impacts around the country.

    State electricity regulators have a significant opportunity to use economic approaches like valuing climate impacts to better inform their decisionmaking. This approach can be used to account for the impacts associated with different types of proposed generation resources. Regulators in 10 states have already begun the process of using monetary estimates of climate damages in their electricity proceedings. In these jurisdictions, climate damages are taken into account in three main ways: utility resource planning, compensation for low or zero-emissions resources, and cost-benefit analysis frameworks.

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  • A Lower Bound: Why the Social Cost of Carbon Does Not Capture Critical Climate Damages

    The Social Cost of Carbon, developed by the Obama-era Interagency Working Group (IWG), is the best available tool for measuring the economic damages from greenhouse gas emissions. It has been used in analysis for over 100 federal regulations that affect greenhouse gas emissions, as well as by a number of states in electricity and climate policy. Still, many significant impacts identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are difficult to quantify and so have been omitted from the IWG SCC estimates. Impacts such as increased fire risk, slower economic growth, and large-scale migration are all unaccounted for, despite their potential to cause large economic losses. Our new issue brief discusses these omissions and other variables that will influence climate outcomes. We encourage policymakers to account for this likely underestimate by viewing the SCC as a lower bound for damages.

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  • How States Can Value Pollution Reductions from Distributed Energy Resources

    DERs are a growing part of the U.S. electric system and many state electric utility regulators are looking to more accurately compensate them by paying for a variety of the benefits that these resources provide. Most states are currently focusing on energy and distribution-level benefits, but this approach overlooks the environmental and public health impacts of DERs. Even though some states like California and New York have been working on analyses that include environmental attributes of DERs, few regulators have attempted a thorough evaluation of the environmental and public health benefits. Our report, Valuing Pollution Reduction, lays out a practical methodology for calculating the E value, the highlights of which are captured here. Specifically, this issue brief describes how to appropriately value environmental and public health benefits by monetizing the economic, health, and climate damages avoided emissions would have caused. State utility regulators can use the steps described here, weighing tradeoffs between accuracy and administrability, to implement their own program to holistically compensate DERs.

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  • How the Trump Administration Is Obscuring the Costs of Climate Change

    When federal and state policymakers account for the impacts of climate change, they regularly use a tool called the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC). The SCC puts a dollar value on the most significant, quantifiable damages caused by each additional ton of carbon dioxide emitted. The most recent estimate of the cost is at least $51 per ton and rising over time. But now, turning its back on years of work, the Trump administration has disbanded the federal group that developed the SCC, and produced a new “interim” estimate claiming that each ton of carbon dioxide causes as little as $1 in climate damages. This issue brief describes how the Trump Administration reached this misleading number by ignoring the interconnected, global nature of our climate-vulnerable economy and obscuring the devastating effects that climate change will have on younger and future generations. Though the administration has been proposing rollbacks of environmental rules using this problematic SCC estimate as justification, we explain why federal agencies and state governments should continue using the most recent estimate by the Interagency Working Group that developed the SCC.

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  • The Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases and State Policy: A Frequently Asked Questions Guide

    States can benefit from using the social cost of greenhouse gases to aid in making rational policy decisions in a transparent manner. Many states are already using these metrics in their decisionmaking. This report provides information on several issues related to the social cost of greenhouse gases, including discount rates, time horizons, and the global nature of the estimate.

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  • Federal Citations to the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases

    This March 2017 report compiles all of the federal actions that use the SCC as of the report’s publication.

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